VIDEO PREMIERE: Heyr þú oss himnum á by Anna Thorvaldsdottir (Skylark Vocal Ensemble)

by Maggie Stapleton
8865168Skylark is a professional chamber choir of world-class musicians with a passion for small ensemble performance and their new album, Crossing Over, demonstrates a strong dedication to music composed in the 20th and 21st centuries.

To celebrate its March 25 release on Sono Luminus, we’re excited to present the video premiere of Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s gorgeous, evocative, and other-worldly setting of an ancient Icelandic psalm: Heyr þú oss himnum á. 

Skylark: Crossing Over 
Matthew Guard, Skylark Artistic Director
[1] Elegy by Daniel Elder (b. 1986) [4:16]
[2-9] Butterfly Dreams by John Tavener (1944-2013) [12:13]
[10] Otche Nash by Nicolai Kedrov (1871-1940) [2:03]
[11] Requiem by Jón Leifs (1899-1968) [4:41]
[12] Heliocentric Meditation by Robert Vuichard (b.1985) [9:12]
[13-15] Carols of Death by William Schuman (1910-1992) [9:42]
[16] Heyr þú oss himnum á by Anna Thorvaldsdottir (b. 1977) [4:27]
[17] Funeral Ikos by John Tavener [5:55]

Pre-Order the album here.



Skylark is a premiere a cappella vocal ensemble of leading American vocal soloists based in Atlanta and Boston. Formed in 2011 by Artistic Director Matthew Guard, Skylark has been described as “a gem… soloists who come together to create a dynamic and inspiring whole” (ArtsATL). Skylark strives to set the standard for innovative, engaging, well-researched, and dramatically presented programs that re-define the choral experience for audiences and singers alike. Since its founding five years ago, Skylark has branched out to perform its innovative programs in museums, concert halls, and churches in six states. In 2015, Skylark became one of the only chamber choirs in the U.S. to successfully perform Francis Poulenc’s Figure Humaine. In 2016, Skylark will make its Spivey Hall debut with a chamber performance of Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil. Skylark Artists have performed with other internationally renowned groups including Blue Heron, The Handel & Haydn Society, Lorelei, The Pheonix Chorale, Sante Fe Desert Chorale, Seraphic Fire, Trinity Wall Street and the Yale Choral Artists. A not-for-profit entity, Skylark also performs educational outreach programs with high school students in Atlanta and Boston and across the U.S. during its concert tours.


Photo: Saga Sigurdardottir

Anna Thorvaldsdottir frequently works with large sonic structures that tend to reveal the presence of a vast variety of sustained sound materials, reflecting her sense of imaginative listening to landscapes and nature. Her music tends to portray a flowing world of sounds with an enigmatic lyrical atmosphere.

Anna’s music is frequently performed internationally, and has been featured at several major venues and music festivals such as Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival in NYC, the Composer Portraits Series at NYC’s Miller Theatre, ISCM World Music Days, Nordic Music Days, Ultima Festival, Klangspuren Festival, Beijing Modern Music Festival, Reykjavik Arts Festival, Tectonics, and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Her works have been nominated and awarded on many occasions – most notably, Anna is the recipient of the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize 2012 for her work Dreaming, and The New York Philharmonic’s Kravis Emerging Composer Award.

Some of the orchestras and ensembles that Anna has worked with include International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), BIT20, Musiques Nouvelles, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Yarn/Wire, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the CAPUT Ensemble, the Oslo Philharmonic, and Either/Or Ensemble.

Anna holds a PhD from the University of California in San Diego.

LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: January 29-February 2

by Maggie Molloy

This week’s spectacular music calendar has everything from Schnittke to Stockhausen to saxophone quartets and more!

University of Washington’s Modern Music Ensemble Winter Concert


As millennials, the students of UW’s Modern Music Ensemble (Inverted Space) know a thing or two about new music. This Thursday, they are presenting a winter concert featuring a wide spectrum of works by contemporary composers.

The colorful program starts off with George Crumb’s “Dream Sequence (Images II),” an ethereal sound tapestry written for violin, cello, piano, percussion, and an off-stage glass harmonica. The students will also perform Alfred Schnittke’s poignant and powerful Piano Quintet, which was written in memory of his mother. Karlheinz Stockhausen’s serial “Kreuzspiel” and Jacob Sundstrom’s “no comment from the Grey Room” round out the program.

The performance is this Thursday, Jan. 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Floyd and Delores Jones Playhouse Theater at University of Washington.

Ivan Arteaga’s Neijing Ensemble


What could be better than the sweet and sensual sound of a solo saxophone? Four saxophones at once. This weekend, Seattle saxophonist Ivan Arteaga’s Neijing Ensemble is presenting a series of new improvisational pieces for saxophone quartet.

The ensemble began as something of a saxophone jam circle, which inspired Arteaga to begin creating gestural and improvisational pieces for the group. The quartet has since expanded their repertoire to include a wide range of musical influences. This performance features an arrangement of an Alban Berg string quartet as well as arrangements of American folk songs by Arteaga, Levi Gillis, and Luciano Berio. Three acoustic bassists will join the ensemble to perform two original compositions by Arteaga.

The performance is this Friday, Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.

Byrd Ensemble Presents “In Memoriam: Hallock and Tavener”


Most Seattleites are familiar with the Sunday night Compline at St. Mark’s Cathedral—but are they familiar with the composer who started it all?

Peter Hallock was a composer and liturgist who founded the Compline Choir at St. Mark’s Cathedral, where he served as organist and choirmaster for 40 years. This weekend, Seattle’s own Byrd Ensemble will pay tribute to the late Hallock by performing several of his best choral works—and what better place to sing them  than in St. Mark’s Cathedral? The concert will also honor John Tavener, another late, great composer of religious works.

The performance is this Saturday, Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Mark’s Cathedral.

Matt Haimovitz and Christopher O’Riley Present “Beethoven, PERIOD.”


Forget the conventional concert-going experience of strict seating, formal attire, and refined performance etiquette. Next week cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley are bringing the sophistication of Beethoven to a whole new concert setting—Seattle’s own Tractor Tavern.

Following their collaboration on “Shuffle.Play.Listen,” an album exploring the evolution of music post-iPod, Haimovitz and O’Riley are now returning to the very beginnings of the cello and piano genre. In support of their new album, “Beethoven, PERIOD.,” the two will be performing Beethoven’s Sonatas and Variations on period instruments of the early 19th century. The repertoire provides unique insight into Beethoven’s life and work, and the informal setting allows for a contemporary spin on your favorite classics.

The performance is this Monday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard.


by Jill Kimball

The whole early music world sighed in sadness earlier this month when Anonymous 4 announced 2015-16 would be the group’s last season together. (No, really–they’re serious this time.)

Anonymous 4

Luckily, the group cushioned the blow with an astounding record just released this week on the Cantaloupe label: love fail.

The piece for two sopranos, two altos and percussion was composed exclusively for Anonymous 4 by David Lang, who is perhaps best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning the little match girl passion. Lang’s vocal music is haunting and sparse, much like the medieval music Anonymous 4 is known for.

We asked Anonymous 4 member Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek a few questions about love fail, working with David Lang, and what the future holds for these famed singers:

Anonymous 4 usually concentrates on centuries-old music. Why did you feel compelled to record love fail, an entirely new piece?

Well, actually, Anonymous [4] has commissioned several composers in the past, including Steve Reich, Richard Einhorn and Sir John Tavener. We love the idea of collaboration with composers who have an interest in early music and the sonorities of our  voices–and it’s fun to create something new.

What is love fail all about?

It’s about the challenges and rewards of developing a relationship with another human being. David picked and arranged texts ranging from medieval sources, such as Marie de France, to the poems of Lydia Davis. The pieces are in turn heart-wrenching and funny–just like love and life.

What was your favorite part about performing this piece?

Some of the individual movements, such as “head heart,” are so moving and beautiful that they are almost hard to sing…in a good way! We enjoyed the contrasts between the profound and the comical, but ultimately the sheer beauty of David’s music makes it a very special piece to perform. And we get to play percussion instruments, which is great fun!

Love fail is a piece whose composer is alive and able to provide you with feedback—an unusual thing in the Anonymous 4 universe. What was it like working with David Lang?

David is a wonderful collaborator who really wrote this piece with our voices and individual strengths in mind. Always willing to listen and change things if necessary, this piece grew and developed out of our mutual contributions.

Millions of people will mourn the loss of Anonymous 4 come 2016, but as musicians ourselves, we know how exciting it can be to move on to a new project. Tell us about your future musical plans.

The members of the group have actually been doing individual projects for several years now and we are all looking forward to developing those further…here, in our own words:

Jacqui will continue her work both as a mezzo-soprano soloist specializing in early and new music and as a voice teacher with a studio in NYC. She also gives masterclasses and ensemble technique workshops at Colleges throughout the US.This Fall she will be starting a Doctoral Program- a D.M.A in Voice- at The Juilliard School.

Marsha will be doing more research and performance of American music; she also plans to seek a new role in the Bay Area, supporting and funding performing artists and ensembles.

Susan will be developing a new podcast radio program — called “ChantVillage” — about chant from all spiritual traditions, both historically and in the world today. She will also continue leading Chant Camps, and teaching college courses on medieval and American popular music.

Ruth will continue singing early music in both concert and liturgical settings as well as expanding her work in improvisatory performance with a variety of other instrumentalists and singers. She also teaches workshops and offers individual sessions in sound healing and improvisation.