Present Music gives thanks for choral music
The ever-popular Thanksgiving concert features choral works by Caroline Shaw and the debut of a new Present Music choral ensemble, Hearing Music.
In a world of ever-changing contemporary music, artistic director Kevin Stalheim has been a constant for Present Music. Audiences have come to value his judgement as he discovers cutting-edge compositions and packages them in ever interesting ways. Programs revolve around themes, but offer enough variety to charm all who attend.
Another constant has been the special character of the annual Thanksgiving concert – a “tradition” within the changing scene. This Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. at the St. John’s Cathedral, Present Music will offer its 20th Thanksgiving event. Key elements remain the same – a community celebration fit for families, religious and secular observations of thanks, and a diverse collection of performing groups. The venue, although not original to the celebration, now plays an important role as well – a transcendental space whose acoustics have been a favorite “instrument” for Stalheim’s choice of music.
When a contemporary choral composer, Caroline Shaw, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music in early 2013, the theme was set. This Thanksgiving concert will celebrate choral music. Several of Shaw’s works will be featured including an extract of the larger work that won her the Pulitzer, Partita for 8 voices. Shaw’s music can sound traditionally harmonious, then break suddenly with tradition to introduce vocal techniques that change the pacing and texture of a work. Most works feature a rich a cappella sound.
Caroline Shaw has been writing and performing with an avant grade New York choral group – Roomful of Teeth. They have been trained in techniques such as Tuvan throat singing, yodeling, belting, Inuit throat singing, Korean P’ansori, Georgian singing and Sardinian cantu a tenore styles. Shaw incorporates some of these techniques into her compositions. A recent concert featuring her compositions may be streamed online. Shaw has also written chamber works for the American Contemporary Music Ensemble where she plays violin. She will give a pre-concert talk at 4 p.m.
The concert will also feature a choral work for 40 voices inspired by a timeless Renaissance work Thomas Tallis’ Spem in alium. David Lang drew inspiration from Tallis’ work but has adapted the text and the musical texture of I Never to his minimalist tastes. Lang has written, “Imagine how much more useful Tallis’ beautiful text could be if it underlined that one’s humility before God should lead us to be humble before everyone else as well. Being an individual in a larger, interdependent community is the central structural message of Tallis’ forty voices.” Lang also won a Pulitzer (in 2008) and co-founded another contemporary fixture on the East Coast scene – the Bang on a Can Ensemble. (Tallis’ work will not be a part of the performance.)
To manage the variety of choral experiences, Hearing Voices will be joined by choirs and singers from Arrowhead High School, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Pius XI High School and Voces Punica from Carthage College.
Visit the Present Music website for further information or to buy tickets. This always popular concert may sell out.