Monmouth-Civic-Chorus.3.16.13Dr. Ryan Brandau (right) and the assembled voices of the Monmouth Civic Chorus keynote a weekend of words and music at Red Bank’s First Presbyterian Church. 

When Dr. Ryan Brandau and the assembled voices of The Monmouth Civic Chorus return to First Presbyterian (Tower Hill) Church of Red Bank on Friday night, they’ll be presenting two emotionally forceful, mystically compelling meditations on life and death; one with a local angle — if by local we mean Sergei Rachmaninoff.

The Russian master — who summered at Locust Point on the Navesink after escaping his homeland in the wake of the Revolution — is represented on the 7:30 pm program with an encore MCC presentation of Vespers (aka All Night Vigil), a piece based on the Russian Orthodox Good Friday service. Also on the bill will be Lux Aeterna (Eternal Light) by contemporary American composer Morten Lauridsen; a study of “enlightenment of all sorts: intellectual, and, of course, spiritual, artistic.” Tickets ($25 adults, with senior, student and group discounts) can be reserved here or by calling (732)933-9333 — and a weekend of inspirational words and music continues high atop Tower Hill, a place just that much closer to heaven.

From the choral might of the MCC, the setting shifts on Saturday night to a more intimately scaled offering from stage actor, singer-songwriter and musician Stephen Trafton. A presentation that’s toured theaters and houses of worship across the country, Living Letters: Encountering Colossians finds the young veteran of Broadway’s Les Miz (and the national tour of Phantom) traveling back in time to the first-century church, and the apostle Paul’s writing of what would become the New Testament book of Colossians. It’s a followup to his acclaimed Encountering Philippians, and it’s in Red Bank for one 7 pm performance at First Presbyterian, presented free of charge.