2021-2022 Season News
October 17, 2021
While Paris has long been a hub for culture, there is no period of cultural exchange there quite like the turn of the 20th century. Artists, writers, and musicians flocked to the city to share their ideas and experiment with ones learned from each other. Our November concert, French Connections, focuses on three of the composers who lived and worked in Paris during this time and showcases the influence of the cultural exchange which occurred in the city.
This program opens with Deux Pieces en Trio by Lili Boulanger. Born in Paris in 1893, Boulanger was a child prodigy and ~ at the age of 19! ~ became the first woman to ever win the Prix de Rome, a highly coveted scholarship for arts students. Published in 1918, the year of her death, and written a few years prior, Deux Pieces en Trio is an exemplary piece of work by a young female composer and highlights the modernist influence prevalent in Paris.
Aaron Copland was one of several well-known American composers who traveled to France to continue his music studies. While in Paris, Copland studied for three years under none other than Lili Boulanger’s elder sister, Nadia, whose unique musical style heavily influenced his own. Upon his return to the United States, Copland’s compositional style was guided by composers whose music he studied while abroad, including Boulanger, Schonberg, and Stravinsky. As he experimented with elements of impressionism and developed his own variation on the twelve-tone technique pioneered by Schonberg, Copland composed both tonal and atonal works. His Duo for Flute and Piano featured on this program, is one of his later compositions and a culmination of those many influences.
Frank Bridge’s String Sextet closes out the performance. An English composer, Bridge was heavily inspired by the works of Stravinsky and Debussy and it is, therefore, no surprise that one can hear in his compositions a strong influence from the French impressionist movement. Bridge’s compositional period leading up to the First World War can be characterized by its increasingly modernist tendencies; his String Sextet, first performed in 1913, represents one of the later works from that time, and one can distinctly hear the impressionist influence on the piece.
A Dill Pickle
October 1, 2021
It’s time for the world premiere of A Dill Pickle, a chamber opera by Matt Malsky. Malsky is a local composer and scholar who specializes in the connections between technology and culture in post-WWII American Society. Internationally acclaimed for his music, Malsky is known for his energetic and dramatic compositions, and A Dill Pickle is no exception.
This chamber opera is based on a short story of the same name by Katherine Mansfield. Born in New Zealand in 1888, Mansfield’s short stories and poetry captured the complexities of life during the early 1900s through a modern feminist lens. A Dill Pickle, published in 1917, was written during what is considered the peak of her career. Malsky’s technical skill and intensity lends itself nicely to an adaptation of Mansfield’s story by capturing the intricacies of the themes of love and regret.
Featured in this performance is Cailin Marcel Manson, baritone. Manson has had an extensive career as a soloist, conductor, and teacher at major venues throughout North America, Europe, and Asia and has performed as a guest-cantor and soloist at a number of the world’s most well-known churches. Known for his dramatic instinct and commanding tone, Manson always brings energy to the stage and is an absolute thrill to watch and listen to.
Also featured is Caitlin Felsman, mezzo-soprano. Felsman made her professional opera debut in 2011 and is a frequent soloist with performing ensembles located in the greater Boston area. Currently she is the co-director at On Tap Boston which works to bring opera to non-traditional spaces. Her dynamic voice and passionate performing style add a captivating sense of depth to this performance.
WCMS is so grateful to have not only a local composer, but also two locally based soloists to join members of our chamber orchestra in this performance. A Dill Pickle displays the brilliance of the talents in our locality.
For more information on Malsky, Mansfield, Manson, or Felsman:
September 1, 2021
For our first venture of our 16th concert season, WCMS presents American Voices. Inspired by Antonín Dvořák’s call to find a distinctly American style of music, “American Voices” celebrates traditionally American styles of music and highlights the innovative works of revolutionary Black American composers.
Leading off the concert will be Folk Song Suite #1 and Grief by William Grant Still, a pivotal figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Known as the “Dean of African American Composers”, he was the first African American to have a symphony that he composed performed by a major American orchestra, the first to conduct a major American orchestra, and the first to have his opera aired on television. These historical precedents paved the way for future Black musicians and composers and were critical in their advancement in the music industry.
Following is Margaret Bonds’ The Negro Speaks of Rivers, a musical setting of the text of poet Langston Hughes. Bonds found an early role model in her father, a political activist, and focused much of her work in music on the Black experience and the advancement of Black musicians. Her friendship and collaboration with Hughes combines his empowering text paying tribute to the ancestors of African Americans with music inspired by traditional spirituals to uplift and encourage other Black Americans.
It would be impossible to have a concert inspired by Dvořák’s call to find an American voice without including a piece by Henry Thacker Burleigh. During Dvořák’s time in the United States, Burleigh introduced him to Black American music which is largely the motivation behind Dvořák’s statement encouraging the exploration of a distinct American style in the first place. Burleigh became a pioneer in the development of this uniquely American style. Henry Thacker Burleigh’s Saracen Songs is a captivating collection of songs, and another shining example that noticeably pulls musical and thematic material from spirituals.
Our program concludes with Antonín Dvořák’s melodious American Quintet. Inspired by the summer he spent in Spillsville, a quaint town nestled in the hills of Iowa, elements of Dvořák’s Bohemian roots couple with the influence of American folk tunes to capture the feeling of a warm and breezy midwestern summer.
Season 16 Overview: Crossing Borders
August 20, 2021
After more than a year at home, WCMS takes flight for our 16th season with a series of concerts that brings together music from far-flung countries, across distant eras, and blending various genres – crossing geographic, temporal, and stylistic borders in the process.
When musicians gather, each performance is informed by the players – their relationships, knowledge, and musical interplay. It’s the same for composers, who build on past musical ideas, collaborate with each other, and create new musical genres and experiences from what has come before. Throughout our 16th Season, WCMS explores these ideas in four compelling Main Stage concerts.
American Voices, in September, highlights the ways in which Dvořák was influenced by American music during his extended sojourn to this country, especially the time he spent in the mid-West. He was enthralled by the music he heard, incorporated into his own work, and challenged American composers to develop a distinctive American musical voice. Several of the composers he admired are featured alongside one of Dvořák’s American-inflected pieces.
Paris has long been a cultural mecca for fashion, art, literature, and music. In the early 20th century, composers flocked to the city, feeding off each other’s ideas and influencing each other’s music, incorporating ideas like impressionism and jazz along the way. The result was a fresh new musical language that can be heard in French Connections.
Western European music from the Baroque era sparkles and shimmers for the holidays. While characterized by distinctive “sounds” (think Bach vs Vivaldi), works from this time share common embellishment and structures that demonstrate the influences these composers, both famous and less so, had on each other despite their geographical distance from one another. Baroque in Winter glitters with ornamentation yet evokes a simpler time, much as the winter holidays do.
Classical music from Eastern Europe is often inflected with traditional and folk elements, either as the basis for innovation and development or as a reflection of the composer’s heritage. We’ve heard it with Bartók and Dvořák, and you’ll hear more of it with the quartet of composers we feature on Looking East.
And if that’s not enough, we have a Spotlight Concert featuring Joshua Gordon and Randall Hodgkinson; the world premiere of a chamber opera in one act by local composer and educator Matt Malsky; and an interactive family concert at the Ecotarium featuring a fruitfly!
We’re performing this season at the newly-opened Jean McDonough Arts Center in Worcester, an acoustically rich venue that seems tailor-made for WCMS concerts. We hope to see you there!