(And the world sure as heck isn’t waiting for another singer…)
On our first full day of fresh inc festival 2013 we were treated to a Skype session with thought-provoking composer Jacob Ter Veldhuis, also known as JacobTV. He is responsible for the title of this post and the reminder of the day when he recalled, “when I started writing music, no one asked me to write for them. The world is not waiting for another composer. You have to say what you want and hopefully people will be interested.”
I grew up in post-war Europe. The 50s in Europe were colorless. Everything that had color – everything that was joyful came from your country. The more exotic it is the more interesting I find it. I have to be fascinated by something I don’t know so I can look at if from the outside… Don’t write music for someone else. I want to communicated but I can only communicate through my voice. – JacobTV
Jacob is an inspired choice for the first guest speaker at a festival like fresh inc. He consciously chose to write for instruments that did not have a lot of contemporary repertoire or even solo material (like accordion) so that his music would have more traction. The audience is important to his work insofar as he wants them to feel the magic of music. There should be elements of surprise as well as recognition. He reinforced the mission of the festival to explore the gap between the classical training composer and performer participants have had in school and the skills they desperately need to make it in the field today.
There’s a big difference between attitude and confidence. – Aaron Todd Douglas
Aaron Todd Douglas, a familiar face and skilled actor on Chicago stages, joined the fresh inc crew after lunch to discuss public speaking and stage presence. As singers, the finer elements of these areas are driven into our heads from first sing to last dress rehearsal. However, I bet there are still a few that get a special set of butterflies when it comes to speaking from the stage in recital or introducing their pieces in front of a judges panel. Douglas was a warm and encouraging presence while carefully helping participants reframe negative thoughts and replacing that with behaviors of empowerment.
The most offensive thing we can do is make [our audiences] feel dumber after reading the program notes. – Herine Coetzee Koschak
After a short discussion regarding audience-tailored program notes, the members of Fifth House Ensemble performed the first salon evening of our fifteen days together. It was heartening to hear a dear friend’s piece first on the recital, “Ocean Body” by Jason Charney. Charney was a festival participant in 2012 and his work was an engaging first piece leading the audience from muted, ethereal harmonics from the violin (Drew Williams), viola (Clark Carruth), cello (Herine Coetzee Koschack), and bass (Eric Snoza.) The piece builds motivically and expands in dynamic range; ultimately culminating in stratospheric violin pitches seemingly lifting the ensemble off of the water. The following duet for flute and clarinet, “Steam”, was also written by a previous participant. Inspired by the steam punk movement, the work features movement titles such as “Rusty Cogs and Filigree” and “Clockwork”. Melissa Snoza (flute) and Jenny Woodrum (clarinet) displayed exquisite technique and the assets of their instrument.
Similarly, Crystal Hall (oboe, english horn), Karl Rzasa (bassoon), and Woodrum were able to inject a sense of mystique into Jesse Limbacher’s “Air.” The piece begins to take shape as the performers blow into their instruments letting the air pass through creating a rushing wind effect. Amidst the rhythmic clicking of keys, short melodic fragments take shape interspersed with intensifying guttural and plosive utterances.
Finally, the participants were invited to gather around Melissa, Herine, and Jani Parsons (piano) to watch the score while they performed George Crumb‘s (b. 1929) “Vox Balaenae” which was conceived as chronicling the story of time. Crumb was strongly influenced at the time by whale song which inspired many of the characteristic sounds in “Vox Balaenae.”
With days this full, you can understand why I’m already off to a late start on the dispatches. I will do my best to keep up while getting all of my repertoire in tip-top shape. Thanks for coming along again with me for those of you who are back and welcome to those that are new to the “dispatches” series. Enjoy!
- 6 Questions RE: fresh inc 2013 Festival with Melissa Snoza (sybariticsinger.com)
Kyle Hovatter “A Crazed Girl” (2011)
Performed by American soprano Amy Foote and pianist Stepan Rudenko
Poetry by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
That crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,
Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling She knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.
No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, ‘O sea-starved, hungry sea.’
Composer: Kyle Hovatter (2011)
Amy Foote, soprano
Stepan Rudenko, piano
SFNewMusic and Nonsemble 6 Collaborative Concert: “For the End of Time”
Zion Lutheran Church, San Francisco, CA
May 14, 2011
“A Crazed Girl” is a setting of the similarly titled poem by William Butler Yeats. The tragic poem is a literal telling of Yeats’ relationship with the mentally unstable Margot Ruddock. Her infatuation with Yeats is analogous to that of the sea. Yet at once impassioned, both impartially move forward without her.
Maybe it’s the smell of sunscreen in the air, the longer days and shorter nights, or perhaps even the obsessive attention to voiced dental fricatives, but it can only mean one thing — that summer festival season is upon us once again. That blessed time of the year when most of us can revel in “living the dream” for 24 hours a day. This year I am thrilled to be attending fresh inc 2013 hosted by Fifth House Ensemble at The University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha, WI. Before I head out this weekend, I chatted with Melissa Snoza, Flutist and Executive Director of 5HE, about all things fresh inc. Fifth House Ensemble has devoted their music business savvy, connections, and wisdom to the festival fellows who will be working with these fantastic faculty members and guest presenters:
Ezra Claytan Daniels, Writer and Illustrator
Jacob Ter Veldhuis, Composer
Aaron Todd Douglas, Actor/Director
John Henes, Alexander Technique Instructor
Lawson White, President, Good Child Music
Deborah Sobol, Artistic Director, Rush Hour Concerts
Nancy Bieschke, Cedille Records
Previous award credits include First Prize at the National Flute Association’s Orchestral Audition Competition, as well as being selected as a winner of Northwestern University’s Concerto Competition. She has been a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, has performed with the New World Symphony, the National Repertory Orchestra, the Aspen Music Festival, and was the only American flutist invited to the first Music Master’s Course in Kazusa, Japan. Melissa is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and Northwestern University, with principal teachers including Bonita Boyd and Walfrid Kujala. Melissa is not only a well-known flutist and teacher in Chicago – she also makes a mean spread of Brazilian food and a mouth-watering chocolate pecan bourbon pie.
What was the catalyst for creating the fresh inc summer festival?
We wanted to create a 2-week experience that would serve as a launching pad for emerging artists’ careers in multiple ways, and would also bring together the best of what 5HE has to offer in terms of artistry and entrepreneurship. We work side-by-side with participants in producing concerts, rehearsing new works, and presenting educational programs. The goal is to spark new ideas for ventures, and to provide a skill set to make them go.
The festival has a tag-line: “equal parts new music and new ideas.” Why is that concept important to the structure of the festival and the take-away of the participants?
It really is the defining characteristic. There are a lot of festivals where musicians can go to have great performance experiences, or where composers can go to have their music performed and receive instruction. We wanted to couple that with an open exchange of ideas between our ensemble members, guest experts, and participants that would help to fill the gap between what we learned in school and what we needed to know to start 5HE. Additionally, that skill set is evolving, so it absolutely is a two-way street. We learned so much from working with last year’s participants and guest experts, and are looking forward to the same this year!
Fifth House Ensemble is committed to music entrepreneurism and passing on those tools to other musicians. Can you identify common difficulties or snags that befall performers when it comes to business-savvy?
I think the biggest misconception is that success means that you don’t have to worry about these things. We have people say all the time that they’d like to be one of those artists that’s so “big” they don’t have to worry about marketing, financial management, networking, or anything of the sort. Our question is: who are those people? I don’t think they truly exist. Even if you’re able to have staff perform these functions day-to-day, or if you take a job with an orchestra where there is a management system in place as opposed to starting your own entrepreneurial venture, an understanding of how these processes work is vital. It makes you understand when they are being done well, even if by others, and have an appreciation for all of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. It also provides you with a frame of reference when things don’t go as planned, as with the many strikes and lock-outs that have taken place over the last couple of years.
What has been the most surprising thing about starting a summer festival dedicated to new compositions?
We’ve just been delighted by the opportunity to work with such a diverse group of artists, each with their own style. I was also personally so pleased to see that the people who were attracted to a festival like this were inherently cool to be around for 2 weeks. We’ve definitely had a logistical learning curve associated with the production side of the festival (everything from tech equipment for electronic works to providing room/board for 50 people!), but that has been part of the fun!
From your experience, how would you encourage performers to engage their audiences more fully?
Audience-centric experience design. I’d definitely encourage performers to think about the experience that they’re creating for their audience beyond the basics (repertoire, performers). Audiences make so many decisions about you before you play a single note (how was the parking? was the bathroom clean? who greeted me when I arrived?) that these details, along with how to frame the repertoire for the needs/wants of a particular audience need to be considered for sure!
What are you excited about for this summer?
I can’t wait to meet everyone!! Honestly, for many of us, the launch of fresh inc last season was the most professionally satisfying project we’ve ever been a part of. We have an incredible crew of folks joining us this year, and I can’t wait to get to it!
I simply can’t wait to get there either. My poor neighbors probably know my repertoire as well as I do by this point. While it is true that good fences make good neighbors, it is not quite as true that good high B♭s have the same ability… If you happen to be in the area and would like a simple run-down of the schedule click here.
Have questions or comments? Feel free to leave them below or tweet me @mezzoihnen.
- The Art of Losing Your Self by Melissa Snoza (necmusic.wordpress.com)
- Classical Music Embraces Indie Ethos: Fifth House Ensemble & wild Up (hypebot.com)
- Student Roundtable on Entrepreneurship (necmusic.wordpress.com)
Henry Purcell “Sweeter than Roses”
from Incidental Music to Pausanius, the Betrayer of his Country Z. 585 (1695),
Performed by American countertenor David Daniels (b. 12 March 1966)
Sweeter than roses, or cool evening breeze On a warm flowery shore, was the dear kiss, First trembling made me freeze, Then shot like fire all o'er. What magic has victorious love! For all I touch or see since that dear kiss, I hourly prove, all is love to me.
Albert Roussel “Le Bachelier de Salamanque” op. 20 (Deux mélodies) – 1919
Performed by English soprano Dame Felicity Lott (b. 8 May 1947)
Où vas-tu, toi qui passes si tard Dans les rues désertes de Salamanque Avec ta toque noire et ta guitare Que tu dissimules sous ta mante? Le couvre-feu est déjà sonné Et depuis longtemps, dans leurs paisibles maisons, Les bourgeois dorment à poings fermés. Ne sais-tu pas qu'un édit de l'alcade Ordonne de jeter en prison Tous les donneurs de sérénade, Que les malandrins couperont ta chaîne d'or Et que la fille de l'Almirante Pour qui vainement tu te tourmentes Se moque de toi derrière son mirador? Text by René Chalupt (1885-1957)
Ernest Chausson “Le Colibri” from op. 2 (Sept mélodies) – 1882
Performed by Irish mezzo-soprano Ann Murray (b. 27 August 1949)
Le vert colibri, le roi des collines, Voyant la rosée et le soleil clair, Luire dans son nid tissé d'herbes fines, Comme un frais rayon s'échappe dans l'air. Il se hâte et vole aux sources voisines, Où les bambous font le bruit de la mer, Où l'açoka rouge aux odeurs divines S'ouvre et porte au coeur un humide éclair. Vers la fleur dorée, il descend, se pose, Et boit tant d'amour dans la coupe rose, Qu'il meurt, ne sachant s'il l'a pu tarir! Sur ta lèvre pure, ô ma bien-aimée, Telle aussi mon âme eut voulu mourir, Du premier baiser qui l'a parfumée. Text by Charles-Marie-René Leconte de Lisle (1818-1894)
TELEGRAM WD064 PD NEW YORK NY 22 323P EST MRS JOHN F KENNEDY THE WHITE HOUSE I REALIZE THE UTTER FUTILITY OF WORDS AT SUCH A TIME, BUT THE WORLD OF CIVILIZATION SHARES THE POIGNANCY OF THIS MONUMENTAL TRAGEDY. AS A FORMER COMRADE IN ARMS, HIS DEATH KILLS SOMETHING WITHIN ME GENERAL MACARTHUR.
Camelot Requiem, music by Joshua Bornfield and words by Caitlin Vincent, is a story of human grief and personal mourning. Following the family members, personal staff, and close friends of President John F. Kennedy for the ten hours after his death, Camelot Requiem takes place in Parkland Memorial Hospital and Bethesda Naval Hospital. Although the opera in set in these two small areas, the emotional content of the work takes the listener far beyond those walls. Performed May 10th and 11th on the Spire Series at First & Franklin Presbyterian Church, The Figaro Project troupe brought sensitivity and skilled musicianship to the emotionally fraught work.
Director William Schaller deftly planned for Stephen Campbell as Reverend Oscar L. Huber to enter from the back of the church providing the audience with a more immediate sense of involvement in the process of events. Incorporating the audience in this fly on the wall sense created a strong intimacy between performers and listeners that lingered throughout the performance. A cursory glance around the audience can confirm that there were many that could remember where they were when and as many that could not. Bornfield’s score includes stunning ensemble writing from the beginning. The tight focus on personal relationships and experiences is punctuated by the overarching structure of the Requiem Mass (Missa pro defunctis). Campbell, Jeremy Hirsch as Dr. George Buckley, and Kate Jackman as Nurse Patricia Hutton gave subtle performances with clear singing and were strong ensemble forces along with the secretaries. Leslie Proctor as Evelyn Lincoln, Melissa Wimbish as Nancy Tuckerman, and Jessica Hanel Satava as Pamela Turnure were quite successful in the Telegram Trio in which they read numerous condolence telegrams to a stunned and shell-shocked Jackie. Each of the three have distinctive and compelling voices as well as acting skills which they used artfully to transport the audience through happy memories and painful grief.
Alex Rosen and Lisa Perry as Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson enhanced the story as foils to the Kennedys. Their struggle with identity in relation to the grandeur of “Camelot” is brief, in this production, but necessary. Lady Bird’s aria musically mirrors her role in this work. The slight jazz and blues influences give the ear a nice change of pace. The Swearing-In Ceremony scene was particularly moving due to Schaller’s use of scale on stage in tandem with the building ensemble sound in the score all anchored by Rosen’s command of voice and stage. It must be mentioned that the instrumental ensemble, led by conductor Blair Skinner, were equal partners with the vocalists. They demonstrated exquisite skill in compounding the emotion from the stage and carrying it through their playing.
It is truly the performances of Nathan Wyatt as Robert Kennedy and more-so Caitlin Vincent as Jacqueline Kennedy that make Camelot Requiem so captivating and magical. Wyatt used his healthy, American sound to embody Bobby Kennedy. While certain characters in this opera would have been elevated by more mature actors, Wyatt was able to capture that serious yet hopeful spirit of the 36-year-old man with his energetic and powerful “This is the New Frontier” which lead the cast’s recession. Left alone on stage, Vincent delivered the most emotionally devastating singing and acting of the performance. Bornfield primes the ear with a solo cello line that leads into Jackie’s “When he dies, take him.” The sorrow in this text is palpable in Vincent’s singing of “I’d rather die with you than live without you. But, you didn’t listen to me. You left me alone, Jack.” Jackie never weeps or physically lashes out at any point through the story. However, it is clear that her profound bereavement is expressed vocally in her moments alone on stage. Finally, the “Lux Aeterna” sung from the balcony by the rest of the cast leaves the audience suspended and feeling what I imagine the entire country was feeling at that moment what could possibly come next?
It is my sincere hope that more audiences are given the opportunity to revel in this work. The Figaro Project, Bornfield, and Vincent have created something truly special that should continue to live in subsequent performances. Camelot Requiem has the necessary qualities of a new opera, strong musical, dramatic elements and a pivotal historical moment, that American audiences will especially gravitate toward. The entire cast and crew of The Figaro Project did justice to the story without hint of emotional hyperbole by faithfully creating complex characters through text, music, and drama.