Archive for the “Grammy” Category

Susan McMane

A year ago at this time, Susan McMane, Artistic Director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, had no idea what a hot-button issue immigration would be in June 2010.  For her, the works of immigrant composers formed a compelling programmatic mix for her five-time Grammy-winning ensemble’s concert series, which she’d entitled A New Land, A New Song.

Now, in the midst of nonstop political debate and a deployment of additional National Guard troops to the border, SFGC will celebrate the contributions of immigrant composers to the choral music oeuvre.  Composers come literally from all over the map, from Russia with Igor Stravinksy and his Four Russian Peasant Songs, from Cuba with Tania Léon and her work May the Road Be Free; and Austria with Ernst Krenek’s Three Madrigals.  The Cypress String Quartet, SFGC’s 2010 Artists in Residence, will contribute Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op.96, “American”.  Choral pieces by Kurt Weill, Vernon Duke, and colonial Moravian composers are also on the bill.   

Chen Yi

But the centerpiece of the series will be a world premiere, commissioned by the Chorus from Chinese-born Chen Yi. The new work, Angel Island Passages, commemorates the 100th anniversary of Angel Island Immigration Station, known as “the Ellis Island of the West,” and evokes the experiences of Chinese immigrants.  Artistic Director McMane came up with the idea for the work in 2009, and sent the book “Island, poetry and history of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940” — by Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung — to Dr. Chen for her reference as she began work on the commission.   

The piece is written in three movements for treble voices and string quartet. The first movement, entitled “1882,” refers to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 passed by Congress to halt Chinese immigration into the United States. The music is based on a Cantonese folk ensemble piece, “Prancing Horses”, and contains a traditional scale in a sorrowful mode. Dr. Chen expands and develops the melody, and uses it horizontally and vertically throughout the movement. The second movement, “Longing,” continues in a slow, agitated and melancholy mood. The third movement contrasts small groups with the larger ensemble to symbolize the experience of assimilation into American culture. The text of the three movements includes nonsense syllables to convey emotional pain, and the words “We are America” sung in Cantonese, Mandarin and English.

Dr. Chen has already written for the San Francisco Girls Chorus – her piece, Chinese Poems, received its world premiere as part of the Chorus’ 20th anniversary season in 1998.   Twelve years later, she says, “My experience writing…for the San Francisco Girls Chorus in 1998 convinced me that it is a world-class performing arts organization whose singers can handle any repertoire. I am confident that these young women have what it takes to bring this powerful subject matter to life.”

Angel Island Passages may officially be a piece for treble chorus and string quartet, but a compelling visual accompaniment, commissioned by the Chorus from documentary filmmaker Felicia Lowe, will be integral.  Ms. Lowe’s past films include Carved in Silence, a documentary about the experience of detainees on Angel Island; and Chinatown, a short film about the history of the Chinese in San Francisco.  She shared both films, along with her video production Road to Restoration, with Dr. Chen as Angel Island Passages was being written.

Dr. Chen relates the experience of the Angel Island immigrants to her own personal history. “I was born and raised in China and went through the dark period of Cultural Revolution 40 years ago, during which general education was interrupted and Western music was prohibited for 10 years,” she says.  “My passion and hard work helped me overcome this hardship and to become the first woman to earn a masters degree in music composition in China. I’ve painfully learned about the history of Chinese immigration through Angel Island. Along with SFGC and Cypress String Quartet, I want us to use our music to share the true history, to voice our belief in equal rights, to improve our society, and to look forward to a brighter future.”

Performances of A New Land, A New Song will take place at 8:00 p.m. on June 4th and 5th at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, located at 50 Oak Street, San Francisco. Tickets are priced $18-$32 and are available for purchase by phone from City Box Office, by phone at 415-392-4400 and online at www.cityboxoffice.com.

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derek_bermel2The 52nd Annual Grammy Awards are on Sunday night, here’s the list of all the classical music-related categories and nominees, and here are the composition-related categories and nominees.  Let’s give a shout-out to the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and to Derek Bermel for their nomination in the category of Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra.

I was able to spend some time talking with BMOP Artistic Director Gil Rose (audio here), and BMOP violinist Gabriela Diaz (audio here) about their experiences working with composers and about what music they are excited about… or at least were excited about back in October when we spoke.

I also noticed that Meet The Composer is making another push for their Music Alive program, which matches up composers with orchestral residencies around the country.  There are not many of these residencies available, but if you work for an orchestra that’s thinking about creating a composer residency, you should visit the Music Alive site.  The reason I mention all of this is because our friends at BMOP have a video up where Gil talks about their three-year collaboration with composer, Lisa BielawaThis link should also take you straight to that video.

Congratulations, BMOP!

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Hilary Hahn
Hahn. Hilary Hahn. The violin superstar is about to premiere a new work by Jennifer Higdon tomorrow (Friday) night, attend the Grammy Awards this Sunday with two chances to win for Best Classical Album and Best Instrumental Performance with Orchestra, and then go on a recital tour playing Ives and Ysaye. She took out a few minutes to talk about the new piece and about the Grammys.
Part 1 (having a piece tailor made for her)
Part 2 (attending the Grammy Awards)
She has also just updated her YouTube Channel with Schoenberg’s grandson Randy:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjW4aDQa0Vg[/youtube]
She mentioned that she’ll interview Higdon on her website, will perform at the Grammy Awards preshow and can be seen online, and if you haven’t seen it, her violin case twitters!

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The King’s Singers are celebrating 40 years of performances and alot of new music for voices! They’ll perform holiday music this Friday and Saturday with the NY Pops and are nominated for a Grammy Award for their Simple Gifts album. Coming up is a new release of Valentines including composers like Libby Larsen.
I spoke with two members about their outreach in schools as well as premering new works by Larsen, Eric Whitacre and Paul Patterson.
Interview with David Hurley

Interview with Paul Phoenix

King\'s Singers

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Growing up in a podunk, nil-culture, border-ish town in Washington State, half of my classical education came by way of drifty, static-filled, late-night AM listening to the CBC. Not only work by Stravinsky, Boulez, and Xenakis, but a whole raft of amazingly strong Canadian composers: R. Murray Schafer, John Rea, Claude Vivier and the like. Many of these recordings were CBC productions, and were something that gave me an early admiration of our northern neighbor’s commitment to the arts.

But now comes word that the CBC may be essentially shuttering its recording production; what little may remain will likely be committed to the more “relevant” world of pop. Happening just in the wake of the Grammy win of violinist James Ehnes and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under Bramwell Tovey, of their disc of concertos by Walton, Korngold and Barber, it all seems especially ironic and bitter.

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  • Classical Vocal Performance: “Rilke Songs,” Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Peter Serkin), track from Lieberson: Rilke Songs, The Six Realms, Horn Concerto.
  • Classical Contemporary Composition: “Golijov: Ainadamar: Fountain of Tears,” Osvaldo Golijov (Robert Spano).
  • Opera Recording: “Golijov: Ainadamar: Fountain of Tears,” Robert Spano, conductor, Kelley O’Connor and Dawn Upshaw; Valerie Gross and Sid McLauchlan, producers (Women of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra).
  • Producer of the Year, Classical: Elaine Martone.
  • Classical Album: “Mahler: Symphony No. 7,” Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor, Andreas Neubronner, producer (San Francisco Symphony).
    Classical Crossover Album: “Simple Gifts,” Bryn Terfel (London Voices; London Symphony Orchestra).
  • Engineered Album, Classical: “Elgar: Enigma Variations; Britten: the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Four Sea Interludes,” Michael Bishop, engineer (Paavo Jarvi and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra).
    Orchestral Performance: “Mahler: Symphony No. 7,” Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony).
  • Choral Performance: “Part: Da Pacem,” Paul Hillier, conductor (Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir).
  • Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance(with Orchestra): “Messiaen: Oiseaux Exotiques (Exotic Birds),” John McLaughlin Williams, conductor; Angelin Chang (Cleveland Chamber Symphony).
  • Instrumental Soloist Performance(without Orchestra): “Chopin: Nocturnes,” Maurizio Pollini.
  • Chamber Music Performance: “Intimate Voices,” Emerson String Quartet
  • Small Ensemble Performance: “Padilla: Sun of Justice,” Peter Rutenberg, conductor (Los Angeles Chamber Singers’ Cappella).

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