Present Music
Press Release

Present Music Unveils 2023-’24 Season Lineup, Featuring Groundbreaking Film, St. John Cathedral Concert, World Premieres and Stellar Guest Artists

Works by women composers lead programming; Raven Chacon returns to Present Music

By - Aug 15th, 2023 08:38 am

Milwaukee, Wis. (Aug. 15, 2023) – Milwaukee’s adventurous new music ensemble Present Music embarks on its new season with a lineup that includes a groundbreaking Austrian silent film, a return to St. John’s Cathedral, partnerships with the Milwaukee Art Museum and their exhibits, several dynamic world premieres and a stellar list of diverse guest artists.

Women composers wrote about 60% of the music that will be performed in the five shows this season, which runs from Oct. 29 through May 9. The October and April programs are comprised entirely of works by women composers.

The women composers whose works will be performed are Rachel Grimes, Lisa Gutkin, Aviya Kopelman, Leilehua Lanzolotti, Angelica Negron, Olga Neuwirth, Shara Nova, Caroline Shaw, Gabriella Smith, Sarah Kirkland Snider and Pamela Z.

Additional composers featured this season are Marcos Balter, David Bloom, Raven Chacon, John Dowland, Woody Guthrie, Aaron Jay Kernis, Nico Muhly and Andrew Norman.

Tickets are now available at


Die Stadt Ohne Juden / The City Without Jews 
October 29, 2023
7:30 pm Performance; 6:00 pm Pre-Concert Talk
Milwaukee Art Museum

Our first program features an Austrian silent film from 1924 by Hans Karl Breslauer that presages the events of the Holocaust. Thought to be lost, a print of the film was discovered at a Parisian flea market in 2015 and digitally restored through a crowdfunding campaign. The Vienna Conzerthaus then commissioned a new score from composer Olga Neuwirth, which will be performed live by the Present Music ensemble, conducted by Yaniv Dinur. We will also feature an interpretation of the Woody Guthrie / Lisa Gutkin song “Gonna Get Through This World” arranged for Present Music by Israeli composer Aviya Kopelman and sung by Donna Woodall.

The performance is in conjunction with the exhibit “Art, Life, Legacy: Northern European Paintings from the Collection of Isabel and Alfred Bader.” In-person PM performance ticket holders also receive access to the Milwaukee Art Museum galleries the day of the performance.

This event includes a pre-concert panel discussion at 6 p.m. in Lubar Auditorium and a post-concert reception in Windhover Hall at MAM.

Simple Songs
November 19, 2023
5:00 pm Performance
Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist (also live online via the Present Music Digital Stage)

In 2022, Raven Chacon became the first Native American composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music, with a Present Music commission “Voiceless Mass.” He returns to St. John’s Cathedral this year with an older work, “Owl Song.” Perennial favorite soprano Ariadne Greif sings an Aaron Jay Kernis work “Simple Songs,” based upon texts from the Book of Psalms, 12th century abbess Hildegarde von Bingen, the Japanese Zen master Ryokan, and the Sufi poet Rumi. Milwaukee’s own Brian Peckham offers a World Premiere written especially for this occasion, to be conducted by Co-Artistic Director David Bloom, and the Bucks Native American Singing and Drumming Group continue to raise the roof with their traditional music.

Simple Songs is sponsored by Ellen and Joe Checota. Brian Packham’s new work is commissioned for Present Music by a loyal Present Music patron.

Cello Cello  
January 31 and February 1, 2024
7:30 pm
Jan Serr Studio (also live online via the Present Music Digital Stage)

This concert features two World Premieres. Cellist and composer Paul Wiancko of the prestigious Kronos Quartet has written a new work for Present Music and will perform some of his other compositions, including “American Haiku, When the Night,” and “Closed Universe.” Pamela Z, a pioneering composer/performer and media artist, performs her solo works for voice and an array of electronics, and contributes another World Premiere to the program, “Raise,” a stirring tribute to the people who raised us, written for cellist Nick Photinos (founding member of 8th Blackbird) and three additional cellists, plus voice samples and multi-media. Is the plural of cello “cellos” or “celli”?  We say Cello Cello!

Cello Cello is sponsored by Jan Serr and John Shannon and the Warehouse Art Museum. Paul Wiancko’s new work is commissioned for Present Music by Jan Serr and John Shannon.

The Blue Hour
April 11, 2024
7:30 pm
Milwaukee Art Museum

This program is unique concert-length song-cycle from a consortium of five leading women composers: Rachel Grimes, Angelica Negron, Shara Nova, Caroline Shaw and Sarah Kirkland Snider. Set to fantastical and jarring imagery from an epic poem by Caroline Forche, sung by indie band diva Shara Nova of My Brightest Diamond. A small string orchestra will be guest-conducted by Deanna Tham of the Oregon Symphony. This piece made NPR’s Top Ten List across all genres last year, and will be presented this year only in Milwaukee and Paris, France.

This program is aligned with two exhibits at the Milwaukee Art Museum – “50 Paintings” and “Idris Khan: Repeat After Me.” In-person PM performance ticket holders also receive access to the Milwaukee Art Museum galleries the day of the performance.

This program includes a post-concert reception in Windhover Hall at MAM.

Honest Music
May 9, 2024
8:00 pm
Milwaukee Art Museum

To end the season, violist/conductor/curator extraordinaire Nadia Sirota makes her first appearance with Present Music and brings a program of her favorite composers, including Nico Muhly, Steve Reich, Gabriella Smith, Marcos Balter and Andrew Norman. An extremely expressive performer and engaging personality, Sirota has been involved in a wide range of collaborations, with such popular artists as Paul Simon, leading contemporary ensembles like yMusic, the New York Philharmonic and Juilliard School, and WQXR’s “Meet the Composer” radio program, where she won a Peabody Award as host and producer.

About Present Music

Since its founding in Milwaukee in 1982, Present Music’s mission has been to commission and perform new concert music, bringing over 70 new works to life. The Present Music ensemble ranges from a core group of 7 musicians to an ensemble of 20 or more. The group has worked closely with many of the nation’s top composers, including John Adams, Henry Brant, Raven Chacon, David Lang, Caroline Shaw, Ingram Marshall, Missy Mazzoli, Bright Sheng, Roberto Sierra and Michael Torke; and has a long and impressive track record for identifying outstanding talent early in the artists’ careers. Present Music’s discography includes world premiere recordings on the Argo, Albany, Aoede, Northeastern, Naxos and Innova labels. The group is led by Co-Artistic Directors violinist/composer Eric Segnitz and conductor David Bloom. Present Music was founded by conductor Kevin Stalheim, who was Artistic Director for the ensemble’s first 37 years until 2019. Visit for additional information.

Present Music is a proud member of the United Performing Arts Fund.

About the Venues

Present Music’s mainstage concerts will take place at venues throughout Milwaukee, including spaces well known to the organization and its audience, including:

  • Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) – Present Music has re-established a strong relationship with MAM. Three mainstage events will take place in architecturally stunning Windhover Hall at MAM in ’23-24. Programming for two of the performances at MAM align with concurrent MAM exhibits.
  • Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist – Present Music continues its longstanding tradition at the historic cathedral, built in 1847, featuring a world premiere by Brian Packham and music by the Bucks Native American Singing and Drumming Group. Raven Chacon, awarded the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Music for Present Music’s performance of “Voiceless Mass” in the same cathedral, returns to PM for “Owl Song” in November.
  • Jan Serr Studio – Two mainstage events will be performed at this long-time favorite venue with a modern and intimate setting, including world premieres by Paul Wiancko and Pamela Z.

NOTE: This press release was submitted to Urban Milwaukee and was not written by an Urban Milwaukee writer. While it is believed to be reliable, Urban Milwaukee does not guarantee its accuracy or completeness.

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