Yale Choral Artists to perform at International Festival of Arts & Ideas

Yale Choral Artists

The Yale Choral Artists, led by founding Director Jeffrey Douma, will perform music by Yale composers on Friday as part of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. The program will feature works by Yale School of Music faculty composers Aaron Jay Kernis ’83MM and Christopher Theofanidis ’94MMA ’97DMA, former faculty composer Ingram Marshall, and alumni composers Caroline Shaw ’07MM and Michael Gilbertson ’13MM ’21DMA.

“Much of the Choral Artists’ work is devoted to new music, and after our last project featuring the music of Heinrich Schütz and Herbert Howells, we wanted to delve again into some newer works,” Douma said. “It’s an understatement to say that we have an abundance of riches here at the Yale School of Music—some of the most exciting composers in the world have studied, taught, and made music here in our own community, and many have made important and innovative contributions to the choral repertoire. The works we (will) perform on Friday are … beautiful and highly evocative: the cascade of voices in Ingram Marshall’s Hymnodic Delays, Aaron Kernis’ virtuosic Ecstatic Meditations, Caroline Shaw’s intimate and heartfelt and the swallow, Michael Gilbertson’s elegant and beautifully crafted Three Madrigals After Dowland, and Chris Theofanidis’ brilliant setting of the (musically inspired) poetry of Denise Levertov for violin and a cappella choir.”

Douma, who also serves as Professor of Choral Conducting at the School of Music and Director of the Yale Glee Club, founded the Yale Choral Artists, a project-based professional ensemble, in 2011 to “enhance and enrich Yale’s strong commitment to the choral arts.” Members of the Choral Artists perform in the United States and around the world with such organizations as Chanticleer, Conspirare, the Handel and Haydn Society Chorus, Seraphic Fire, the Trinity Wall Street Choir, Voices of Ascension, and others.

The Yale Choral Artists will perform on Friday, June 21, at 8 p.m., in Morse Recital Hall.

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Published June 20, 2019
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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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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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[ 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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Yale Choral Artists, Yale Philharmonia perform Mozart’s Mass in C minor Feb. 8

Yale Choral Artists

Yale Choral Artists

The Yale School of Music presents a performance of Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 8 pm. Jeffrey Douma will conduct the combined forces of the Yale Choral Artists, Yale Philharmonia, and Yale Baroque Ensemble.

The concert takes place in Morse Recital Hall, located in Sprague Hall (470 College Street, New Haven). The performance will also stream live online. LIVE STREAM 

Mozart left portions of his Mass in C minor incomplete; this performance will feature the version of the work completed by Harvard scholar Robert Levin. This edition uses Mozart’s own sketches and related music, preserving the composer’s spirit. Levin, whose completion of the Mozart Requiem has become the preferred performing version today, completed the Mass in C minor for Mozart’s 250th birthday in 2006. MORE

Published January 15, 2014
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Yale Choral Artists sing Brahms February 9

Updated Feb. 9, 2013: This concert has been cancelled because of the blizzard. We hope we will be able to reschedule. Please check our website for updates.

The Yale Glee Club and the Yale School of Music present a concert by the Yale Choral Artists on Saturday, February 9, at 8 pm.

Jeffrey Douma will conduct the performance, which will also feature the pianists Robert Blocker and Melvin Chen.

The concert features choral music of Johannes Brahms, including Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein rein Herz (Op. 29, No. 2); Warum ist das Licht gegeben (Op. 74, No. 1); Nänie (Op. 82, piano four-hands version); and the Liebeslieder Walzer, Op. 52.

The event, which is free and open to the public, takes place in Morse Recital Hall, located in Sprague Memorial Hall at 470 College Street.

Paul Berry, Assistant Professor of Music History and a noted Brahms scholar, will give a pre-concert lecture in Sudler Hall (adjacent to Sprague Hall) at 7 pm.

The Yale Choral Artists is a professional choir recently founded by the Yale School of Music and the Yale Glee Club to enhance and enrich Yale’s strong commitment to the choral arts. The choir is a project-based ensemble comprised of leading singers from around the country. Current members of the Choral Artists also perform in the ranks of such acclaimed ensembles as the Trinity Wall Street Choir, Chanticleer, the Handel and Haydn Society Chorus, the Oregon Bach Festival Chorus, Voices of Ascension, Conspirare, and many others, and are also leading concert soloists, particularly in the area of early music. MORE

Published January 25, 2013
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[ events ]

Yale hosts international festival of choirs

Manado State University Choir

Renowned choirs from four continents will come together on the Yale campus June 19–23 for the first Yale International Choral Festival: five days of singing, learning, and celebrating the transcendent power of choral music to connect and inspire people from all cultures and all walks of life. Participating ensembles include the Central Conservatory of Music Chorus, Beijing; the Cambridge University Consort of Voices, UK; Manado State University Choir, Indonesia; the Imilonji Kantu Choral Society, South Africa; and two Yale choral groups: the renowned Yale Alumni Chorus and the newly formed professional ensemble Yale Choral Artists.

Each evening will feature a formal concert in Morse Recital Hall (located in Sprague Hall at 470 College St.) by individual choirs, and each day will be filled with lectures, workshops, and master classes led by visiting conductors, guests, and Yale faculty.

Imilonji Kantu Choral Society

Sponsored by the Yale Glee Club (Jeffrey Douma, director), the Yale School of Music, and the Yale Alumni Chorus, the event is part of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, which takes place in New Haven June 16–30. MORE

Published May 25, 2012
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Announcing a new ensemble, Yale Choral Artists

Jeffrey Douma, director

The Yale School of Music and the Yale Glee Club are pleased to announce the organization of a new professional choral ensemble, the Yale Choral Artists. The Yale Choral Artists will be a project-based ensemble comprised of leading professional singers from around the country and will be directed by School of Music faculty member Jeffrey Douma.

Robert Blocker, Dean of the School of Music, said that “the Yale Choral Artists will enhance and enrich the School’s commitment to the choral arts. Gifted singers from throughout the nation will not only bring a new artistic voice to our concert programs but also mentor Yale undergraduate and graduate students.”

Since 2003, Jeffrey Douma has directed the undergraduate Yale Glee Club, which last season received rave reviews in the national press. The New York Times called it “One of the best collegiate singing ensembles, and one of the most adventurous,” and the Washington Post praised, “Under the direction of Jeffrey Douma, the sopranos – indeed, all the voices – sang as one voice, with flawless intonation.” Douma, who is also the musical director of the Yale Alumni Chorus and the choirmaster at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, has previously served on the conducting faculties of Carroll College, Smith College, and the Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Blocker commented, “I am delighted that Jeffrey Douma, Yale’s distinguished young choral conductor, will conduct and give artistic direction to the Yale Choral Artists. Jeff’s artistic presence is receiving international acclaim, and the professional activities of the Yale Choral Artists will further the international partnerships of both the School and the University.”

The ensemble’s first two projects, both in 2012, include a February program with guest conductor and renowned early music specialist William Christie in New York (Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall), and a June program of contemporary American music at the Yale International Choral Festival. MORE

Published August 26, 2011
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