‘Bonhoeffer’ with The Crossing

The invitation to record and perform Thomas Lloyd’s powerful oratorio ‘Bonhoeffer’ with The Crossing and Donald Nally this month was one I couldn’t have been happier to accept. The opportunity to work with a group I deeply admire, coupled with a chance to engage with a subject of such profundity, has made for an incredible start to the new season.

After two days of intense sessions, the recording is made, and now we look forward to performances next week, at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, and – crucially – at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where Bonhoeffer himself studied and taught. Bonhoeffer’s manner in the face of the violence of the late 1930s – and its treatment in this stunning work of art – gives us pause to reflect on our own response to the cruelties of our time.

Recording 'Bonhoeffer' with The Crossing, September 2015

Recording ‘Bonhoeffer’ with The Crossing, September 2015

 

Bach@7

I count myself as incredibly fortunate to spend so much time playing music by J.S.Bach. This past New Year’s Eve, I led the orchestra in Choral Arts Philadelphia‘s performance of the Christmas Oratorio – nearly 500 people packed the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral to listen to Bach’s telling of the Christmas narrative. Similarly, large crowds gather at our monthly Bach cantata concerts, held at the beautiful St. Clement’s Episcopal Church.

I say this not to brag, but to communicate the fact that Bach’s choral music offers something to the hungry, the seeking, the hurt, the joyous. With this in mind, Bach@7 performances are offered to the people of Philadelphia on a pay-what-you-wish basis – all are welcome, regardless of their ability to pay.

Join us for upcoming performances:

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11TH
Choral Arts Philadelphia and Philadelphia Bach Collegium

Combining Bach’s two audition Cantatas for the position
in Leipzig, where he was to spend the rest of his life, with
two works of Johannes Brahms, who was highly influenced
by Bach’s music.

Chorale Prelude on “O Lamm Gottes”
Fest und Gedenksprüche Opus 109 – Johannes Brahms
Cantata 22: Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwoelfe
Cantata 23: Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn

Lass Dich nur nichts nicht Dauren – Brahms

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8th 7pm 
Celebrity Series” with Mezzo Soprano Jacqueline Horner (Anonymous4)
Geoffrey Burgess – Oboe
Rebecca Harris –  Violin

Two sumptuous Alto Cantatas with a member of
America’s most popular early music groups,
Jacqueline Horner of Anonymous4. 

Schlage doch, Gewuenschte Stunde BWV 53
Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C Minor BWV 1060
Cantata 170: Vergnuegte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust

WEDNESDAY, MAY 13th 7pm
Choral Arts Philadelphia and Philadelphia Bach Collegium 

Our Spring series ends with thoughts about Easter, ranging from
one of Bach’s earliest Cantatas based on Luther’s great Easter Hymn,
Heinrich Biber’s fantastical representation of the Resurrection
from the Rosary Sonatas combined with
choral superstar Eric Whitacre’s “Alleluia”

Alleluia – Eric Whitacre
Resurrection Sonata – Heinrich Biber
Cantata 4: Christ lag in Todesbanden

Biber: Mystery Sonatas

My interest in Biber’s Mystery Sonatas came from a curiosity about ritual.

We discover depth of meaning and profound connection in repeated actions. Art in all its forms has the capacity to enliven and transform our ritualistic behavior, whatever faith, culture or walk of life we identify ourselves with.

It is thought that the Mystery Sonatas were composed for use by a Jesuit prayer society in seventeenth century Austria, where the faithful would contemplate the works as they meditated upon the mysteries of the Holy Rosary. My first performance of any of the Mystery Sonatas happened to be remarkably similar to this original intention: I performed the five sonatas that represent the Sorrowful Mysteries in a concert for members of an Anglo-Catholic church, following their ritual walking of the Stations of the Cross during Lent. In this context, the pieces were musical ikons, sacred portraits in sound.

That this was the beginning of my relationship with these pieces I consider to be a piece of great personal good fortune. Whatever one’s faith, the subject matter of the Mystery Sontatas invites contemplation of the strange and wonderful, of questions that cannot be answered, and of reality upturned. An important facet of our shared humanity is our capacity to bear doubt; contemplation of mystery has the power to remind us of our common strength and fragility.

In preparing to perform music from the Mystery Sonatas and other works by Biber this year, I keep this in mind. It is not my business to know the hearts of my audience, but I am inspired by the mystery.

 

Performances of music by Biber for solo violin with Richard Stone, lute/theorbo:

 

  • Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont PA, Saturday February 22, time TBC
  • Bach at 7 (presented by Choral Arts Philadelphia): St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Philadelphia PA, Wednesday April 9, 7pm
  •  Tempesta di Mare Artist Recital Series: Woodmere Art Museum, Chestnut Hill PA, Sunday April 13, 3pm
  • Tempesta di Mare Artist Rectial Series: Powel House, Philadelphia PA, Sunday April 27, 3pm

https://tempestadimare.secure.force.com/ticket/#details_a0Si0000001ELEJEA4

LiveConnections Bridge Sessions

I started performing in LiveConnections Bridge Sessions in 2010. Bridge Sessions are cross-genre educational and interactive performances for young people and special needs populations, performed at World Café Live in Philadelphia and Wilmington. From the artist’s perspective, they are deeply rich experiences – co-creating with artists working in other artistic genres is illuminating and inspiring.

Jospeh Conyers (assistant principal bass of the Philadelphia and director of Project440 – www.project440.org) and songwriter Andrew Lipke (www.andrewlipke.com) and I created a session called The Building Blocks of Music. The message of the session is that the ingredients of music are relatively simple – take a melody, a bass line and some harmony, and the possibilities are endless!

More recently, I co-created a session with movement artist Lela Aisha Jones (founder and director of FlyGround – www.flygroundera.com) and violinist Daniel Han (The Philadelphia Orchestra). Motion in Music tells the story of the connection between music and movement, and allows the audience to experience and create at that crucial meeting point.

Working on Bridge Sessions has often put me outside my comfort zone – musically, intellectually, creatively – but it has been in those moments that I have found great clarity and beauty. Likewise, the experience of watching my accomplished artistic partners work outside of their ‘creative homes’ is extraordinary – artists are naturally risk-takers, but how rare it is to consciously witness the risk be taken.

It is a wonderful thing to challenge oneself to go beyond, to reach ahead, up and sideways.  It is worth the risk to find out what is possible – you never know what you might find.

Read more about LiveConnections Bridge Sessions and other projects at: http://liveconnections.org