Archive for July, 2019

A look back at the 2019 Mizzou International Composers Festival

Composers Festival spotlight: Donnacha Dennehy

Donnacha Dennehy returns to the Mizzou International Composers Festival in 2019 as a distinguished guest composer, having previously served in the same capacity in 2012, and thereby making MICF history by becoming the only composer to play that role twice.

Considered one of Ireland’s top living composers, Dennehy (pictured) is a founder of the new music group Crash Ensemble and an associate professor of music at Princeton University. His music has been featured at major festivals and venues around the world, including the Edinburgh International Festival; Carnegie Hall; the Tanglewood Festival; the Kennedy Center; The Barbican, Wigmore Hall, and the Royal Opera House in London, and many others.

In recent years, Dennehy has concentrated especially on large-scale musico-dramatic works, including his first opera “The Last Hotel,” which premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2015 and was released on an album earlier this year by Cantaloupe Music; and “The Second Violinist,” which won the 2017 Fedora Prize for Opera, premiered in July 2017 at the Galway International Arts Festival, and was presented in September 2018 at the Barbican in London.

Then there’s “The Hunger,” which was performed first as a work-in-progress at the 2012 MICF, subsequently co-produced in completed form by Alarm Will Sound and Opera Theatre St. Louis, and presented in 2016 at Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York.

The work follows the story of an American who went to Ireland during the Great Famine when so many were fleeing, and shows through text and music her transformation “from clerical observer to empathetic participant.” Now in its completed form, “The Hunger” will be released as an album in CD and digital formats on Friday, August 23 by Nonesuch Records.

For the MICF, Alarm Will Sound, soprano Katherine Manley, and sean nós singer Iarla O’Lionáird will perform the complete concert version of “The Hunger” as part of AWS’ concert on Thursday, July 25 at the Missouri Theatre. In addition, the Mizzou New Music Ensemble will perform Dennehy’s “The Blotting” as part of the “Mizzou New Music” concert on Friday, July 26 at the Missouri Theatre.

Other recent projects of Dennehy’s include “Surface Tension,” premiered by Third Coast Percussion in February 2016 and released last month as part of an album on the New Amsterdam label; “The Weather of it” for the Doric String Quartet, co-commissioned by Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall and premiered at Wigmore Hall in July 2016; a piece for the LA Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella series; and “Broken Unison” for So Percussion, co-commissioned by the Cork Opera House and Carnegie Hall.

In addition to the above, Dennehy has received commissions from Bang On A Can, Contact Contemporary Music (Toronto), Dawn Upshaw, Fidelio Trio, Joanna MacGregor, Kronos Quartet, Icebreaker, Nadia Sirota, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Orkest de Volharding (Amsterdam), Percussion Group of the Hague, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, United Instruments of Lucilin (Luxembourg), Wide Open Opera (Dublin), and many others.

Along with the forthcoming album of “The Hunger,” Dennehy’s music can be heard on a number of recordings. Grá agus Bás, his 2011 release on Nonesuch featuring Crash Ensemble and singers Dawn Upshaw and Iarla O’Lionáird, was named as one of NPR’s “50 favorite albums’’ for the year.

RTE Lyric FM in 2014 issued a portrait CD of Dennehy’s orchestral music, and his works also have been heard on other releases include a number by NMC Records in London, Bedroom Community in Reykjavik, and Cantaloupe Music in New York. A recording of “Tessellatum,” a piece for Nadia Sirota and viol consort, came out on Bedroom Community in August 2017, and Surface Tension / Disposable Dissonance, with performances by Crash Ensemble and Third Coast Percussion, was released in June 2019 on New Amsterdam records.

For more about Donnacha Dennehy, listen to the interview he did recently with KMUC’s “Mizzou Music” program, and read the interview with him published last month in The Journal of Music. You can hear some of his music via the embedded players below.

Donnacha Dennehy, director Tom Creed, and singers Iarla Ó Lionáird and Katherine Manley are interviewed about the 2016 production of “The Hunger” at Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York

“Broken Unison,” performed by So Percussion on January 19, 2019 at Koerner Hall in Toronto

“Stainless Staining,” performed by Isabelle O’Connell (piano) with electronics on March 30, 2017 at SARC, Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland

“Bulb,” recorded in 2014, featuring Vicky Chow (piano), Ashley Bathgate (cello) and Todd Reynolds (violin)

“The weather of it,” performed by Isaac Allen (violin), Bram Goldstein (violin), Angela Choong (viola) and Alex Greenbaum, (cello) on October 16, 2018 at Historic Old St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco

2019 MICF featured in Columbia Daily Tribune

On the Sunday just before the start of this year’s Mizzou International Composers Festival, the Columbia Daily Tribune published four articles by features editor Aarik Danielsen telling readers about the fest.

You can read them all at the Tribune’s website by clicking on the links below:

* Meet this year’s composers

* Come Together: MU professors lead Khemia Ensemble to musical chemistry

* Eyes and ears open: Composer converts moments of awareness into a career, about resident composer Nicole Murphy

* Hear here: Composer tunes her work to a world of sound, about resident composer Kristina Wolfe

Composers Festival spotlight: Charles Halka

Resident composer Charles Halka comes to the 2019 Mizzou International Composers Festival having already done a good deal of world traveling in his composing and teaching career.

Originally from Tulsa, OK, Halka (pictured) currently is an assistant professor of composition and theory at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. He earned a doctor of musical arts degree from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, TX, and holds degrees in both piano and composition from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD.

Overseas, he also has studied at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in Russia, the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater, and privately with Samuel Adler through the FUBiS program in Berlin.

Halka’s works include acoustic and electronic music for concert, dance, and opera. They have been performed in North America, Europe, Asia, and South America at venues such as the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and Foro Internacional de Música Nueva.

For the MICF, he has written a new work titled “Fever Dream,” which will be performed along with new music from the seven other resident composers by Alarm Will Sound as part of the festival’s “Eight World Premieres” grand finale on Saturday, July 27 at the Missouri Theatre.

Noteworthy ensembles that have performed his music include the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra led by Marin Alsop, Mivos Quartet, the Mexican National Symphony Orchestra, the Lviv Philharmonic, Odessa Philharmonic, counter)induction, Callithumpian Consort, Volti, ÓNIX Ensamble in Mexico, PRO ARTE eNsemble in Russia, the chamber choirs Aquarius in Belgium and Jauna Muzika in Lithuania, and more.

As a U.S. Fulbright grantee, Halka spent 2008-09 in Vilnius, Lithuania, researching Lithuanian music and writing an opera in collaboration with director and librettist Marija Simona Šimulynaitė. The opera, “Julius,” was premiered in 2010 in Vilnius, and a choral excerpt, “Dipukų Rauda,” was performed at the ISCM World Music Days 2012 in Belgium.

Other significant works include “Round and Round,” premiered in 2011 at the Library of Congress, then revised and premiered again in 2013 in Hong Kong at the Intimacy of Creativity partnership led by composer Bright Sheng; “And Jill Came Tumbling After,” a chamber opera  with a libretto by John Grimmett, written for the Baltic Chamber Opera Theater and selected for Fort Worth Opera’s 2015 Frontiers showcase; and “Imaginary Spaces,” a dance and percussion project created in collaboration with Houston’s Frame Dance Productions with support from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.

Halka’s honors include a Barlow Endowment general commission awarded this year, the Copland House residency award in 2015, and many others. He has completed residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the M.K. Sarbievijus Cultural Center in Kražiai, Lithuania, and in Houston, with both Musiqa (2014-15) and the Foundation for Modern Music (2011-14).

For more about Charles Halka, listen to the interview he did recently for KMUC’s “Mizzou Music” program, and check out the interviews he did in 2017 with the Flute New Music Consortium and the podcast Lexical Tones. You can hear some of his music via the embedded players below.

“Scherzo,” recorded August 18, 2018 by the Lviv Philharmonic, conducted by Taras Krysa

“Por la fuerza las tierras,” recorded September 9, 2016 at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, performed by Ónix Ensamble

Composers Festival spotlight: Amy Beth Kirsten

Amy Beth Kirsten occupies a unique place in Mizzou International Composers Festival history, returning in 2019 as a distinguished guest composer after having been one of the eight resident composers at the very first MICF (then called the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival) in 2010.

Kirsten is the only composer to take part in the festival in both capacities, and to celebrate her return, the 2019 MICF will feature the world premiere of excerpts from a major new composition of hers.

Selected parts of “Jacob in Chains,” an evening-length, music-driven theatrical work commissioned by Alarm Will Sound and the Mizzou New Music Initiative, will be performed for the first time anywhere as part of AWS’ concert on Thursday, July 25 at the Missouri Theatre. In addition, the Mizzou New Music Ensemble will perform Kirsten’s “World Under Glass No. 2” at the “Mizzou New Music” concert on Friday, July 26 at the Missouri Theatre.

Recognized with artist fellowships from the John S. Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, Amy Beth Kirsten grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City and Chicago; was educated at Roosevelt University (MM) and the Peabody Institute (DMA); and now lives in New Haven, CT.

A member of the composition faculty at Longy School of Music of Bard College since 2017, she also teaches music composition privately and, for the past eight years, at the HighSCORE summer festival in Pavia, Italy. Kirsten previously served on the faculty of the Peabody Institute from 2015 to 2017, and she has been a guest lecturer at institutions including the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester (U.K.), Yale University, Princeton University, Curtis Institute, Cornell University, and the Royal Academy of Music in London.

The expansive nature of “Jacob in Chains” is in keeping with Kirsten’s aesthetic, which is “characterized by an abiding interest in exploring theatrical elements of creation, performance, and presentation…Her body of work fuses music, language, voice, and theatre and often considers musicians’ instruments, bodies, and voices as equal vehicles of expression.”

Kirsten’s major works in recent years include “Savior,” a collaboration between her own ensemble, HOWL, and musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, that was premiered in 2018 for the 20th anniversary of the CSO’s MusicNOW series; “QUIXOTE,” a 90-minute theatrical work inspired by Cervantes’ epic novel, created with director/designer Mark DeChiazza and HOWL and staged in 2017 at Montclair State University in New Jersey; and “Colombine’s Paradise Theatre,” an evening-length work commissioned and produced by the multi-Grammy-winning eighth blackbird that opened the 2014-15 seasons of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and New York’s Miller Theatre, selling out both venues.

She also has written and composed fully-staged theatrical works and traditional concert works for HOWL, the New World Symphony, Peak Performances, American Composers Orchestra, and many others. Most recently, over the past year she has composed solo and chamber works for Mike Compitello (percussion), the Dutch singer/composer Bec Plexus (voice and percussion), New Thread Quartet (saxophones), and Don Berman (piano).

For more about Amy Beth Kirsten, read the Chicago Tribune‘s story from 2018 about the premiere of “Savior”, and the interview with her published around that same time on the CSO’s “Songs and Stories” website. You can hear some samples of her music in the embedded players below.

“World Under Glass No. 2,” performed by Equilibrium, featuring Nicole Parks (violin), Mike Avitabile (flute), Stephen Marotto (cello), and Mike Williams (percussion), conducted by Matt Sharrock

“Pirouette On A Moon Sliver,” recorded October 31, 2017, performed by Emma Resmini

“the crowd examines QUIXOTE to find a cause of his madness,” recorded in March 2017 at Montclair State University,  performed by HOWL, featuring Jonny Allen, Victor Caccese, Ian Rosenbaum and Terry Sweeney ( percussion), with Lindsay Kesselman (soprano), Hai-Ting Chinn (mezzo-soprano) and Kirsten Sollek (contralto)

“Drink Me,” performed by Alarm Will Sound on July 18, 2010 at the Missouri Theatre

Composers Festival spotlight: inti figgis-vizueta

Resident composer inti figgis-vizueta this year will achieve an historic trifecta of sorts in the annals of the Mizzou International Composers Festival, as they will be the first resident composer to have three of their works played by three different ensembles in a single year at the MICF.

Like the seven other resident composers, figgis-vizueta (pictured) has written a new piece for Alarm Will Sound, who will perform their “braiding on golden stoops” as one of the eight world premieres presented in the grand finale concert on Saturday, July 27 at the Missouri Theatre.

In addition, Mizzou Percussion will play figgis-vizueta’s “To give you form and breath” as part of the “Mizzou New Music” concert on Friday, July 26 at the Missouri Theatre; and Khemia Ensemble will perform their “Openwork, knotted object // Trellis in bloom // Recipe for lightning” at the matinee concert on Saturday, July 27 at Whitmore Recital Hall.

inti figgis-vizueta  – they use the lower case and non-gendered pronouns – was born in Dublin, Ireland; raised in Washington, DC; and now is based in Brooklyn, NY. When not composing, they work as a curator for Score Follower.​

figgis-vizueta writes music that “focuses on combinations of various notational schemata, disparate and overlaid sonic plans, and collaborative unlearning of dominant vernaculars. She/they often write magically real musics through the lens of personal identities, braiding a childhood of overlapping immigrant communities and Black-founded Freedom schools—in Chocolate City (DC)—with Andean heritage and a deep connection to land(s).”

They have received numerous awards, most recently winning National Sawdust’s 2019 Hildegard Competition, and getting a chance to participate in the the American Composers Orchestra’s 2019 Underwood New Music Readings.  They also have won calls for scores from organizations and festivals such as West Cork Chamber Music Festival, Verdant Vibes, N/A Ensemble, UnTwelve, Baltimore Choral Arts Society, and 113 Collective.

figgis-vizuata’s music has been played by ensembles including loadbang, PUBLIQuartet, Hypercube, RTE Contempo String Quartet, Balance Campaign, the Shenandoah Valley Youth Symphony, the SJSU Wind Ensemble, and more. They also actively freelance as a composer, with recent commissions including new works for clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich, trumpeter Kate Amrine, countertenor Luke Paulino, and the duo Mazumal.

They were featured at the New Music Gathering as a panelist in 2017 and as a composer in 2018, as well as at the New Latin Wave Festival 2018.

For more about inti figgis-vizueta, listen to their interview recorded a few weeks ago for KMUC’s “Mizzou Music” program, and read their interview from earlier this year published by (conducted by 2014 MICF distinguished guest composer Nico Muhly) and their “5 Questions” interview on I Care If You Listen (answering queries posed by 2018 MICF resident composer Gemma Peacocke).

“Symphony for the Body,” performed October 29, 2017 by Boston Conservatory Composer’s Orchestra

“Placemaking,” performed in 2018 by Boston Conservatory Composer’s Wind Ensemble, conducted by Mark Powell

Composers Festival spotlight: Chelsea Komschlies

Fittingly for an international festival located in the heartland of the USA, 2019 MICF resident composer Chelsea Komschlies is a native Midwesterner whose music has been performed in eleven countries on four continents around the world.

The daughter of an artist, Komschlies grew up in Appleton, WI creating and loving all sorts of visual art, and still enjoys drawing, digital painting, and creating hand-sculpted jewelry. She often uses real or imagined images as inspiration for her works, hoping that listeners will “make deep, instinctual associations with her music, be they emotional, visual, or otherwise abstract.”

She recently completed a post-graduate artist diploma at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and this fall will begin studies for a doctoral degree in composition at McGill University.

Komschlies (pictured) previously earned her master of music degree in composition from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and her bachelor’s degree from Wartburg College in Waverly, IA.

For the Mizzou International Composers Festival,  she has written a new work called “Hexactinellida,” which will be performed along with world premieres from the other seven resident composers by Alarm Will Sound as part of the festival’s grand finale concert on Saturday, July 27 at the Missouri Theatre.

In addition to the piece she’s written for the MICF, her recent projects include a work for organ, harpsichord, and orchestra, premiered by the Curtis Institute in 2018; an extended-reality collaboration with Drexel University game design and software engineer students using the Microsoft Hololens; and “Nunc Dimittis,” an oratorio for voices and period instruments commissioned by the Bach Festival of Philadelphia and premiered in February of this year.

Komschlies’ other commissions include creating works for Rock School for Dance Education and One Book, One Philadelphia, and a distinguished composition fellow commission from the Cortona Sessions for New Music.

Her music has been performed at events such as the Ravinia Festival and the finale concert of Make Music Chicago, and she has received fellowships from programs including the Aspen Music Festival, Copland House, the Fontainebleau School (where Nadia Boulanger once taught), the Fresh Inc Festival, the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival, and a number of other festivals in the U.S. and abroad.

For more about Chelsea Komschlies, listen to her interview broadcast a few weeks back on KMUC’s “Mizzou Music” program.  You can hear some of her music in the embedded players below.

“Steam,” recorded November 4, 2017 at Bread & Salt in San Diego, CA, featuring Beth Ross Buckley (flute) and Sheryl Renk (clarinet)

“Borealis”, world premiere performance recorded April 6, 2018 at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, PA, featuring Emma Resmini (flute), Julian Tello (viola), and Lena Goodson (bass)

Composers Festival spotlight: Bels Lontano

For the tenth year of the Mizzou International Composers Festival, the Mizzou New Music Initiative has added a number of new events, including teaming up with Columbia-based experimental music organization Dismal Niche to present two free late-night concerts on Thursday, July 25 and Friday, July 26 after the performances at the Missouri Theatre.

The performance at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, July 25 at Cafe Berlin will feature Bels Lontano curating a program of electronic music including works from MICF resident composers and from current and former students at Mizzou, as well as his own music.

Influenced by “love, anxiety, beats and ambience,” Bels Lontano is an experimental electronic dance music project from composer/producer Bret Bohman (pictured).

Embracing the notion that “music is therapy in both the act of creation and the act of listening,” and drawing on the traditions of IDM, house, hip-hop, contemporary classical, and ambient, “the project explores concepts of liminal spaces, natural beauty, therapy, and personal growth.”

Bret Bohman teaches composition, electronic music, guitar and ear training at the University of Missouri School of Music. He earned his doctorate from the University of Michigan, and with his spouse, composer and Mizzou faculty member Carolina Heredia, is a co-founder of the new music group Khemia Ensemble.

You can hear samples of the music of Bels Lontano in the embedded players below.

Music video for “Hope,” made by Bret Bohman using footage he shot during his 2018 trip to Europe