New Vocal Music from Network and Felyx_M

A joint program was offered this weekend by Network for New Music and Felyx_M, a new chamber choir venture of the Mendelssohn Club, featuring music by six Philadelphia composers:

L to R: Donald St. Pierre, Jennifer Higdon, myself, Cynthia Folio, Jan Krzwycki, Thomas Whitman (photo by Lisa Miller)

The concert was a mix of choral and solo pieces, with Network musicians accompanying the full choir and soloists drawn from the choir. Soprano Barbara Berry did my Ariel Songs, with Susan Nowicki at the piano – Barbara’s lovely voice was at its best in the solemn “Full Fathom Five”. There were also brief solo songs by Jennifer Higdon (a brave soul, setting her own texts!) and works for the choir by:

Cynthia Folio – a piece about music boxes, ending with a charming aleatoric texture created by actual music boxes (made me think of this, though Cynthia’s ending was lovely rather than patience-trying).

Jan Krzwycki – a setting of joyful Rexroth Christmas verses, richly accompanied by piano, celesta, harp and strings.

Tom Whitman – working with Walt Whitman (no relation) Civil War poetry; the closing setting, “Reconciliation”, in which one soldier leans to kiss his enemy in his coffin, inspired some especially haunting music.

Donald St. Pierre – the Mendelssohn Club composer in residence and rehearsal accompanist juxtaposed Thomas Traherne with the hymn “Morning has Broken”, inviting the audience to join in the hymn to close, recalling those Britten pieces where the assembly joins in – I’d like to try a piece that does that some time.

Thanks to Network and Mendelssohn Club for putting this together, and to the Community Music School in Trappe, PA (who presented Saturday’s concert) and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society (who presented the Sunday performance).

Update: review from David Patrick Stearns here.

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