MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Music of Remembrance at 25

Mina Miller, Music of Remembrance founder and artistic director. (Ben VanHouten)

My story for the Seattle Times about Music of Remembrance at 25, which will present a double bill of one-act operas by Jake Heggie this weekend:

Mina Miller is convinced that music can make a difference in the world.

“I am the child of parents whose entire families were annihilated in the Holocaust, so I grew up with a visceral awareness of the power of memory — of the stories that need to be told…”


Filed under: commissions, Jake Heggie, Music of Remembrance, new opera, Seattle Times

Hannibal Lokumbe’s The Jonah People

This week the Nashville Symphony and Giancarlo Guerrero present the world premiere of Hannibal Lokumbe‘s boundary-breaking The Jonah People: A Legacy of Struggle and Triumph. This bold and uncompromising opera draws on Hannibal’s own family history and the biblical parable of Jonah and the Whale to tell and epic, visionary story that honors the countless Africans stolen from their homeland as well as their descendants through the generations. 

You can find my program guide to this extraordinary collaborative work here:

Filed under: American opera, commissions, Nashville Symphony, new music

The Glimmer with Seattle Pro Musica

This weekend Seattle Pro Musica presents The Glimmer, the fifth and last in its New American Composer Series. Led by Karen P. Thomas, the program featres a newly commissioned work by the composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate. A citizen of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, Tate is dedicated to the development of American Indian classical composition and has chosen The Glimmer by Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation to set to music.

Tate explains: Most of my commissioned works focus on tribal culture directly from the land of the commissioner. It is my way of helping the performers and public become closer to their tribal neighbors. The Glimmer deeply echoes the ethos of Lummi and local Salish culture. Out of respect, there is not a direct quote of specific melodies; however, it is greatly influenced by the regional paddle songs. This poem also speaks a language evocative of the sea and it is my hope that the listener and performers resonate with the gestures in this work.”

This is the final installment of a five-concert series celebrating Seattle Pro Musica’s 50th Anniversary by featuring commissions and Seattle residencies by five BIPOC composers from across the country.

The rest of the program includes several other works by Tate as well as Father Thunder (Pērkontēvs) by Laura Jēkabsone, music by Lili Boulanger and Barlow Bradford, and an arrangement o the traditional Scottish song “The Parting Glass.”

 The concert takes place at Seattle First Baptist Church on March 25 at 7:30 pm. 

Tickets for THE GLIMMER are available at The performance will also be available by livestream in real time, and on demand following the performance. Register before the concert begins here.

Filed under: choral music, commissions, Native American composers, Seattle Pro Musica

Samuel Adams: No Such Spring

Music from Samuel Adams’s Movements (for us and them) for the Australian Chamber Orchestra

The profound impact that the pandemic has had on contemporary composition will undoubtedly continue to be felt for years. Samuel Adams points to an important shift in his own musical thinking exemplified by his new work No Such Spring, the world premiere of which Esa-Pekka Salonen is conducting in this week’s program with the San Francisco Symphony, with Conor Hanick as the piano soloist. Salonen will also conduct the symphony Anton Bruckner deemed his “boldest”: the Sixth. My program notes for No Such Spring can be found here.

Filed under: Anton Bruckner, commissions, Esa-Pekka Salonen, new music, Samuel Adams, San Francisco Symphony

Saunder Choi and Seattle Pro Musica

Seattle Pro Musica presents New Colossus, the latest in its  New American Composer Series, a five-concert series celebrating the organization’s 50th anniversary with commissions and Seattle residencies by BIPOC composers from across the country. This edition features composer Saunder Choi‘s new work, Never Again, which addresses the issue of gun violence in America. Choi writes: “In the wake of the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman wrote: ‘May we not just grieve, but give: May we not just ache, but act’ in her poem Hymn for the Hurting. This call to action is the inspiration behind Never Again, a commentary about the true cost of freedom in a country where the intersection of politics, capitalism, and gun lobbies stands in the way of sensible legislation.”

The program is on Saturday, February 11, 2023 at 7:30 pm at Seattle First Baptist Church, Seattle, WA; pre-concert conversation at 7pm. Tickets here. You can also see it online but need to register before the performance begins here.

Complete Program:

Spark by Eric William Barnum (b. 1979)

New Colossus by Saunder Choi (b. 1988)

My spirit sang all day by Gerald Finzi (1901-1956)

Never again by Saunder Choi (world premiere)

Earth teach me by Rupert Lang (b. 1948)

Welcome Table by Saunder Choi

Leron, Leron Sinta: traditional Filipino song, arr. by Saunder Choi

A Journey of Your Own by Saunder Choi

Filed under: choral music, commissions, Seattle Pro Musica

Abdullah, Hadelich, and the Seattle Symphony Offer a Winter-Conquering Musical Feast

Augustin Hadelich, Kazem Abdullah, and the Seattle Symphony; photo (c) Brandon Patoc

Kazem Abdullah’s Seattle Symphony debut included Sibelius, Britten, and a brand-new work by Dai Fujikura. Here’s my review for Bachtrack:

Framed by early and late Sibelius, this luminous program pushed the pause button on dank winter anxieties. A warm bond developed between debuting guest conductor Kazem Abdullah and the Seattle Symphony musicians during the course of the concert, reaching incandescence in their cloud-busting account of the Finnish composer’s Seventh Symphony.


Filed under: Britten, commissions, conductors, Seattle Symphony, Sibelius

A Thousand Splendid Suns at Seattle Opera

In just a few weeks, Seattle Opera will unveil a new opera that has been many years in the making: an adaptation of Afghan American writer Khaled Hosseini‘s novel A Thousand Splendid Suns by the American composer Sheila Silver and librettist Stephen Kitsakos. Hossein’s fiction has inspired adaptations for the screen and the spoken stage — and even a graphic novel. But this marks the first time an opera has been made from his work. Seattle Opera’s production also presents the pioneering Afghan filmmaker Roya Sadat’s debut as an opera director. 

I wrote a preview feature for Opera Now, which appears in the January 2023 issue:

The fate of Afghanistan and oppression of women are two phenomena that have acquired a topical urgency in today’s world. Sheila Silver has been immersed in these subjects since 2009, when she first encountered Khaled Hosseini’s novel A Thousand Splendid Suns. She was struck by the overwhelming power of Hosseini’s narrative, which unfolds in Afghanistan between the 1960s and 2002. Above all, she sensed an operatic intensity in the bond that develops between the two protagonists, Mariam and Laila, as they struggle to cope in a milieu of abuse and domestic violence. The strength of that bond is what makes the shattering sacrifice at the opera’s climax possible. 

continue (with subscription)

Filed under: commissions, new opera, Seattle Opera

An Electrified Concerto Zaps Violin Tradition With Cosmic Fantasy

Pekka Kuusisto was the soloist in Enrico Chapela’s ‘Antiphaser,’ a concerto for electric violin and orchestra, with the Seattle Symphony under Andrew Litton. (Photos by Brandon Patoc)

My review of Enrico Chapela’s new violin concerto, Antiphaser, which Pekka Kuusisto premiered on Thursday with the Seattle Symphony under guest conductor Andrew Litton:

It’s been nearly a year since Thomas Dausgaard’s abrupt departure as the Seattle Symphony’s music director, but the projects initiated under his tenure and delayed by the pandemic continue to make their way to the Benaroya Hall stage. The latest of these is Antiphaser, a concerto for electric violin and orchestra by the Mexican composer Enrico Chapela. Trading his 1709 “Scotta” Stradivari for an electronically amplified instrument, Pekka Kuusisto joined the orchestra to perform the world premiere under the baton of Andrew Litton on Nov. 3….


Filed under: commissions, review, Seattle Symphony, violinists

A Restorative Opening Night at Seattle Symphony, with French Accents


Jan Lisiecki, Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony; image (c) Brandon Patoc

My review of this weekend’s opening night concert:

Mixing the familiar with some discoveries, the Seattle Symphony offered a pleasingly varied program to open its new season. The event also brought an element of reassurance by evoking welcome memories of a more stable era as former music director Ludovic Morlot reunited with the orchestra…


Filed under: commissions, pianists, review, Seattle Symphony

Trailblazing Women

Julia Wolfe

Giancarlo Guerrero conducts the Nashville Symphony this week in a program devoted entirely to American women composers, including the world premiere of a major new choral-orchestral commission from Julia Wolfe titled Her Story. My program notes for the concert are available here (link on lower right).

Filed under: commissions, Julia Wolfe, music news, women composers

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