Communities of Color in Classical Music: SMCO’s Season Opener

by Maggie Molloy

The United States is a melting pot of cultures and musical identities made richer by communities of color—yet even in the 21st century, classical music programs predominantly feature white male composers.

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra has dedicated their 2017-2018 season to celebrating diversity and honoring voices that have been too often marginalized—or worse, silenced—throughout the classical music tradition.

The season, titled “Voices of Courage,” kicks off this Wednesday and Sunday with a collaborative concert that weaves together contemporary music and poetry in a powerful statement of unity. The program examines the search for an American musical identity, exploring the lasting influence of communities of color in classical music and addressing issues of representation on concert programs. Seattle’s first Civic Poet, Claudia Castro Luna, joins the orchestra to read her own original poetry as well as the prose of Federico García Lorca.

The evening begins with a bang: Jessie Montgomery’s urgent and innovative Banner, which combines classical strings with elements from African-American spirituals and anthems of the U.S., Mexico, and Puerto Rico. It’s followed by the impossibly gorgeous, elegiac Lyric for Strings by George Walker, the first African-American composer to win a Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas follows with the mariachi textures and driving rhythms of with his heroic Homenaje a Federico García Lorca. He composed the piece in 1936 in honor of the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, who was murdered by fascist militia forces. Aaron Copland’s Music for the Theatre evokes the playful jazz solos, brassy fanfares, and lively cabaret culture of the Roaring Twenties, and Scott Joplin’s infectious Maple Leaf Rag rounds out the program.

We talked with SMCO Music Director Geoffrey Larson to learn more about the music and the people behind this week’s program:

Second Inversion: What inspired the theme of this season, “Voices of Courage”?

Geoffrey Larson: Classical music has never existed in a vacuum, and I believe that in times like these our art form becomes more relevant than ever. The political and social climate in our country today contributed significantly to the programming direction of SMCO’s current season, which features musical voices typically marginalized throughout the history of classical music, including composers of color, women, and immigrants. Copland, Barber, Bernstein, and Tchaikovsky were also part of a minority with respect to their sexual orientation, and experienced forms of persecution because of it.

Additionally, as SMCO strives to fulfill our mission of serving the entire Seattle community, we as an organization believe that it is important that our programming reflects the diversity of cultures that make this city whole. We will continue to feature music of women and people of color, and strive to ensure they are represented onstage as well.

SI: How did you choose the repertoire for this season opener?

GL: SMCO’s October 11 and 15 program showcases just some of the powerful cross-cultural influences at work in the classical music world. When I set about programming a season, I make a large list of pieces that I love and would like to perform, and I have been looking forward to programming all of these works for some time. The Montgomery is an intensely powerful statement, and is very cleverly put together; George Walker poured his heart into the Lyric for Strings, it’s just so beautiful and personal; the Revueltas uses a sort of Mexican village band orchestration, achieves some really jaw-dropping sounds, and uses Latin-American rhythms in such cool ways; the Copland is a total blast to perform with all its swinging jazz elements and brassy fanfares. Pianist Amanda Harris will also perform a solo work by Scott Joplin.

It is important that music of women and composers of color appear on programs such as this, as they are chronically under-represented on classical music programs, but it’s important to remember that these are stunning, incredible pieces of music first and foremost. The Copland falls at the end of the program, synthesizing the influences of musical forms earlier on the program that come from communities of color.  

SI: What makes this concert different from your average classical music performance?

GL: SMCO is always striving to present music in context, and I believe that pairing poetry with the music of this program will not only add beauty but will add a powerful real-world relevance as well. Claudia Castro Luna will read her own work as a response to Jessie Montgomery’s Banner, which is possibly the most timely work on the program: it has a section that mimics the Pledge of Allegiance and quotes African American spirituals, the Mexican and Puerto Rican Anthems, and other melodies all mixed together with a transformation of the U.S. National Anthem.

Claudia will also read the prose of Federico Garcia Lorca between each movement of the work that was inspired by his writing, the Homenaje a Federico Garcia Lorca by Silvestre Revueltas. We also strive to present music in a more relaxed and welcoming setting, removing the stereotypical stuffiness of classical music shows that I think is seen as a barrier to a lot of first-time listeners.

SI: How did the collaboration with Claudia Castro Luna come about, and how do the poems relate to the music?

GL: I have admired Claudia’s work as our first Civic Poet, especially her Seattle Poetic Grid, which tells the personal story of the different neighborhoods of the city through the voices of the people who live there.

Every person who lives in this city and in this country has a connection to it and all the people who call it home; everyone deserves respect and a voice. This huge variety of heritage and experience is part of our identity as a nation, and our musical identity reflects it. Claudia was enthusiastic about being a part of this program because she is passionate about its themes: the respect and empowerment of marginalized voices, and celebration of the influence of racial and cultural minorities.


SMCO’s Music, Poetry, and the Influence of Communities of Color is this Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 7:30pm at Fremont Abbey and Sunday, Oct. 15 at 2pm at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. For tickets and additional information, please click here.

October Concerts You Can’t Miss

by Maggie Molloy

SI_button2

Second Inversion and the Live Music Project create a monthly calendar featuring contemporary classical, cross-genre, and experimental performances in Seattle, the Eastside, Tacoma, and places in between! 

thvLYmNB

Keep an eye out for our this flyer in concert programs and coffee shops around town. Feel free to download, print, and distribute it yourself! If you’d like to be included on this list, submit your event to the Live Music Project at least 6 weeks prior to the event and tag it with “new music.”

October 2017 Concert Flyer

 

Racer Sessions
A weekly showcase of original music with a jam session based on the concepts in the opening presentation.
Every Sunday, 8-10pm, Cafe Racer | FREE

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electronic/electroacoustic music, and sonic experiments. This month: saxophone sextets, prepared guitar improvisations, music for speaking pianist, and more.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Philharmonia Northwest: At the Japanese Garden
East meets West in this concert featuring Toru Takemitsu’s Three Film Scores for string orchestra and Kosaku Yamada’s Symphony in F Major, the first symphony ever written by a Japanese composer.
Sun, 10/1, 2:30pm, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church | $15-$20

Tom Baker Quartet: Reunion Show
From 2004-2011 the Tom Baker Quartet performed unusual and avant-garde music across the Northwest and in New York City. Now they reunite for a one-night-only show at the Royal Room in Seattle.
Mon, 10/2, 7:30pm, The Royal Room | Donations

The Esoterics: GRAVITAS
Exploring themes of gravity in music, the Esoterics perform works by Robert Paterson and Steven Stucky alongside three world premieres by the winners of this year’s POLYPHONOS competition.
Fri, 10/6, 8pm, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Laurelhurst| $15-$22
Sat, 10/7, 8pm, Holy Rosary Catholic Church, West Seattle | $15-$22
Sun, 10/8, 7pm, Christ Episcopal Church, Tacoma | $15-$22

STG Presents: Ludovico Einaudi
Known around the world for his chart-topping albums, famous film scores, and genre-crossing live performances, Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi brings his inimitable piano music to Seattle for an evening at the Moore Theatre.
Sat, 10/7, 8pm, The Moore Theatre | $39-$94

BetaSounds: A First Exploration
Dedicated to bridging the gap between modern audiences and classical music, BetaSounds presents an inaugural coffee shop concert featuring works by Britten, Barber, Bartók, Dvořák, and Ravel.
Mon, 10/9, 6pm, The Conservatory Coffee Shop | $15

SMCO: Music, Poetry, and the Influence of Communities of Color
Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra examines the search for an American musical identity, exploring the lasting influence of Black music in the classical world. Featuring music by Jessie Montgomery, George Walker, Silvestre Revueltas, and Aaron Copland, plus poetry by Claudia Castro Luna.
Wed, 10/11, 7:30pm, Fremont Abbey | $15-$25
Sun, 10/15, 2pm, Langston Hughs Performing Arts Institute | $15-$25

Seattle Modern Orchestra: In Time of War
Seattle Modern Orchestra presents historic works penned by George Crumb and Julius Eastman in response to the cultural and political turmoil of the 1970s.
Thurs, 10/12, 7:30pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $10-$25

Jesse Myers: The Minimal Piano
Jesse Myers premieres his new piece for solo piano and six-channel soundtrack. Also on the program are minimalist masterpieces by John Adams, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich, plus new works for piano and electronics by Missy Mazzoli and Christopher Cerrone.
Fri, 10/13, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Seattle Symphony: [untitled] 1
This late-night, no-intermission concert brings to life the the dramatically shifting soundscapes of John Adams’ Road Movies paired with the restless momentum and searing imagery of Steve Reich’s Different Trains. All aboard!
Fri, 10/13, 10pm, Benaroya Hall | $16

The Sound Ensemble: Kammermusik
Paul Hindemith’s Kammermusik (German for “chamber music”) is performed alongside eclectic chamber works by Darius Milhaud, Michael Djupstrom, Judd Greenstein, and Seattle-based composer James Falzone.
Sat, 10/14, 7pm, Good Shepherd Center | $5-$15

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror
F.W. Murnau’s 1922 classic Nosferatu is beloved by horror fans and film buffs alike for its creepy story and stark images. Pianist Rick Friend and members of the Seattle Symphony bring this spine-tingling vampire tale to life as they perform the live score alongside the film.
Tues, 10/17, 7:30pm, Benaroya Hall | $35-$90

NOCCO: Echoes & Dances
The North Corner Chamber Orchestra opens its season with Roupen Shakarian’s Violin Concerto featuring concertmaster Victoria Parker. Works by Prokofiev and Poulenc round out the program.
Sat, 10/21, 2pm, University Christian Church | $25

Music of Today: Intercontinental Experimental Music Ensemble
This rare convergence of world-renowned musicians from four continents features visiting artists collaborating with University of Washington School of Music faculty members in a program of strings, percussion, keyboard, đàn tranh, guzheng, and live electronics.
Wed, 10/25, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $10-$15

Emerald City Music: Andy Akiho
Brooklyn-based composer and steel pan player Andy Akiho takes over the Emerald City Music stage to curate an exclusive evening of his own compositions alongside the works of Arvo Pärt and Philip Glass.
Fri, 10/27, 8pm, 415 Westlake Ave, Seattle | $45
Sat, 10/28, 7:30pm, The Minnaert Center, Olympia | $10-$43

Sound of Late: Steelworks
Sound of Late presents the West Coast premiere of Anna Clyne’s Steelworks, written for flute, bass clarinet, percussion, and tape recordings from the last steelworks factory in Brooklyn. Plus, works by Sarah Kirkland Snider, Somei Satoh, and more.
Sat, 10/28, 8pm, Flutter Studios | $15

Musical Saws and Moon Landings: Jake Heggie’s ‘EARTHRISE’

by Maggie Molloy

On Christmas Eve in 1968, astronaut Bill Anders took what would become one of the most iconic photographs ever: Earthrise, taken from the surface of the moon during the Apollo 8 landing.

“For as long as there have been people, we earthlings have watched, extolled and wondered over countless moonrises,” said composer Jake Heggie. “But here, for the first time, we could wonder collectively at the appearance of our own fragile, tiny blue planet rising over the cold surface of the moon, surrounded by an unfathomable, infinite darkness.”

Anders now lives on Orcas Island, where he was honored at this year’s Orcas Island Music Festival with a new piece composed by Heggie and featuring one of his favorite instruments: the ethereal musical saw.

Inspired by Anders’ iconic photo, Heggie composed EARTHRISE: Dec 24, 1968 for musical saw and string quartet. The piece was premiered at this summer’s festival by saw player Anita Orne with the Miró String Quartet. We are thrilled to share a live video of that star performance:

LIVE VIDEO STREAM: A Far Cry on Friday, September 22 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET

by Maggie Molloy

Philip Glass and J.S. Bach have a lot more in common than you might think. Cascading arpeggios, rapid scales, ever-shifting counterpoint—a transcendent, almost spiritual quality to their music. It comes as no surprise to learn that Glass studied the work of Bach closely under his famous teacher Nadia Boulanger.

But don’t just take our word for it: you can listen to both composers performed LIVE right here on Second Inversion tonight by the Boston-based chamber ensemble A Far Cry. Visit this page tonight, Friday, September 22 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET for a live video of A Far Cry’s 2017-2018 season opener, streaming right here:

Check out the program below, and click here for program notes.

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, BWV 1048
Glass: Symphony No. 3
Bach: Concerto for Keyboard and Strings in G minor, BWV 1058

To learn more about our live-streaming video broadcasts of A Far Cry, click here.

Photo by Yoon S. Byun.


Please note: Due to restrictions, the live video stream will not include Simone Dinnerstein’s performance of Philip Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Thank you for your understanding.

 

Second Inversion & A Far Cry

by Maggie Molloy

Philip Glass, Caroline Shaw, and Sarah Kirkland Snider are just a few of the composers you’ll see on the Boston-based A Far Cry‘s star-studded 2017-2018 season. This year Simone Dinnerstein premieres a new Glass piano concerto, the Miró Quartet breathes new life into Kevin Puts’ Credo, Luciana Souza lends her luminary voice to a new commission by five of today’s top women composers—and you can watch it all unfold on Second Inversion.

We are thrilled to continue our media partnership with A Far Cry this season, presenting live video streams on our website of each of their performances at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall!

Take a peek at the programs below and mark your calendars now:

Friday, September 22, 5pm PT / 8pm ET: Dinnerstein Premieres Glass
featuring Simone Dinnerstein, piano

Philip Glass: Symphony No. 3
J.S. Bach: Concerto for Keyboard and Strings in G minor, BWV 1058
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, BWV 1048
Glass: Piano Concerto No. 3 (New AFC Commission)


Friday, November 10, 5pm PT / 8pm ET: The Blue Hour
featuring Luciana Souza, voice

The Blue Hour, a new AFC commission by Rachel Grimes, Angélica Negrón, Shara Nova, Caroline Shaw, and Sarah Kirkland Snider, is an evening-length song cycle based on the poem “On Earth,” by Carolyn Forché. Delivering the vocals with A Far Cry is the luminous young jazz vocalist Luciana Souza.


Friday, January 19, 5pm PT / 8pm ET: Albion
featuring Nicholas Phan, tenor

Matthew Locke & Henry Purcell: Selections from The Tempest and The Fairy-Queen
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Concerto Grosso

Benjamin Britten: Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, Op. 31


Friday, March 30, 5pm PT / 8pm ET: Loss and Resurrection
featuring the Miró Quartet

Ludwig van Beethoven: String Quartet, Op. 135 (arr. AFC)
Kevin Puts: Credo (arr. AFC)
Richard Strauss: Metamorphosen, study for 23 solo strings


Friday, May 18, 5pm PT / 8pm ET: Next Generation
featuring Alexander Korsantia, piano

W. A. Mozart / Ethan Wood: Variations on “Ah! vous dirais-je, Maman”
Galina Ustvolskaya: Concerto for Piano, String Orchestra, and Timpani
Benjamin Britten: Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10

From Seattle to the Sonoran Desert: Emerald City Music’s Season Opener

by Maggie Molloy

Photo by Pete Woodhead.

It’s not every day you hear the sounds of the Sonoran Desert all the way up north in Seattle—but that’s exactly what Emerald City Music has planned for their season opener this weekend.

The vogue new chamber series kicks off its second season with the world premiere of a new chamber piece by John Luther Adams titled “there is no one, not even the wind…” Inspired by the stillness and light of the American Southwest, the piece is an immersive desert soundscape scored for two flutes, strings, piano, and a whole lot of percussion (expect to hear glockenspiels, marimbas, vibraphones, and a bass drum or two).

The piece takes its title from a poem by the great Mexican poet Octavio Paz titled Piedra Nativa (Native Stone). He writes, “No hay nadie ni siquiera tú mismo.” (“There is no one, not even yourself.”) Adams takes this line one step further, removing even the wind itself.

“John Luther Adams’ work often resembles minimalism in the sense that it says as much as possible with as little as possible,” said violinist and Artistic Director Kristin Lee, who co-founded Emerald City Music with Andrew Goldstein in 2015. “It’s very ethereal, very atmospheric—often inaudible since it is so soft.”

John Luther Adams became a household name in the classical music community after the Seattle Symphony’s world premiere of Become Ocean in 2013. The 45-minute masterwork went on to win the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music and the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, putting Seattle on the new music map.

“The Pacific Northwest is the most beautiful part of the country, in my opinion,” said Lee, who is performing in this weekend’s premiere. “We have the beautiful water and mountains, and the city, the sound of the people. It’s really the meeting point and the melting pot where nature and the city meets. It’s the perfect place for John Luther Adams’ music.”

Adams’ music also in many ways epitomizes Emerald City Music’s eclectic programming, which highlights new and experimental works alongside jewels of the traditional classical canon. Adams’ music famously transcends all manner of categorization, blurring the boundaries between classical, ambient, jazz, experimental, and other genres.

“John Luther Adams is one of the first, biggest examples of the post-genre world that we’re navigating,” said co-founder and Executive Director Andrew Goldstein. “The connection that his music has defies classical music, defies jazz, defies all these genres and just goes straight to touching the listener.”

Following Emerald City Music’s debut (which is made possible in part by 4Culture), the piece will tour the U.S. for performances by each of its co-commissioners: the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Camerata Pacifica, the Redlands Symphony Orchestra, and Chamber Music Northwest.

For this weekend’s Seattle and Olympia concerts, the world premiere is framed by performances of Andrew Norman’s vibrantly colored “Light Screens” and Steve Reich’s canonic, notoriously virtuosic “Nagoya Marimbas.” Also included is a violin and piano rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s iconic “America” from West Side Story, tying in with a larger overarching season theme celebrating Bernstein’s centennial. And for the traditionalists: Dvorák’s sparkling Piano Quartet in E-flat Major.

“The way that Kristin [Lee] does her programming is so much about connecting to people and letting music touch you beyond just the barriers of what classical music is,” Goldstein said. “She really allows the genre to live outside of itself a little bit.”


Emerald City Music’s performances of “there is no one, not even the wind…” are this Friday, September 15 at 8pm at 415 Westlake Ave in Seattle and Saturday, September 16 at 7:30pm at the Washington Center in Olympia. For tickets and additional information, please click here.

From John Cage to John Luther Adams: September in Seattle

by Maggie Molloy

SI_button2

Second Inversion and the Live Music Project create a monthly calendar featuring contemporary classical, cross-genre, and experimental performances in Seattle, the Eastside, Tacoma, and places in between! 

thvLYmNB

Keep an eye out for our this flyer in concert programs and coffee shops around town. Feel free to download, print, and distribute it yourself! If you’d like to be included on this list, submit your event to the Live Music Project at least 6 weeks prior to the event and tag it with “new music.”

Program Insert - September 2017

 

Racer Sessions
A weekly showcase of original music with a jam session based on the concepts in the opening presentation.
Every Sunday, 8-10pm, Cafe Racer | FREE

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electronic/electroacoustic music, and sonic experiments. This month: saxophone sextets, prepared guitar improvisations, music for speaking pianist, and more.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Untouchable Numbers: Celebrating John Cage
In celebration of what would have been John Cage’s 105th birthday, Seattle’s Ace Hotel hosts a 24-hour marathon of his music in the lobby.
Tues, 9/5, all day, Ace Hotel Seattle | FREE

Opera on Tap
Local singers let their hair down and sing their hearts out, performing famous operatic masterpieces and hidden musical gems alike in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.
Tues, 9/5, 7:30pm, High Dive Seattle | $5-$8

Seattle Symphony: ‘Star Trek Beyond’
The Seattle Symphony busts out the big screen for a live performance of Star Trek Beyond featuring Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino’s soaring new orchestral score.
Wed, 9/13, 7:30pm, Benaroya Hall | $45-$120

Emerald City Music: Not Even the Wind…
Emerald City Music kicks off their second season with a John Luther Adams world premiere inspired by the Sonoran Desert. Chamber works by Bernstein, Norman, Reich, and Dvořák round out the program.
Fri, 9/15, 8pm, 415 Westlake Ave, Seattle | $45
Sat, 9/16, 7:30pm, The Washington Center, Olympia | $28-$43

Seattle New Music Happy Hour
Second Inversion and The Live Music Project host a happy hour for musicians, new music enthusiasts, and curious bystanders alike to come together and expand Seattle’s ever-growing network of artists and musicians.
Tues, 9/19, 5:30pm, Queen Anne Beerhall | Free; Food & drink available for purchase

Celebrating the Life and Songs of Bern Herbolsheimer
Seattle Art Song Society pays tribute to the late Bern Herbolsheimer with a recital featuring vocal works by the celebrated Seattle composer.
Sat, 9/23, 7:30pm, Queen Anne Christian Church | $20-$30

Seattle Classic Guitar Society: Matt Palmer
Guitarist Matt Palmer presents an evening of music by composers from Russia, Brazil, and beyond, including Sergey Rudnev, Olga Amelkina-Vera, Konstantin Vassiliev, Dilermando Reis, and more.
Sat, 9/23, 7:30pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $28-$38

New Music for Singing/Speaking Percussionists
Percussionists Bonnie Whiting and Jennifer Torrence perform an evening of world premieres for speaking and singing percussionists, including music for crash cymbals, resonant feedback, small electronic toys, deconstructed language, and more. Plus, an improvisation with DXARTS professor Afroditi Psarra featuring her signature wearable electronics and embroidered synthesizers.
Wed, 9/27, 7:30pm, Meany Studio Theater | $10-$20

Chris Botti with the Seattle Symphony
Grammy Award winner and pop-jazz powerhouse Chris Botti brings his trumpet and his acclaimed band to Benaroya Hall to perform with the Seattle Symphony.
Fri, 9/29, 8pm, Benaroya Hall | $65-$105
Sat, 9/30, 8pm, Benaroya Hall | $65-$105
Sun, 10/1, 2pm, Benaroya Hall | $65-$105

Seattle Pro Musica: Rearranged
Seattle Pro Musica lends their classically-trained voices to Broadway choruses and cabaret solos in this lively evening of show tunes at the Triple Door.
Fri, 9/29, 7:30pm, The Triple Door | $25-$49
Fri, 9/29, 9:15pm, The Triple Door | $25-$49

On Stage with KING FM: Seattle Marimba Quartet
Seattle Marimba Quartet performs a program of modern marimba repertoire from the 20th and 21st centuries, plus marimba arrangements of music by the likes of Bach, Ravel, Saint-Saëns, and more.
Sat, 9/30, 7:30pm, Resonance at SOMA Towers | $20-$25