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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Marin Alsop to lead Yale Philharmonia in program of Bernstein, Beethoven

Marin Alsop. Photo by Adriane White

Yale Philharmonia Principal Conductor Peter Oundjian has described Marin Alsop as “one of the greatest conductors of her generation.” A 2005 MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Grant”) recipient, Alsop has served since 2007 as the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She has also led the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and has appeared with many of the world’s most celebrated ensembles. Alsop was recently appointed chief conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, the latest in a series of “firsts” as a woman conductor.

“I’m very honoured to be the first, but I’m also rather shocked that we can be in this year, in this century, and there can still be ‘firsts’ for women,” Alsop told The Guardian. She made similar comments, at greater length, at the final concert of the 2013 BBC Proms.

Eager to see others succeed as she has, Alsop established the Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship, which helps prepare women conductors for work on the podium and in offstage leadership areas, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program, which was “designed to create social change and nurture promising futures for youth in Baltimore City neighborhoods,” according to the organization’s website.

Alsop has not been shy about using her position in the music world to point out inequities. Her social activism was inspired in part by her mentor, the late Leonard Bernstein, whose 100th birthday, which falls on August 25, the performing arts community has been celebrating.

“He was a very generous human being who believed in access and inclusion and equity for all people,” Alsop said of Bernstein, with whom she studied at Tanglewood. That legacy, she said, “inspires me to try to use the opportunities I have to create a more just landscape for people.”

On Friday, April 20, Alsop will lead the Yale Philharmonia, Yale Glee Club, and Yale Camerata in a performance of Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony, on a program that also includes Bernstein’s Opening Prayer and Chichester Psalms. Beethoven’s Ninth, she said, “was a critical piece for Bernstein,” one that represented possibility and hope. It’s a piece he famously conducted in Berlin, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in a performance that featured musicians from East and West Germany, Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States. It was the hope that Bernstein found in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony that Alsop is eager to celebrate, along with Bernstein’s birthday and his music.

In addition to Bernstein’s Opening Prayer, which was composed for the 1986 reopening of Carnegie Hall and eventually became part of his Concerto for Orchestra, the April 20 Yale Philharmonia program includes Chichester Psalms. Like Beethoven’s Ninth, Alsop said, Chichester Psalms is “a piece about hope and possibility.”

Having worked closely with Bernstein certainly informs Alsop’s performances of his music. “Knowing a composer as a human being gives us that added dimension, that added insight” into the motivation for writing a piece, she said. It is her responsibility, and the Philharmonia’s, to tell the music’s story. And that’s the same wherever she’s conducting. “I approach every orchestra as professional musicians whom I respect,” she said. While more might be expected of her, in terms of providing insight or direction, from a younger orchestra than from a veteran ensemble, “I don’t think about it any differently.”

On Wednesday, April 18, Alsop will join School of Music Dean Robert Blocker for a conversation about Leonard Bernstein’s legacy and music, the pursuit of diversity in our field, Beethoven’s revolutionary Ninth Symphony, and working with the next generation of orchestral musicians.

On Friday, April 20, guest conductor Marin Alsop will lead the Yale Philharmonia, Yale Glee Club, and Yale Camerata in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, on a program that also includes Bernstein’s Opening Prayer and Chichester Psalms.

A CONVERSATION WITH MARIN ALSOP
CONCERT DETAILS & TICKETS

Published April 13, 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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[ concerts ]

Yale Philharmonia, Camerata, Glee Club perform Mahler’s Second Symphony Sep. 19

Shinik Hahm, conductor

Shinik Hahm, conductor

The Yale School of Music presents the Yale Philharmonia in its first concert of the 2014–2015 season on Friday, September 19, 2014 at 7:30 pm. The orchestra, joined by the Yale Camerata and Yale Glee Club, will perform Gustav Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection.” The concert will also be live streamed; click here to listen. LIVE STREAM

Shinik Hahm will conduct. The vocal soloists are Emily Workman, soprano, and Leah Hawkins, mezzo-soprano, both students in the Yale Opera program at the Yale School of Music.

This symphony, which runs around 90 minutes, was one of the composer’s most popular pieces during his lifetime, and its appeal to audiences continues today. The piece is known as the “Resurrection” Symphony because its texts address themes of death and the afterlife. MORE

Published September 4, 2014
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[ Inauguration ]

Video: Inauguration Celebration Concert

In honor of University President Peter Salovey’s inauguration, a musical celebration of all that is Yale was held on Friday, October 11th in Woolsey Hall.

The event was hosted by Master of Ceremony Robert Blocker, Henry and Lucy Moses Dean of Music, and featured performances by the University’s major performing ensembles: Yale Concert Band, Yale Philharmonia, Yale Symphony Orchestra, Yale Camerata, and Yale Glee Club. Other performers included University Organist Thomas Murray; organist Paul Jacobs ’02MM, ’03AD; the Yale Cellos, directed by Aldo Parisot; and an ensemble of Yale guitarists, directed by Benjamin Verdery.

Watch the full video of the performance below. The concert starts approximately 10 minutes into the video.

Published October 14, 2013
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Renowned conductor Helmuth Rilling leads Dvorak’s Stabat Mater Apr. 19

Yale Philharmonia performs with Yale Camerata, Yale Glee Club

Helmuth Rilling. Photo: Jon Christopher Meyers

The Yale School of Music, Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and Yale Glee Club present a performance of Dvorák’s masterful Stabat Mater, led by the Grammy Award-winning conductor Helmuth Rilling on Friday, April 19, 2013. The Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale will perform alongside the Yale Camerata and Yale Glee Club. The concert takes place at 8 pm in Woolsey Hall (500 College Street, New Haven).

Composed in 1877 in Prague, Stabat Mater was Dvorák’s response to the death of his daughter, Josefa, followed by the deaths of two more of his children. The ten-part masterpiece was his first composition on a religious theme since his student days, and the work is noted for its depth of emotion.

The internationally renowned conductor Helmuth Rilling will lead the performance. Rilling has said: “Music should never be merely comfortable, never fossilized, never soothing. It should startle people and reach deep down inside them, forcing them to reflect.”

The performers include the Yale Philharmonia, the Yale Camerata (a vocal ensemble sponsored by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and directed by Marguerite L. Brooks), and the Yale Glee Club (Yale’s premier undergraduate mixed chorus and the oldest musical organization on campus, directed by Jeffrey Douma).

Admission to the concert is free, and no tickets are required. For more information, call the Yale School of Music concert office at 203 432-4158 or visit music.yale.edu. MORE

Published March 18, 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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Yale Philharmonia opens its season with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

Sep. 23 concert features soloists from Yale Opera plus Yale Camerata and Yale Glee Club

The Yale School of Music presents the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale in a concert featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor on Friday, September 23, 2011 at 8 pm in historic Woolsey Hall.

Shinik Hahm will conduct the concert, which opens with a fanfare by Richard Strauss and continues with Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3. The fanfare, written for the Vienna Philharmonic, has been played at the orchestra’s annual balls ever since its composition in 1924. Beethoven’s dramatic overture is one of four written for his only opera – which itself went through numerous revisions and was eventually named Fidelio.

For Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony, the Yale Philharmonia will be joined by the Yale Glee Club (Jeffrey Douma, director) and Yale Camerata (Marguerite L. Brooks, director). The vocal soloists, who are current or former students in the prestigious Yale Opera program, are soprano Amanda Hall, mezzo-soprano Kelly Hill, tenor Sam Levine, and bass-baritone Andrew Brown.

Admission to the concert is free, and no tickets are required. MORE

Published September 7, 2011
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Help Can’t Wait: Pakistan Relief Benefit Concert this Saturday, Sept. 25 at 7pm

Performers include South Asian musicians, dancers, and singers, plus Yale Symphony Orchestra, Yale Concert Band, Yale Glee Club

Devastating floods in Pakistan have left millions of people hurt or homeless. In response to the crisis, the Yale community will present “Help Can’t Wait: Pakistan,” a benefit concert for flood relief, on Saturday, Sept. 25 at 7 pm.

The concert will be held in Woolsey Hall, corner of College and Grove streets. The program will include performances by the Yale Symphony Orchestra, Yale Concert Band and Yale Glee Club, and student and professional South Asian musicians, dancers, and singers.

The suggested donation for concert tickets is $20/$10 students. All contributions will go to the Pakistan Flood Relief effort — specifically Karachi Relief, UNICEF and the International Federation of the Red Cross. These organizations already have a presence in Pakistan and have begun the work of delivering humanitarian aid, services, and supplies.

Tickets can be purchased at the Yale School of Music box office at Sprague Memorial Hall, 470 College St. Monday through Friday, between  9 am and 5 pm. Tickets also are available at music.yale.edu/concerts. In addition, tickets will be sold in the lobby of Woolsey Hall beginning at 6 p.m. on the evening of the event. MORE

Published September 22, 2010
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East Coast premiere of new Aaron Jay Kernis symphony

Yale presents the East Coast premiere of Aaron Jay Kernis’s major new work, the “profoundly spiritual” Symphony of Meditations

Kernis, Aaron JayThe Yale School of Music, Institute of Sacred Music, and Glee Club will present the East Coast premiere of Aaron Jay Kernis’s Symphony of Meditations, a major new work in the repertoire for orchestra and chorus, on Friday, November 6 at 8 pm in Woolsey Hall. Kernis himself will conduct the performance, which will feature the Yale Philharmonia (Shinik Hahm, conductor), the Yale Camerata (Marguerite L. Brooks, conductor), the Yale Schola Cantorum (Masaaki Suzuki, director), and the Yale Glee Club (Jeffrey Douma, director). The vocal soloists, all emerging artists in the Yale Opera program, are Amanda Hall, soprano, Joseph Mikolaj, tenor and David Pershall, baritone. The performance will take place during the 2009 convention of the American Collegiate Choral Organization, hosted by Yale University.

The hour-long, three-movement Symphony of Meditations was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. After its first performance in June under the baton of Gerard Schwartz, the piece was warmly received by the audience and hailed by the press. The Examiner called it “a complex, ambitious and, overall, brilliant undertaking… there is much to praise about this multi-textured, profoundly spiritual composition.” Gathering Note said, “Kernis has constructed a major new symphony that gives notice to everyone that the form is not dead …nothing less than a serious and worthy composition.” MORE

Published October 21, 2009
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