MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Holocaust Remembrance Day: Lori Laitman’s Wertheim Park

This year, with so much hate being spewed around the world, commemorating the victims of the Holocaust is especially important. Seattle’s invaluable Music of Remembrance, now in its 25th year, is offering a free streaming of composer Lori Laitman’s Wertheim Park. The program will begin streaming on Friday, 27 January, and remain available online.

The streamed program is an enhanced video of the world premiere of Wertheim Park by Music of Remembrance on 30 October 2022 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. It features soprano Alisa Jordheim, with an instrumental ensemble of Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Jonathan Green, double bass; and Mina Miller, piano.

Laitman’s sixth commission for Music of Remembrance, Wertheim Park sets a poem by the late Susan de Sola and is a haunting elegy about the power of bearing witness.  It pictures the annual gathering at Amsterdam’s Wertheim Park, where people come together each year for Holocaust remembrance. 

“When Music of Remembrance asked me to compose a piece for their 25th season,” said Laitman, “I decided to explore the impact of the Holocaust on the next generation. Poet Susan de Sola lost many of her relatives in the Shoah, and Wertheim Park is an intimate depiction of the memorial march and its emotional impact on her.”

Filed under: American music, Holocaust, Music of Remembrance

George Walker at 100

Today would have been the 100th birthday of George Walker. His legacy remains far too little known. In his honor, I’m reposting my story for The New York Times on this extraordinary American composer.

A Composer’s Final Work Contains ‘Visions’ of an American Master

Last fall, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery began to display, among its recent acquisitions, a photograph of the composer George Walker. It shows him close up, his right index finger and thumb bearing down on a pencil with the precision of a surgeon, at work on the manuscript score of his Sinfonia No. 5…

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Filed under: American music, anniversary, George Walker

Michael Tilson Thomas with the National Symphony

Honored to have been able to write the program notes for this weekend’s National Symphony concerts with Michael Tilson Thomas. The program features his own remarkable, unclassifiable  Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind.

Filed under: American music, Michael Tilson Thomas, National Symphony, program notes

George Crumb: An Appreciation

George Crumb’s final work: Kronos — Kryptos

Reflecting on George Crumb for Musical America:

The American composer George Crumb, whose innovative, theatrically charged soundscapes explored a new kind of musical poetry, has died after a long and far-reaching career. He was 92. 

Filed under: American music, George Crumb, music news, Musical America

RIP George Crumb (1929-2022)

Sad news via Bridge Records of the passing of George Crumb, who reportedly passed away today, 6 February 2022, at his home in Media, Pennsylvania.  The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer was 92 years old. My appreciation for Musical America is here.

Filed under: American music, music news

Juilliard’s Focus 2022: The Making of an American Music, 1899-1948

Tonight is the opening program in Juilliard’s weeklong Focus 2022 Festival, which will tackle the theme The Making of an American Music, 1899-1948. And all events will be livestreamed through Juilliard LIVE on the school’s website.

I had the privilege of editing the program book and can attest that these carefully curated programs are well worth your attention. From the recent New York Times article on Focus and its founder and director, the remarkable Joel Sachs: “’It blossomed into a kind of monster,’ Sachs said, chuckling. “The program book is 88 pages. But it’s a really interesting period.'” [link to program book]

Filed under: American music, Joel Sachs, Juilliard

RIP Alvin Lucier (1931-2021)

Original 1969 recording of I Am Sitting in a Room here.

Filed under: Alvin Lucier, American music, music news

Pity These Ashes: Tulsa 1921-2021

Among the commemorations of the Tulsa Race Massacre — the horrible events of 31 May-1 June 1921 that took place in Tulsa’s Greenwood District — here’s a concert scheduled for 19 June/Juneteenth by the Harlem Chamber Players and featuring the world premiere Adolphus Hailstork’Tulsa 1921 (Pity These Ashes, Pity This Dust), an operatic retelling of the massacre.

The mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges will sing in this digitally streamed concert on Juneteenth at 7pm, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the massacre. She will be joined by the violinist Jessica (Lady Jess) McJunkins, WQXR host and author Terrance McKnight, harpist Ashley Jackson, and conductor Amadi Azikiwe leading the Harlem Chamber Players.

Also on the program are pieces by Jessie MontgomeryAlice Coltrane, and Trevor Weston.

COMPLETE PROGRAM:

Jessie Montgomery Starburst
Alice Coltrane Prema for Harp and Strings arranged by Tom Cunningham of Urban Playground Orchestra
Adolphus Hailstork TULSA 1921 (Pity Theses Ashes, Pity This Dust) for Mezzo-Soprano and Chamber Orchestra
*World Premiere – libretto by Herbert Woodward Martin
Trevor Weston The People Could Fly for Violin Solo, Narrator and Strings (based upon an African-American folktale by Virginia Hamilton; featuring dancers from Harlem School of the Arts)

FEATURING
Amadi Azikiwe, Music Director and Conductor
Terrance McKnight, Host and Performer
J’Nai Bridges, Mezzo-Soprano
Lady Jess, Violin
Ashley Jackson, Harp
With an orchestra comprising members of The Harlem Chamber Players
Also featuring dancers from Harlem School of the Arts

And here is J’Nai Bridges in  Daniel Bernard Roumain’s aria about the massacre, They Still Want To Kill Us:

Filed under: American music, music news

Robert Carl: White Heron

My review of this marvelous BMOP anthology of Robert Carl’s music for Gramophone has now been posted here.

Aficionados of contemporary music will already be familiar with the name Robert Carl as a writer. He has authored extensive reviews for Fanfare and a recent, thought-provoking collection of essays on the challenges faced by 21st-century composers…

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Filed under: American music, CD review, Gramophone

Multi-cultural Odes: Jessie Montgomery in Profile

Here’s my latest story for Strings magazine:

An unmistakable harmony holds sway in Jessie Montgomery’s creative work. Her attunement to larger cultural contexts is eloquent and persuasive. Take Banner, Montgomery’s contribution to the tributes marking the U.S. National Anthem’s bicentennial in 2014. A compact, powerful piece for string quartet and string (or chamber) orchestra, Banner confronts what she calls “the contradictions, leaps and bounds, and milestones that allow us to celebrate and maintain the tradition of our ideals”…

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Filed under: American music, Strings

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