YSM alumni lead social-justice-focused vocal ensemble

Inspire: A Choir for Unity

In fall 2012, guitarist Mark Barden enjoyed playing a few gigs with his children James, Natalie, and Daniel. Then, on December 14 of that year, Daniel, a 7-year-old drummer, was among the elementary-school students who were murdered in their classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn. “I made my career as a musician up until the day of the tragedy,” Barden said. “A lot of folks would’ve assumed that music was my comfort” in the aftermath of the massacre. It has not been. “I had to get away from it for a while.” While Barden will not ever get away from the loss of his son, the loss drives him to protect others from gun violence. Barden is the founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, whose mission is to “prevent gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide and accidental discharge so that no other parent experiences the senseless, horrific loss of their child.”

On Saturday, September 15, Sandy Hook Promise will partner with the New York City-based choral ensemble Inspire in presenting a vocal program called “Don’t Shoot, Just Listen.” A similar program was presented in November 2017 at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. As that program did, “this concert commemorates all those lost to gun violence and seeks to inspire unity and peace,” the ensemble’s website indicates. Inspire, a “choir for unity” that “seeks to promote unity through the power of song,” per its mission, is led by soprano and YSM alumna Megan Chartrand ’13MM, who serves as the group’s executive director. “Don’t Shoot, Just Listen” is designed, Chartrand said, to take the audience “through a series of emotions that somebody who’s experienced gun violence might go through.” The program will feature members of the Yale Glee Club.

“All people appreciate music,” Barden said. “To use that as a platform to connect people is just so powerful.” Representatives from Sandy Hook Promise will share the organization’s mission and objectives with the audience at the September 15 event.

“I think it really gets to the core of what the value of art is in our society,” said Yale Glee Club Director Jeffrey Douma, who is a member of Inspire’s artistic advisory board. “The arts make connections between people, and I think music does that particularly well. It’s something we all have in common.”

In organizing Inspire, the performances the ensemble presents, and the partnerships it enters into, Chartrand sought to use her artistic skills to make a difference in the world. “I feel on a daily basis overwhelmed by things I would like to help and improve,” she said. “Music is a skill that I possess, that everyone in Inspire possesses, and it’s a very powerful tool. We want to alleviate some of the pain in the world.” Beyond the choir’s performances, she pointed out, “we’re introducing people to organizations that fight this battle on a daily basis.

“We feel sort of powerless,” said Inspire soprano Eleanor Killiam ’15 BS, who sang with the Glee Club as an undergraduate at Yale. “This feels like a really great way to use our talents for good, and that feels really rewarding.”

Knox Sutterfield ’14MM, one of Inspire’s associate artistic directors, studied choral conducting at the School of Music. “This idea of community building,” he said, “is so essential to our mission.”

Inspire: A Choir for Unity will present “Don’t Shoot, Just Listen” on Saturday, September 15, at 7:30 p.m., in Yale University’s Marquand Chapel. Learn more here.

INSPIRE: A CHOIR FOR UNITY

SANDY HOOK PROMISE

Published September 10, 2018
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Yale International Choral Festival explores, connects cultures

Young People’s Chorus of New York City. Photo by Stephanie Berger

For the third year, the Yale International Choral Festival (June 12-16) will feature performances by vocal ensembles from around the world and lectures designed to add context to those programs.

Hosted by the Yale Glee Club and organized with the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, Yale School of Music, and Yale Alumni Chorus, the Choral Festival will welcome to New Haven ensemble cantissimo, a group of German and Swiss vocalists; the Muslim Choral Ensemble, a Sri Lankan group that was established in 2017; the Young People’s Chorus of New York City; Staccato, a group from the National Autonomous University of Mexico; the Yale Choral Artists; and the Yale Alumni Chorus.

Jeffrey Douma, director of the Yale Glee Club, founding director of the Yale Choral Artists, and artistic director of the Choral Festival, had tried to bring the Tehran Vocal Ensemble to New Haven but could not make that work. Still, members of that group will participate via live stream in Nahid Siamdoust’s June 14 lecture “Islam & Music: The Case of Iran,” which is informed by Siamdoust’s book Soundtrack of the Revolution: The Politics of Music in Iran. Siamdoust is a postdoctoral associate in the Yale Program in Iranian Studies at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. While the Tehran Vocal Ensemble, Douma said, is largely a secular choir, the nascent Muslim Choral Ensemble is “the first ensemble devoted exclusively to Muslim choral music in South Asia, if not in the world.”

The Young People’s Chorus of New York City is no newcomer to the choral scene. Established 30 years ago with a mission “to provide children of all cultural and economic backgrounds with a unique program of music education and choral performance that seeks to fulfill each child’s potential,” the ensemble will perform the premiere of Paola Prestini’s The Glass Box alongside the Yale Choral Artists. In doing so, members of the Young People’s Chorus will sing about peers in terrible circumstances.

Prestini’s The Glass Box was inspired by Rachel Aviv’s April 2017 New Yorker piece “The Trauma of Facing Deportation” and the “resignation syndrome” described therein that has afflicted refugees in Sweden. The performance will include projections by Kevork Mourad, a New York-based Syrian artist of Armenian heritage. The Young People’s Chorus-Yale Choral Artists performance will be repeated in New York City on a program that will also include YSM faculty composer David Lang’s the national anthems, a piece that points to the violent themes that mark most national anthems.

The Choral Festival fits perfectly into the Arts & Ideas Festival, presenting compelling performances and talks aimed at connecting local audiences to the wider world through the human voice. “It is our hope,” language on the Choral Festival website reads,” that this year’s festival will be a concrete and vital demonstration of the ways in which the arts in general and choral singing in particular can help create understanding between people in a world that too often feels increasingly divided.”

YALE INTERNATIONAL CHORAL FESTIVAL

INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS & IDEAS

Published June 7, 2018
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New oratorio by Martin Bresnick to be premiered at International Festival of Arts & Ideas

Martin Bresnick. Photo by Nina Roberts

A new oratorio by School of Music faculty composer Martin Bresnick will be premiered at Yale on June 20 as part of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, which commissioned the piece. The oratorio, Whitman, Melville, Dickinson — Passions of Bloom, will be performed again on June 21 at the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. The oratorio, which celebrates the work of its namesakes — Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, and distinguished literary critic Harold Bloom, the Sterling Professor of the Humanities and English at Yale — will be performed by the Yale Choral Artists and members of the Yale Philharmonia. Vocal soloists include YSM faculty tenor James Taylor, who’ll sing Bloom’s words. The oratorio is modeled on Bach’s St. John Passion. Bresnick assembled the libretto using poems by Whitman, Melville, and Dickinson and excerpts from Bloom’s The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime.

Talking about the poetry of the 19th century writers he’s celebrating, Bresnick said, “These particular works have been part of my mental universe since I was a young student. Still others I only recently got more closely acquainted with.” He’s been familiar with Bloom’s work for many years. In the mid-1980s, Bresnick composed music for the PBS series Voices & Visions, which, through interviews with such experts as Bloom, explored the lives of American poets. At that moment, Bresnick said, he felt that Bloom, who earned his Ph.D. from Yale in 1956, had established himself as a kind of Marlon Brando of critics, inasmuch as the “degree of passion and devotion he brought to his explanations” was “almost poetic.” It was while working on For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise, based on the William Blake poem, that Bresnick got to know Bloom and appreciate the shared “commonalities in our origins and points of departure.” In incorporating excerpts from The Daemon Knows into his oratorio, Bresnick had permission from Bloom to use “anything I wanted.”

Modeling the oratorio on Bach’s St. John Passion was a logical step considering that Bloom’s voice in the piece is not unlike that of the Evangelist — the narrator — in Bach’s passions. And Taylor, Bresnick pointed out, is a “well-known Evangelist in the world of the two Bach passions.” In addition to Taylor, Bresnick said, “I needed some very special singers.” Enter the Yale Choral Artists.

“Several of the soloists for this performance also happen to be YSM alumni, from both the Institute of Sacred Music’s voice program and from Yale Opera, including two former students of Jimmy’s — Paul Tipton and Sherezade Panthaki,” YCA founding director and YSM professor of choral conducting, Jeffrey Douma, said. School of Music alumni who’ll be performing include mezzo-soprano Katherine Maroney ’06MM, soprano Megan Chartrand ’13MM, soprano Sarah Yanovitch ’15MM, tenor Colin Britt ’10MM, tenor Gene Stenger ’15MM, and tenor Steven Soph ’12MM. Bass-baritone Tipton ’10MM will sing Melville’s words, while Maroney and soprano Panthaki ’11AD will sing text by Dickinson. Additional vocal soloists include tenor Brian Giebler, who’ll sing words by Whitman, bass Glenn Miller, who’ll sing the words of Captain Ahab, from Melville’s Moby-Dick, and baritone Thomas McCargar, who’ll sing the words of Melville’s Ishmael.

“During his composition process,” Douma said, “Martin often showed me excerpts of the solo writing he was developing, and would describe the kinds of voices he was hearing. This helped me choose singers from within the ranks of the Choral Artists best suited to each role.”

Bresnick’s oratorio, Douma said, “references not only Bach but also Brahms and other composers. People who know the St. John Passion will hear distinct echoes of its opening chorus (“Herr, unser Herrscher”) in Martin’s opening chorus (“Shine! Shine! Shine!”). For me as conductor, knowing that Bach was a starting point for Martin has influenced my thinking about the melodic writing in the piece and its relationship to the text. Martin may not be quoting Bach, but his careful attention to the natural rise and fall of the language and his singularly expressive way of emphasizing particular words reminds me very much of Bach’s use of melody, especially in the extended recitatives we hear in his passions. It has reinforced how important it will be for the audience to connect with the language in a very direct way.”

Of the literary works that inspired the oratorio, Douma said, “I love all three of the writers who inhabit this piece, but I will admit that my understanding of each of them — especially Melville — has been enriched greatly by the process of preparing this music.”

Originally, Bresnick said, he conceived a piece that would celebrate Bloom’s writings on Whitman. “I found that that wasn’t congenial for me,” he said. “That wasn’t enough.” The piece “needed more contrast.”

Bloom, Bresnick said, is “very shy about the fact that this whole thing, in some ways, is about him.”

Whitman, Melville, Dickinson — Passions of Bloom will receive its world-premiere performance, as part of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, on Tuesday, June 20, at 8 pm, in Morse Recital Hall at the Yale School of Music. The oratorio will be performed again on Wednesday, June 21, at 7:30 pm, at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.

INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS & IDEAS PERFORMANCE
NORFOLK PERFORMANCE

Published June 15, 2017
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Yale celebrates Adams Center grand opening

Adams Center for Musical Arts | Photo by Bob Handelman

Adams Center for Musical Arts | Photo by Bob Handelman

The Yale University community and distinguished guests on Thursday celebrated the grand opening of the new Adams Center for Musical Arts. It was an event in the stunning orchestra rehearsal hall at which a great debt of gratitude was paid to Stephen ’59BA and Denise Adams, whose continued generosity helped make the complex that bears their names a reality.

“This is a day not just for music,” Yale University President Peter Salovey said, “but it is a day for Yale University, as well, because this is a day where our University places an exclamation point on a place to study music that is second to none for graduate students and undergraduates, alike.

Peter Salovey dedicates the Adams Center | Photo by Harold Shapiro

Peter Salovey dedicates the Adams Center | Photo by Harold Shapiro

“One Yale — a place that celebrates a great college set alongside a great professional school, a place that gives our superb musicians from across all of our campus magnificent facilities to make music together during their bright college and their bright university years. We are really humbled by the extraordinary generosity and vision of Stephen and Denise Adams, our principal donors to this project … Their profound profound love of music, and of Yale, is what shines throughout this shining new light of campus architecture.”

Salovey also acknowledged the visionary leadership of School of Music Dean Robert Blocker, saying, “Every project that I have witnessed at Yale needs someone who has (an) uncompromising eye, and when that project has someone with that eye, it always comes out wonderfully. And Robert was the uncompromising eye behind this.”

In the Adams Center, Blocker sees his — and the Adamses’ — dreams for Music at Yale. MORE

Published February 17, 2017
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Yale community to gather for candlelight vigil

Sterling LibraryYale community will hold a candlelight vigil in support of refugees and immigrants on Sunday, January 29, at 6pm, in front of the Women’s Table at Sterling Library. A benefit concert for IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services) will follow, at 7pm in Battell Chapel. YSM faculty and the director of the Yale Glee Club Jeffrey Douma and Stephanie Tubiolo ’14BA ’16MM, Postgraduate Teaching Artist Fellow at the Yale School of Music’s Music in Schools Initiative, are among the organizers for this benefit concert. Suggested donation is $20, and $10 for students. All proceeds will go to IRIS.

The public is encouraged to attend both events.

Published January 29, 2017
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NYT: Yale Composers Showcase Their Works at New Music New Haven

Ani Kavafian, Lisa Morre, and David Shifrin | Photo by Chris Lee

Ani Kavafian, Lisa Moore, and David Shifrin | Photo by Chris Lee

The New York Times | By Vivien Schweitzer

It’s rarely a compliment to describe a composer as “academic”: the word is usually applied to those perceived as being sequestered on campus creating esoteric, dreary works. Conversely, being too “accessible” (i.e., not challenging enough) has also been deemed a negative. But there’s nothing pejoratively “academic” or “accessible” about any of the Yale faculty composers featured during a concert on Wednesday at WQXR’s Greene Space in SoHo.

David Lang, Hannah Lash, Christopher Theofanidis, Aaron Jay Kernis and Martin Bresnick represent an accessible aesthetic that draws on multiple stylistic influences. Some of their music has been championed by Bang on a Can, the lively genre-bending collective whose three founders, all Yale alumni, include Mr. Lang. The vocalist Helga Davis hosted Wednesday’s event, part of the NY Phil Biennial, and interviewed each composer and Alan Gilbert, the Philharmonic’s music director, onstage. MORE

Published May 26, 2016
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[ in the press ]

Yale Choral Festival: Building Connections Between People Through Music

singapore_choir_web

National University of Singapore Choir

WNPR | By Diane Orson

Choirs from Singapore, Sweden, Cuba, and Jerusalem will converge in New Haven next week for the Yale International Choral Festival, a collaborative project with the International Festival of Arts and Ideas.

Jeffrey Douma is a professor of conducting at the Yale School of Music and the director of the Yale Glee Club. He said the festival is first about celebrating great music and great singing. MORE

Published June 11, 2015
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[ events ]

Choirs from around the world to converge at Yale June 16–20

Via YaleNews | By Bess Connolly Martell

groupphoto

A group photo of all of the visiting choirs from the first Yale International Choral Festival held in 2012

The second Yale International Choral Festival — an event produced in collaboration with the Yale School of Music, the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, and the Yale Alumni Chorus — will take place June 16–20.

Hosted by the Yale Glee Club, the festival will feature renowned choirs from around the world who will gather for five days of singing, learning, and exploring the connections that choral music fosters between people. Each evening there will be a formal concert in Yale’s Sprague Hall, and each day will be filled with lectures, workshops, and master classes led by visiting conductors and Yale faculty, including the first Eric Ericson International Choral Centre Conducting 21C master class offered outside of Stockholm, Sweden.

Ensembles in this year’s festival will include Sweden’s Voces Nordicae, Cuba’s Entrevoces, the National University of Singapore Choir, and the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, along with the Yale Choral Artists and the Yale Alumni Chorus. MORE

Published June 2, 2015
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[ concerts ]

Yale Choral Artists and New Haven Symphony Orchestra perform Pärt and Britten Oct. 24

Arvo Pärt

Arvo Pärt

The Yale School of Music presents a concert by the Yale Choral Artists and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra on Friday, October 24, 2014 at 7:30 pm.

The concert brings together music of Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) and Benjamin Britten (1913–1976). Jeffrey Douma, the director of the Yale Choral Artists, will conduct. The musicians also include organist Thomas Murray.

The program features Arvo Pärt’s Berliner Messe and Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten, together with Britten’s Missa Brevis and other beloved choral works by the two composers.  MORE

Published October 17, 2014
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[ in the press ]

Yale’s Glee Club Makes Cultural Exchange Sing

New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD TV)
The Yale Glee Club Chorus performed Thursday (March 13) in Havana for an enthusiastic crowd.On the island for a second time to perform thanks to a cultural program that encourages artistic exchanges between the United States and Cuba, choral director Jeffrey Douma was excited to hear how his chorus sounded singing inside one of Havana’s oldest churches, the Church of the Convent of Saint Francis.

“When I go back home and I continue to work on this repertoire with my choirs I hope that I will have a closer understanding to what this music really should sound like. I certainly have a better understanding of the spirit behind it and the rhythm and the energy and the life.” said Douma prior to the concert.

“Music, the arts in general, build bridges. It doesn’t matter what side (you are on) they build bridges,” said Digna Guerra, the Director of the Cuban Chorus.

Cuba’s chorus will travel in 2015 to New Haven, Connecticut to perform at Yale as part of the exchange.

Published March 13, 2014
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