MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Music of Remembrance Launches Its 25th Season

To launch this milestone season, Music of Remembrance (MOR) founder and artistic director Mina Miller has curated a remarkable program that will take place at Benaroya Hall on Sunday, 30 October, at 5pm. The centerpiece is a new production of Josephine, Tom Cipullo’s one-act monodrama by based on the life of the legendary singer and dancer Josephine Baker, who found fame and success in France as an artist, a French Resistance hero, and a civil rights activist after escaping racism in America.

 “Josephine tells a story that resonates with all of us today,” comments artistic director Mina Miller, “a story about a woman with the courage to fight back against prejudice and discrimination, and stand up for her art and ideals to make a difference in the world.” Starring soprano Laquita Mitchell in the title role, the production is directed by Erich Parce and conducted by Geoffrey Larson. 

Also a highlight will be the world premiere of Wertheim Park, a setting of the poetry of Susan de Sola by composer Lori Laitman, which was commissioned by MOR. Soprano Alisa Jordheim interprets this haunting song, a deeply moving elegy for the Dutch Jews lost to the Holocaust.

In addition, the program includes chamber works by two Holocaust-era composers. Erwin Schulhoff’s virtuosic Concertino for Flute, Viola and Double Bass showcases two of the Seattle Symphony’s principal chairs, violist Susan Gulkis Assadi and flautist Demarre McGill, along with double bassist Jonathan Green. The concert opens with the elegiac Lamento for viola and piano by Dutch composer Max Vredenburg. Vredenburg sought haven in the Dutch East Indies only to endure years of captivity there under Japanese occupation; Schulhoff perished in a Nazi prison camp.

MOR’s stellar instrumental ensemble, drawn from the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, features flutist Demarre McGill, clarinetist Laura DeLuca, violinist Mikhail Shmidt, violist Susan Gulkis Assadi, cellist Walter Gray, double bassist Jonathan Green, and pianists Jessica Choe and Mina Miller. 

Tickets and Information:

For a quarter century now, MOR remembers the Holocaust through music and honors the resilience of all people excluded or persecuted for their faith, nationality, ethnicity, gender or sexuality. In addition to rediscovering and performing music from the Holocaust, MOR has commissioned and premiered more than 30 new works by some of today’s leading composers, drawing on the Holocaust’s lessons to address urgent questions for our own time.

Lamento (1953)

Max Vredenburg

Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola

Jessica Choe, piano

Wertheim Park (2022)

Music by Lori Laitman Poetry by Susan de Sola

World Premiere

Commissioned by Music of Remembrance

Alisa Jordheim, soprano

 Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Jonathan Green, double bass; Mina Miller, piano

Concertino for Flute, Viola and Double Bass (1925)

Erwin Schulhoff

Demarre McGill, flute; Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola; Jonathan Green, double bass

Josephine (2016)

Music and Libretto by Tom Cipullo

A Monodrama in One Scene

Laquita Mitchell, soprano

Music of Remembrance Instrumental Ensemble

DeMarre McGill, flute; Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Walter Gray, cello

Jessica Choe, piano

Geoffrey Larson, conductor

Erich Parce, director 

Peter Crompton, media designer

Filed under: music news, Music of Remembrance

Hilary Hahn and Alpesh Chauhan at Seattle Symphony

Hilary Hahn, Alpesh Chauhan and the Seattle Symphony (c) Brandon Patoc

Hilary Hahn and Brahms were the big name draws, but Seattle Symphony’s program introduced a remarkable guest conductor who made a powerful impact.

My review for Bachtrack:

If Hilary Hahn restored a sense of continuity with familiar, and essential, musical values, the audience that packed Benaroya Hall for her return engagement with Seattle Symphony also had a wonderful surprise in store with guest conductor Alpesh Chauhan’s debut …


Filed under: conductors, review, Seattle Symphony, violinists

From the Underworld to Our World: An Opera About Frida and Diego

The “Último Sueño” team, photographed in front of a Diego Rivera-influenced mural in Chicano Park, in San Diego: from left, the writer Nilo Cruz, the director Lorena Maza, the composer Gabriela Lena Frank and the mezzo-soprano Guadalupe Paz.Credit…John Francis Peters for The New York Times

In today’s New York Times, my story on the new opera by Gabriela Lena Frank and Nilo Cruz:

“I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return.” Frida Kahlo confided these remarks to her diary in 1954, just a few days before making her final exit.

In a new opera, “El Último Sueño de Frida y Diego” (“The Last Dream of Frida and Diego”), the composer Gabriela Lena Frank and librettist Nilo Cruz imagine Kahlo overcoming her reluctance to return from beyond. ..


Filed under: new opera, New York Times, San Diego Opera, San Francisco Opera

David T. Little’s Black Lodge

Black Lodge is the first full-length feature film by the influential opera producer Beth Morrison Projects. and features music by Grammy-nominated David T. Little, with a libretto by legendary Beat poet Anne Waldman. Drawing on the disturbing and complicated mythologies of the surrealist writer William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch), Black Lodge uses dance, industrial rock, classical string quartet, and opera to take viewers through a Lynchian psychological escape room. Starring Timur and dancer Jennifer Harrison Newman, Black Lodge is now available for streaming on the Opera Philadelphia Channel.

Set in a nightmarish Bardo, a place between death and rebirth, a tormented writer (Timur) faces down demons of his own making. Forced to confront the darkest moment in his life, he mines fractured and repressed memories for a way out. A woman (Jennifer Harrison Newman) is at the center of all the writer’s afterlife encounters. She is the subject of his life’s greatest regret, and she materializes everywhere in this Otherworld. The writer cannot detach any thoughts of his life from her. 

The groundbreaking Beth Morrison Projects developed and produced Black Lodge over the past ten years. Founded by “contemporary opera mastermind” (LA Times) Beth Morrison, who was honored as one of Musical America’s Artists of the Year/Agents of Change in 2020, BMP has grown into “a driving force behind America’s thriving opera scene” (Financial Times), with Opera News declaring that the company, “more than any other… has helped propel the art form into the twenty-first century.”

The project is attracting attention throughout the music industry. Renowned musician Thurston Moore, known as a member of Sonic Youth, serves as executive producer of Black Lodge. “This is opera ripping through the fabric of future vision psychosis where the integrity of classic form clasps the hands of radical possibilities,” said Moore. “David T. Little takes no prisoners here, in confluence with poet angel head Anne Waldman’s libretto of nature, irreality, and spirit consciousness, divining deliverance from life’s spectacle of chaos and love. You’re about to have your mind scorched, my friends!”

Composer Philip Glass (AkhnatenEinstein on the Beach) is also a fan.  “Black Lodge is a bold new operatic film,” said Glass. “It seamlessly blends poetry and music into a powerful cinematic experience.”

Filed under: music news, new opera

RIP Geoff Nuttall (1965–2022)

Geoff Nuttall in 2019; photo by Leigh Webber

Devastating news that Geoff Nuttall has passed away. The beloved violinist and founder of the St. Lawrence String Quartet died today at his home in California at the age of 56. He had been undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.

The Spoleto Festival USA , where Nuttall was Director of Chamber Music, released the following press announcement:

October 19, 2022 — Violinist, music education advocate, and Spoleto Festival USA Charles E. and Andrea L. Volpe Director of Chamber Music Geoff Nuttall died today at home in California where he was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer. He was 56.

From center stage of Charleston’s historic Dock Street Theatre, Nuttall hosted the Festival’s iconic chamber music concerts since 2010, drawing enthusiastic audiences whose devout attendance owed as much to the series’ programming as the dynamism of its host and star performer. As director, he curated each of the 33 annual concerts and performed on many as a violinist and founding member of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Spoleto’s quartet-in-residence, for more than 25 years.

Nuttall began playing the violin at age 8 after moving from Texas to Ontario, Canada. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto, where he studied under Lorand Fenyves. Shortly after graduating, he co-founded the St. Lawrence String Quartet in 1989. The ensemble swiftly received top prizes at the Banff International String Quartet Competition and the Young Concert Artist Auditions, becoming a fixture at some of North America’s most celebrated festivals and concert halls.

St. Lawrence String Quartet is also ensemble-in-residence at Stanford University, where Nuttall served on the music faculty since 1999. With the quartet and as a solo artist, Nuttall played more than 2,000 concerts worldwide to critical acclaim, and was lauded as “intensely dynamic,” with “stunning technique and volatility” (The New York Times).

Nuttall was named to his role at Spoleto by longtime Festival chamber music director and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center founder Charles Wadsworth, who first invited Nuttall and the St. Lawrence String Quartet to Spoleto in 1995. Like his predecessor, Nuttall amassed a robust following—audience members who forged a strong connection to Nuttall’s onstage charisma.

The New York Times labeled him “chamber music’s Jon Stewart,” describing Nuttall as a “creatively daring, physically talented performer who can go goofball in a nanosecond, maintaining a veneer of entertainment while educating his base about serious matters…he is subtly redefining what a chamber music concert can be.”

Part of Nuttall’s genius as series host could be found in his pre-performance banter; engaging the audience in revelatory musical learning—facts about the composer or themes to anticipate. While this type of commentary has become de rigueur in many chamber music concert settings, Nuttall’s approach captivated novice listeners and experts alike.

Nuttall’s fervor for the music inspired colleagues both on and offstage. The sense of camaraderie Nuttall created between visiting artists contributed to a celebratory spirit felt in each concert, and a palpable camaraderie among players. He provided a platform for young musicians and composers to flourish. In recent years, next generation titans, including Benjamin Beilman, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Jennifer Frautschi, Arlen Hlusko, James Austin Smith, Paul Wiancko, and JACK Quartet, have appeared onstage in Charleston.

In addition to recording works by such composers as Schumann, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky, Nuttall and the St. Lawrence String Quartet were dedicated to the music of Joseph Haydn. In 2020, they were featured on the PBS Great Performances series, “Now Hear This,” in an episode that chronicled the composer’s life and work. Nuttall was also a steadfast champion of contemporary composers. He frequently worked with John Adams, Jonathan Berger, and Osvaldo Golijov—and received a Grammy Award nomination for the recording of Golijov’s Yiddishbbuk.

His passion for new music discovery permeated Spoleto Festival USA’s programming. He often placed contemporary works amongst lesser-known pieces from the canon, and emphatically promoted the works of his players and close friends such as Mark Applebaum, Todd Palmer, Stephen Prutsman, Joshua Roman, and Paul Wiancko. In 2019, Nuttall explained his programming style to Charleston magazine: “My closest friends are constantly curious, and I hope my audiences will share my enthusiasm for curiosity.”

In his final days, his wife, the renowned violinist Livia Sohn, who also serves as Spoleto Festival USA Assistant Director of Chamber Music, asked Nuttall if he had any unfulfilled aspirations on his bucket list. With his characteristic humor and grace, Nuttall replied, “my life has been my bucket list.”

In addition to Sohn, Nuttall is survived by their children, Jack and Ellis, as well as his mother and sister.


Mena Mark Hanna, Spoleto Festival USA General Director and CEO: “This is a loss not just for Spoleto Festival USA, but for music lovers around the world. Geoff was classical music’s greatest showman, eliciting a rowdy, raucous reception to Haydn that would sound more at home in a club than a concert hall. He didn’t care if people were clapping between movements; he didn’t care that people wore shorts and sandals to performances; he didn’t care for the rigid social formalities that govern classical music performance. All he cared about was the communitarian, cathartic power of music. And because of that, he changed chamber music in America.”

Alicia Gregory, Chair of Spoleto Festival USA’s Board of Directors: “Within the remarkable constellation of international talent featured every year at Spoleto Festival USA, Geoff Nuttall was consistently one of its brightest stars. His virtuosic artistry, combined with his deft skill in connecting with both artists and audiences, created transcendent performances. He will be remembered as one of the finest classical musicians and curators of our time.” 

A celebration of Nuttall’s life and contributions to Spoleto Festival USA will be part of the 2023 chamber music program. 

Geoff was able to continue living his life as fully as possible under the outstanding and thoughtful care of Dr. Christopher Chen. Geoff’s family has created The Geoff Nuttall Memorial Fund to advance Dr. Chen’s cancer research at Stanford University. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a tax-deductible donation. Gifts can be made three ways: 1) Online by selecting “Other Stanford Designation” and entering The Geoff Nuttall Memorial Fund in the “Other” text box, 2) By check payable to Stanford University with The Geoff Nuttall Memorial Fund indicated on the memo line, mailed to Development Services, P.O. Box 20466, Stanford, CA 94309, or 3) By phone at 650-725-4360.

Filed under: music news, Spoleto Festival USA, violinists

Seattle Pro Musica’s 50th-Anniversary Season: Opening Concert

UPDATE: If you are interested in catching the Oct 15 concert after the fact, you can sign up for the livestream version, as it’s available on demand after the concert. No charge for the stream, you just need to sign up in advance of the concert.

Has it really been a half century? Seattle Pro Musica, one of the gems of the Puget Sound’s cultural life and of the contemporary choral scene in general, celebrates its 50th anniversary this season with a set of programs superbly curated by artistic director and conductor Karen P. Thomas.

The opening act is on Saturday, 15 October, at Seattle First Baptist Church. Titled My Heart Be Brave, this concert also inaugurates SPM’s New American Composer Series and features composer Marques L.A. Garrett. 

The program presents four choral works by Garrett, including the world premiere of Madrigal, commissioned by SPM, which sets poetry by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Marques will be in residence with the ensemble the week before the concert and will also appear in a pre-concert talk with Karen Thomas.

Also on the program are works by Lili Boulanger, Samuel Barber, Joel Thompson, and Rosephanye Powell.

This five-concert series celebrates the milestone anniversary with commissions and Seattle residencies by five exciting BIPOC composers from across the country.

Marques is an Assistant Professor of Music in Choral Activities at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He is an accomplished vocalist, composer, and active researcher specializing in traditional music of the African diaspora, as well as contemporary choral music by Black composers. For his commissioned work, Marques has chosen Dunbar’s evocative text asking to “teach this tongue the singer’s soulful art.”

Here’s the full lineup for My Heart Be Brave:

Madrigal by Marques L.A. Garrett (b. 1984)

Loch Lomond arr. by Jonathan Quick (b. 1970)

Reincarnations: The Coolin by Samuel Barber (1910-1981)

Hold Fast to Dreams by Joel Thompson (b. 1988)

My Heart Be Brave by Marques Garrett

Mis en inimene by Pärt Uusberg (b. 1986)

To Sit and Dream by Rosephanye Powell (b. 1962)

Till I Wake arr. by Marques Garrett

Hymne au Soleil by Lili Boulanger (b. 1893-1918)

Sing Out, My Soul by Marques Garrett

Complete SPM season listing:

New American Composer Series

Oct 15, 2022 – 7:30 pm

Seattle First Baptist Church

Featuring composer-in-residence Marques L.A. Garrett

Oct 29, 2022 – 4:00 pm and 7:30 pm

CABARET – Resonance at SOMA Towers, Bellevue

SPM’s greatest cabaret hits

Nov 12, 2022 – 7:30 pm

Seattle First Baptist Church

Featuring composer-in-residence  Melissa Dunphy

Dec 10, 2022 – 3pm and 7:30 pm

Bastyr Chapel, Kenmore

Featuring composer-in-residence Sruthi Rajasekar

Dec 17, 2022 – 7:30 pm

Seattle First Baptist Church

Feb 11, 2023 – 7:30 pm

Seattle First Baptist Church

Featuring composer-in-residence Saunder Choi

March 25, 2023 – 7:30 pm

Seattle First Baptist Church

Featuring composer-in-residence Jerod lmpichchaachaaha’ Tate

Grand Finale Concert

May 20, 2023 – 8pm

St James Cathedral

Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor

Ethel Smyth’s Mass in D

Filed under: choral music, music news, Seattle Pro Musica

An International Collaboration Brings Wagner back to Seattle Opera with Tristan and Isolde

Teatro Argentino de la Plata’s production of Tristan and Isolde. (Courtesy of Guillermo Genitti / Teatro Argentino de la Plata)

My Seattle Times story on the Tristan und Isolde production by Argentine director Marcelo Lombardero and colleagues, which opens Saturday at Seattle Opera:

Christina Scheppelmann, Seattle Opera’s general director, fervently believes that cross-cultural exchange is vital for the health of the art form. So she invited the prominent Argentinian stage director Marcelo Lombardero and his creative team to bring their vision to Seattle in a production of Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” opening Oct. 15.


Filed under: directors, Seattle Opera, Seattle Times, Wagner

Byron Schenkman & Friends Launches 10th Season

On Sunday, Byron Schenkman & Friends marks the beginning of their 10th season of imaginatively curated concerts — an essential contribution to Seattle’s musical life. The program, titled Vivaldi and the Forty (Four) Seasons, is their most ambitious undertaking to date, involving the largest gathering of performers Schenkman has ever brought together on the stage.

And it’s a signature Schenkman program, shedding new light on the familiar and encouraging discovery of underrepresented, marginalized voices. In this case, they will pay homage to Indigenous Peoples’ Day (October 10). Violinist Anna Okada leads an ensemble of Baroque strings, with Byron Schenkman at the harpsichord.

The premise is to juxtapose Antonio Vivaldi’s beloved, evergreen concertos — which were, after all, remarkably innovative when he wrote them — with Indigenous voices. Yakama tradition recognizes as many as 44 distinct seasons, so Schenkman & Friends will intersperse Vivaldi’s four with stories from the Yakama tradition presented by the scholar and master storyteller, writer, and educator Dr. Michelle M. Jacob.

Also being featured is the work of acclaimed artist Fox Spears, a Karuk tribe member, and BS&F Board member. The opening celebration will include pieces by Spears on display in the Nordstrom Recital Hall lobby. “All the work I make is a deliberate continuance of Karuk culture,” says Spears. “Regardless of my motives, the creation and presence of my art is an inherent act of resistance against colonial assimilation. My art is made with these intentions: to thank and honor my ancestors, to acknowledge and heal historical trauma, and to help build new Indigenous futures.”

Spears’s Karuk Louis Vuitton Drum was recently purchased by the National Music Museum in Seattle and will be on display when the permanent collection exhibits reopens. His current work is continuing a theme from this drum at his printmaking residency at Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts.

His artwork will be on display in the lobby before and after the concert. The first print purchased is $300, and additional prints are $150 each.

Filed under: Byron Schenkman, Indigenous Peoples, Vivaldi

As A Musical Olympian, In Sprint And Marathon, Salonen Shows Mettle

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted the San Francisco Symphony in Mahler’s Second Symphony, with soloists Michelle DeYoung, left, and Golda Schultz. (Photo by Stefan Cohen)

I wrote about a pair of concerts involving Esa-Pekka Salonen, one each in San Francisco and Seattle:

Reflecting on his double identity as a composer and conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen once likened the difference in what each requires to that between “running a marathon and a 100-meter race,” respectively. A pair of compelling programs from two of the West Coast’s leading orchestras offered a glimpse of the Finnish artist in both capacities…


Filed under: Esa-Pekka Salonen, Mahler, Seattle Symphony

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