Program Notes for "Homegrown" with Awakenings Art – March 25, 2022 (6pm and 8pm)
Updated: Mar 24, 2022
Plea for Peace (2017) Augusta Read Thomas (b. 1964)
Stadiums (2019) Steph Davis (b. 1999)
i'm sorry, not sorry (2016) Ruby Fulton (b. 1981)
Tres insultos para dos violines (2004) Angélica Negrón (b.1981)
New Life (2013) Mavis MacNeil (b. 1992)
String Quartet in A Minor (1935) Florence Price (1887-1953)
II. Andante Cantabile
Anatolia Evarkiou-Kaku, flute
Carmen Abelson, violin
Yuan-ju Liu, violin
Bethany Pereboom, viola
Allie Chambers, cello
Rebecca McDaniel, percussion
Augusta Read Thomas (b. 1964): Plea for Peace (2017)
Duration: 9 minutes
The music of Augusta Read Thomas (b. 1964 in New York) is nuanced, majestic, elegant, capricious, lyrical, and colorful — "it is boldly considered music that celebrates the sound of the instruments and reaffirms the vitality of orchestral music" (Philadelphia Inquirer).
A composer featured on a Grammy winning CD by Chanticleer and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Thomas’ impressive body of works “embodies unbridled passion and fierce poetry” (American Academy of Arts and Letters). The New Yorker magazine called her "a true virtuoso composer." Championed by such luminaries as Barenboim, Rostropovich, Boulez, Eschenbach, Salonen, Maazel, Ozawa, and Knussen, she rose early to the top of her profession. The American Academy of Arts and Letters described Thomas as “one of the most recognizable and widely loved figures in American Music."
She is a University Professor of Composition in Music and the College at The University of Chicago, and she was the longest-serving Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for conductors Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez (1997-2006) Click here to visit her website.
Plea for Peace was written for soprano and string quartet; any instrument may perform the vocalise solo.
"The history of music is, in many ways, an assemblage of occasional compositions. Since the rise of art pour l'art in the nineteenth century, classical music purports to be abstract, but in the longer arc, compositions connect to specific occasions: a coronation, a requiem mass, a religious feast, a dinner party, a regal celebration. Such occasions and commissions present challenges—not least for the composer charged with responding to the myriad consequences of the world's first nuclear reaction. Does one focus on the (positive) reverberations in cancer treatment, power, and science? Does one focus on the (negative) reverberations in bombs, death, waste, and perpetual threats of war? In Plea for Peace, these consequences are inextricable. The clean perfect intervals that begin and end the work give rise to both expansionist leaps and cocooning retractions. The soloist's elegant, wordless vocalise weaves in and out of the string quartet's sustained harmonies in graceful counterpoint, drawing us closer to our common humanity. Simple harmonies slowly transform, becoming rich and complex at the insistent, dramatic climax: a wordless scream from the soul. As the music's opening glow returns, the voice seamlessly dovetailing with the strings, we return to the sonic space. of meditation, reflecting on an absolute plea for lasting peace." — Program note by Jennifer Iverson.
Steph Davis (b. 1997): Stadiums (2019)
Duration: 7 minutes
Described as a “captivating storyteller" and "sensitive" player, marimbist/composer Steph Davis (they/them) creates interdisciplinary performances that engage with African-American aesthetics and interconnected struggles for freedom. Their work pushes against patriarchal, white-supremacist, ruling class domination in order to capture a liberatory consciousness and self actualization.
An active marimbist, Steph has performed recitals in the U.S. and has been a featured guest artist with New Gallery Concert Series, MF Dynamics, Southern California Marimba, Modern Marimba, and 5th Wave Collective. As a composer, their music has been performed internationally. They have received commissions from Britton-René Collins, Prism Percussion, and Spectrum Ensemble, among others. As an advocate for education as a tool for liberation, Steph is a teaching artist with Castle of Our Skins and teaches percussion at Dedham School of Music. Click here to visit their website.
"The only time thousands of white people cheering for the Black kid to win is in the stadium." - White Privilege, Kyla Jenèe Lacey
"This piece is, in part, a reflection of my personal experience of being Black and Queer. This piece does not intend to speak for the experiences of other Black and Queer folks. With this in mind, I ask performers to not intend to replicate the same performance twice. Rather, the piece should exist in the current moment, with sensitive reactions to the
performer's environment and personal feelings." —Steph Davis
Ruby Fulton (b. 1981): i'm sorry, not sorry (2016)
Duration: 4.5 minutes
Composer and musician Ruby Fulton (b. 1981) writes music which invites listeners to explore non-musical ideas through sound. Her musical portfolio includes explorations of mental illness, Buddhism, philosophy, psychedelic research, addiction, and chess strategy; and profiles of iconic popular figures like the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and musicians Syd Barrett and Whitney Houston. She has collaborated on interdisciplinary projects with thinkers and makers in the sciences and literary, movement and visual arts. She teaches composition and music theory at the University of Idaho Lionel Hampton School of Music. Click here to visit her website.
"I got the idea for i'm sorry, not sorry when I read that Hillary Clinton was the first presidential candidate in US history to say the words "I'm sorry" to her supporters during her concession speech after losing the 2016 election to Donald Trump. I found that shocking and it made me think about how strange it is that women feel the need to apologize so much more than men. Beyoncé has an awesome and powerful song called "Sorry" that features the lyrics "Sorry, I ain't sorry," which gave me the idea for the words and the concept of the piece. And I stole the harmonies from a passage in Beethoven's Piano Sonata, Op. 110." —Ruby Fulton
Angélica Negrón (b.1981): Tres insultos para dos violines (2004) Duration: 5 minutes
Puerto Rican-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón writes music for accordions, robotic instruments, toys, and electronics as well as for chamber ensembles, orchestras, choir, and film. Her music has been described as “wistfully idiosyncratic and contemplative” (WQXR/Q2) while The New York Times noted her “capacity to surprise.” Negrón has been commissioned by the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Kronos Quartet, loadbang, MATA Festival, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Sō Percussion, the American Composers Orchestra, and the New York Botanical Garden, among others. She has composed numerous film scores, including Landfall (2020) and Memories of a Penitent Heart (2016), in collaboration with filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo. She was the recipient of the 2022 Hermitage Greenfield Prize. Upcoming premieres include works for the Seattle Symphony, LA Philharmonic, NY Philharmonic Project 19 initiative and multiple performances at Big Ears Festival 2022. Negrón continues to perform and compose for film. Click here to visit her website.
Mavis MacNeil (b. 1992): New Life (2013)
Duration: 7 minutes
Mavis MacNeil is a composer and soprano based in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Her compositions examine intersections of music and language, and combine moments of lyricism with spare, open harmonic language and subtle timbral shifts. Her work has been performed in the U.S. and internationally. Mavis holds a M.M. in Composition from Bowling Green State University, where she studied with Marilyn Shrude and Christopher Dietz; and a B.S. in Music from Skidmore College, where she studied with Evan Mack. As a vocalist, Mavis is primarily interested in new and early music; as a human she is primarily interested in being outdoors. Click here to visit her website.
"New Life depicts the remarkable transformation that water undergoes in the spring: the slow dripping of icicles in the sun, followed by the somehow surprising rivers of melted snow and ice; the rain that pours down, and the miraculous appearance of the first plants – refreshed after a very long rest – that begin to come out of the ground. It was written as part of a larger project focused on changing seasons; a concert called “Early Frost: Music for Changing Seasons.” I find that those brief periods when seasons are shifting – particularly winter changing into spring – tend to lead me into spells of heightened creativity. This piece is a meditation on – as well as a product of – that notion." — Mavis MacNeil
Florence Price (1887-1953): String Quartet in A Minor, II. Andante Cantabile (1935)
Duration: 9 minutes
Florence B. Price (1887-1953) achieved a level of renown that defied all expectations for an African American woman in her day. Having studied at the New England Conservatory from 1903 to 1906, taught in the Music Department at Shorter College (Little Rock), and headed the Music Department at Clark University (Atlanta), she married and bore two children in her native Arkansas before moving to Chicago with her husband and daughters in 1927 due to the persistent climate of racial violence in the South. Despite the formidable challenges of leaving behind family and friends to relocate to a new and radically different home, she thrived in Chicago. There she became actively involved in the bustling cultural life of a city that was gearing up to celebrate its centenary — joining the R. Nathaniel Dett Club of Music and the Allied Arts, attending Chicago Musical College, and studying harmony and orchestration with Wesley La Violette and composition with Carl Busch before graduating in 1934. Her unquenchable thirst for learning and her expansive intellect led her to continue her studies for years beyond this second graduation, taking courses in a variety of subjects at the American Conservatory, Chicago Teachers College, Central YMCA College, the Lewis Institute, and the University of Chicago.
And through it all, she composed. Florence B. Price penned several hundred compositions of astonishing richness and breadth, each bespeaking a musical imagination that would be stilled. Latter-day commentaries unanimously — and justly — cite the performance of her First Symphony by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as part of the World's Fair in 1933 as evidence of her extraordinary success in overcoming the pervasive institutional racism and sexism of the United States. But her renown spread much farther than that, and lasted much longer. Her music was performed by at least nine major orchestras, and her vocal and instrumental chamber music and piano compositions were performed by some of the great soloists of her day. So great was her eminence even a decade after her death that the musical and educational metropolis of Chicago named the Florence B. Price Elementary School after her in 1964. That school closed in 2012, but the same building still bears her name: the Florence B. Price Twenty-First Century Academy for Excellence.
The A Minor String Quartet is Price's second contribution to the genre. It was preceded by her G-minor Quartet (1929) and followed by her Five Folksongs in Counterpoint for String Quartet (1951). Stylistically, the melodic and harmonic language of A-minor Quartet more obviously invokes mid-twentieth century idioms than does either of the other quartets. The emotional drama of the first movement gives way to a gentle, rocking lyricism of the second movement, which we hear tonight, infused with melodic and harmonic turns that bring the melancholy beauty of Black idioms into the tradition-bound stylistic vocabulary of the mid-twentieth century string quartet. The second movement, too, employs extensive dissonances that are more a part of the modernist idioms of the early twentieth century than they are of traditional African American culture. — Notes by John Michael Cooper
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