MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Performing Art in the Trump Era: An Example from Seattle Pro Musica

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Photo by Shaya Bendix Lyon (courtesy of Seattle Pro Musica)

Here’s my review of Seattle Pro Musica’s recent concert for Vanguard Seattle:

Since 1987, she has presided over one of the finest choral collectives in the competitive, choral-rich Northwest: Seattle Pro Musica. Her musical sensibility is ideally matched to the transportive a cappella soundscapes in which her singers excel.

On top of that, Karen P. Thomas has an enviable knack for creating programs that cohere while offering enough variety to surfeit a hungry, curious musical appetite. (That’s an art in itself, one too often taken for granted in our era of casual iPod curation.)

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Filed under: choral music, review, Vanguard Seattle

Voices Uplifted: Cappella Romana Performs Rautavaara’s Vigilia

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My Seattle Times story on Cappella Romana’s upcoming Rautavaara program:

It’s the oldest instrument we’ve got.

Yet the musical possibilities of the human voice remain inexhaustible. And when a group of singers joins together a cappella — without the “props” of any other instruments for accompaniment — they can produce soundscapes as vivid and enveloping as what you might hear from the most sophisticated orchestra.

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Filed under: choral music, Seattle Times

Elgar’s Dream a Transformative Experience at Seattle Symphony

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Edward Gardner © Benjamin Ealovega

At this late date, it’s surprising how relatively little-known The Dream of Gerontiusremains among American audiences. Edward Elgar’s masterpiece – even if not the composer’s own favourite among his great oratorio trilogy – contains all the goods to move a concert audience to its core. ..

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Filed under: choral music, Edward Elgar, review, Seattle Symphony

New from Los Angeles Master Chorale and Peter Sellars

At the end of the month the Los Angeles Master Chorale and artistic director Grant Gershon will open their season with a brand-new staging by Peter Sellars of Lagrime di San Pietro. This is the cycle of “spiritual madrigals”Orlando di Lasso composed at the very end of his life in 1594. Here’s my essay for the program:

A SAINT’S REMORSE: LASSO’S HIGH RENAISSANCE MASTERPIECE

What’s the correct way to refer to one of the most extraordinary musical minds in history: Orlande/Orlando/Roland de Lassus/di Lasso? There’s a Franco-Flemish form and an Italianized one; sometimes the two get mixed together. There’s even a Latin option intended to standardize the situation. The very profusion of variants points to the internationalism and cross-pollination across borders that marked the era of the High Renaissance in Europe.

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Filed under: choral music, directors, essay, Grant Gershon, Los Angeles Master Chorale

Sonic Masterworks

Grant Gershon leads the Los Angeles Master Chorale in the final program of the season this weekend. Here’s a bit about one of the pieces, Anders Hillborg’s Mouyayoum:

Mouyayoum dates from 1983 – relatively early in Hillborg’s career – and represents a Nordic take on Minimalism. The title is merely a formula: a phonetic reference point for Hillborg’s wordless music. During rehearsal of the piece, he asks the singers to “choose a comfortable pitch and sing the formula [mouyayoum] at a slow tempo such that each individual phoneme is consciously articulated (legato); once this starts to work, gradually increase the tempo; finally, sing so quickly that the individual phonemes cannot be articulated clearly and the formula is perceived as a single sound.”

The musical material derives from transparent harmonies and two types of phrases extending over 16 quarter notes: one sustained and one broken into a flow of 16th notes.

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Filed under: choral music, Los Angeles Master Chorale

Mystery Mass: Seattle Pro Musica celebrates Bach’s enigmatic masterpiece in B minor

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Here’s my Seattle Times story on Karen Thomas and Seattle Pro Musica’s preparation for the Bach Mass in B minor, their concluding program of the season (this weekend):

Many classical-music fans consider Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B minor as the ultimate peak of Western choral music — but the composer never heard it performed in its entirety.

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Filed under: Bach, choral music, preview, Seattle Times

Alexander’s Feast: A Handelian Ode to the Power of Music

2016-04-16-alexanders-feastMy essay on Handel’s magnificent ode Alexander’s Feast has been posted on the LA Master Chorale Site:

It sounds strange to refer to George Frideric Handel as a neglected composer. Messiah is such a fixture that the holiday season would feel bereft   were it suddenly to disappear from the scene. (Never mind that its association with Christmas postdates the practice during the composer’s lifetime.)

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Filed under: choral music, Handel, Los Angeles Master Chorale

Hidden Handel

Director Trevore Ross on staging Handel’s oratorios for the LA Master Chorale. First in their five-season-long project is Alexander’s Feast.

Filed under: choral music, directors, Handel, Los Angeles Master Chorale

Americans at Work

2016-03-06-music-of-the-coal-minerHere’s my program essay for the upcoming West Coast premiere of Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields, a remarkable oratorio:

“The thing I love about music is, it’s beyond words. But somehow the words crept back in — big time,” remarked Julia Wolfe in an interview on NPR’s Studio360 following the announcement that she had won last year’s Pulitzer Prize in Music for Anthracite Fields. Wolfe’s moving and innovative new oratorio fuses music with words to tell a story deeply rooted in American history — and one inextricably connected to how we live today.

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Filed under: choral music, Julia Wolfe, Los Angeles Master Chorale

In Sweet Jubilation: Festive Holiday Music

A new essay for LA Master Chorale’s recent holiday program:

Senex puerum portabat/Puer autem senem regebat: “The old man held up the boy, but the boy upheld the old man.” Set to unforgettable music by the likes of William Byrd and Palestrina, this text comes from an antiphon marking the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple: an old man (the “righteous and devout” Simeon) greets the Holy Family in the Temple 40 days after the birth of Jesus and rejoices in proclaiming the significance of the newborn.

 

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Filed under: choral music

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