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The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, off to a good start last weekend with something old (Beethoven) and something new (Nicola Campogrande), brings something rare in four concerts at the neighborhood locations this week.
It’s an unusual voice, belonging to John Holiday, last heard locally in “Messiah” with the SPCO in December. Holiday is a countertenor, a voice that you don’t hear every day. He will sing arias by Handel and Vivaldi, who both wrote in an era that was friendlier to the countertenor. Holiday, a young singer, is considered a fine interpreter of Baroque music.
The countertenor roams the vocal range usually reserved for altos and mezzo-sopranos. Composers found it a popular voice to write for in early music (back in the days when the even-rarer castrati was a phenomenon). The countertenor faded in popularity but Alfred Deller, a British singer, brought it back to prominence in the latter half of the 20th century with his dedication to Baroque and Renaissance music.
Holiday got his masters from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory for Music in 2012 and has rapidly become popular because he sings in such a rare register. Well, not just that he sings in that register. We sings beautifully in that register. He made his Carnegie Hall debut last year with Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” joined the Met Opera roster and sang with the Atlanta Symphony.
Conductor Jonathan Cohen is on the podium this weekend for the SPCO in concerts at Stillwater, Eden Prairie, Summit Avenue and Arden Hills. The program will also include Bach’s Concerto in C Minor for Oboe and Violin with Kathryn Greenbank (oboe) and Sunmi Chang. In addition, Kyu-Young Kim and Elsa Nilsson are featured in Vivaldi’s Concerto in B-flat for Two Violins.
Julie Albers has been named Principal Cellist with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Albers officially takes the position next season (2015-16) but will play eight weeks of the season that starts this weekend. Beethoven’s Seventh and Eighth Symphonies are on the program.
Albers will not be unfamiliar to SPCO audiences. She has performed as guest principal many times recently. She is the sister of Rebecca Albers, a violist with the Minnesota Orchestra. With their sister Laura, they perform as the Albers Trio.
Julie Albers was the unanimous choice of the musician’s audition committee. She replaces Ronald Thomas, who left the SPCO in June 2012.
“She is an extraordinary artist and a seasoned professional who will be able to hit the ground running as one of the key musicial leaders of the SPCO,” said Kyu-Young Kim, the orchestra’s Principal Second Violinist and Senior Director of Artistic Planning.
Albers lives in Atlanta with her husband. In a statement, she called the SPCO “a unique and inspiring ensemble.”
The orchestra also has appointed seven guest musicians who will play the 2014-15 season. The SPCO currently has 18 permanent musicians on the roster (including Albers) and an authorized complement of 28. The guests, who are committed to the full season, may or may not become permanent members of the orchestra.
They are: Zachary Cohen, bass, on leave from Milwaukee Symphony; Barbara Bishop, oboe, on leave from Kansas City; violist Shuangshuang Liu and violinist Luosha Fang, both graduates of Curtis Institute; violinist Kayla Moffett from the New World Symphony; Jonathan Cohen, clarinet, a graduate of Juilliard and Sycil Mathai, trumpet with the Knights Chamber Orchestra (New York).
Four young Minnesota musicians just wrapped a thrilling couple of weeks touring with the National Youth Orchestra, featuring soloist Gil Shaham. Left to right in a photo shot following a concert at Chicago's Millennium Park: Emma Richman, Anna Humphrey, Shaham, Arjun Ganguly and Liam Smith.
Turns out star violinist Gil Shaham isn't just a phenomenal musician. He's also a real mensch, according to four Minnesota teens who just finished performing eight concerts coast to coast with him. Violinist Emma Richman of Minneapolis, violinist Anna Humphrey of Rogers, violist Arjun Ganguly of St, Cloud and percussionist Liam Smith of Minneapolis were among 120 teens chosen to play with the prestigious National Youth Orchestra, a Carnegie Hall-funded program in its second year that auditions youth all over the country and pays for everything but transportation to New York at the outset and back home at tour's end.
Shaham was "the nicest guy, such a joy to work with," Richman said.
"You never know if you're going to get a diva, but he had this amazing way of making eye contact and smiling at everyone in the orchestra while he was playing," said Ganguly, in his second summer with the NYO. "He seemed like he was enjoying every minute of it."
The orchestra’s program included the premiere of "Radial Play," a special Carnegie commission by composer Samuel Adams, Leonard Bernstein’s "Symphonic Dances" from "West Side Story;" Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto with Shaham; and Ravel’s arrangement of Mussorgsky’s "Pictures at an Exhibition." The final concert was performed Monday at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
Sarah Larsson of Minneapolis, Rachel LaViola and Nila Bala (left to right), a.k.a the Nightingale Trio, sang last January behind frozen Minnehaha Falls.
They may hail from three far-flung corners of the country, but the Nightingale Trio, three songbirds specializing in Eastern-European folk music , still make time to unite for several weekend concert tours a year, and are bringing four to the Twin Cities area this weekend.
Sarah Larsson of Minneapolis, Nila Bala of Baltimore and Rachel LaViola of Dallas met when they sang with a Slavic women’s chorus at Yale, where in 2012 they earned degrees in anthropology, law and film respectively.
“We all grew up liking world music in general,” said Larsson, who works with the recently established Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum. “But when I heard women singing Balkan folk for the first time, I was so drawn to it. There’s a lot of dissonance built into the harmonies. It’s like dance, where there’s almost a crackling tension and release, stretching away from your partner and coming together again. It’s very satisfying to sing.”
Last January, the trio, aged between 24 and 27, performed on “A Prairie Home Companion” as well as behind a frozen waterfall at Minnehaha Falls, which you can watch on their website.
They will perform 8 p.m. today at the Verdant Tea Tasting Room (2111 E. Franklin Ave, Minneapolis), 6 p.m. Sat. at the Eat for Equity Festival on Lily Springs Farm (1930 6th Ave., Osceola, Wis.), 10 a.m. Sun. at Wayzata Community Church (125 Wayzata Blvd. E., Wayzata) as part of a worship service, and 2 p.m. Sun. at the art gallery in Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church (511 Groveland Av., Minneapolis). The concerts are free with goodwill donations suggested.
Minnesota Opera’s reputation for developing new work has drawn interest and encouragement from many sources nationally and internationally. The company announced Thursday that it will receive a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support upcoming commissions of “The Manchurian Candidate,” “The Shining” and “Dinner at Eight.”
The gift, which stretches over three years, completes fundraising for the Opera’s $7 million New Works Initiative and launches a new phase.
The gift “sets the stage for the Initiative’s continuation and underscores the national importance of this landmark program for the development of new opera,” Opera President and General Director Kevin Ramach said in a statement.
The initiative was launched in 2008 with the intention of supporting new commissions and revivals of newer work (which in opera can mean anything from the last century) or work seldom performed. Among the world premieres developed through the program are “Silent Night” (Photo above by Tom Wallace) by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell and “Doubt” by John Patrick Shanley and Douglas Cuomo (below, photo by Tom Wallace).
Puts won the Pulitzer Prize for music for his “Silent Night” score. He and Campbell are working on an adaptation of “The Manchurian Candidate,” which is in development and targeted for a premiere next March.
Campbell will also serve as librettist for “The Shining” with composer Paul Moravec (slated for May 2016) and he will write “Dinner at Eight” with composer William Bolcom (headed for 2017). Both those productions are part of the second phase of the initiative. Additionally, the New Works Initiative incorporates a co-commission of “Cold Mountain” (based on Charles Frazier's Civil War novel) with Santa Fe and Opera Philadelphia, with a score by composer Jennifer Higdon.
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