Come to the Beard Building at 9 Main Street in Cortland from 7:00-8:30 PM on Tuesday, March 23 (room 203) and Wednesday, March 24 (main floor) to unlock the musical wonders that make up J.S. Bach's St Matthew Passion. Dr. William Cowdery, who serves as musical director and organist of the First Congregational Church in Ithaca, will present both talks. The sessions are free and open to the public.

Cowdery says, "Bach's St. Matthew Passion is not just a great work, it is a unique work. More than any other sacred musical composition in history, it draws together elements of many traditions, including music, poetry and drama, and unites these elements into a masterpiece that is both tightly structured and intricately varied. Our talks will cover the musical influences that went into the St. Matthew Passion, as well as the overall plan that Bach devised to bind them together. We will listen to sections of the music in detail, and open the floor to questions and discussion from the listeners."

Dr. Cowdery is passionate about the music of Bach. He has a Ph.D. from Cornell for a dissertation on the early cantatas of J. S. Bach. He is a frequent soloist, accompanist, and lecturer at Bach festivals in the northeast. In addition, he has been a three-year fellow of the Bach Aria Festival at Stony Brook. He has authored numerous articles in the New Harvard Dictionary of Music and the Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (1996). .

In addition to his work at First Congregational Church, Dr. Cowdery is an adjunct instructor at Cornell University. He also has taught on the faculties of Ithaca College, Colgate University, and Keuka College. Cowdery is well-known throughout Central New York as performer, musicologist, and theorist.

Dr Cowdery's upcoming talks are designed to enhance the listening experience when the Arts at Grace and SUNY Cortland's Department of Performing Arts present Bach's complete St. Matthew Passion in English on April 2. Six soloists, two adult choruses, one children's choir, and two orchestras conducted by Dr. Stephen B. Wilson will tell the story of Jesus' Passion. Dr. Cowdery will be featured on the organ.

The event will take place 19 Church Street, formerly the United Community Church, in Cortland. Part One begins at 4 PM and Part II starts at 7:15 PM. Although there is no charge for admission, voluntary contributions will be accepted gratefully at the door. For more information, visit or

During the one-and-one-half hour intermission between Parts One and Two, a light dinner will be available forĀ $8.00 at Grace Episcopal Church, 13 Court Street, Cortland. To make reservations email The Arts at Grace at or call Grace Episcopal Church 607-753-3073 from 9-3 M-F.

The Arts at Grace is a community outreach effort of Grace Episcopal Church assisted by many individual and business contributors from the greater Cortland community. Its mission is to provide wonderful music to any one who wants to hear it without charge. Thus, admission to all Arts at Grace is always free even though donations are welcome. Major contributors to The St. Matthew Passion include the Wilkins Foundation, the New York State Arts Decentralization Grant Program, and the SUNY Cortland Department of Performing Arts.