I greatly enjoyed the 21st Century Consort’s performance of my Icons for clarinet, piano and electronic sound last week. Clarinetist Paul Rardin and pianist Lisa Emenheiser completely mastered the formidable challenges of the piece, which requires precise rhythmic synchronization with the pre-recorded electronic component. I was impressed by both players, but Lisa was simply astonishing, and not just because she handled the extensive inside-the-piano portions of the piece with sensitivity. Being a fairly petite woman, she needed to stand up to reach into the instrument, and to avoid frequent shifts between standing and sitting, she played many of the piece’s difficult keyboard passages while standing up!
The program, part of the Consort’s 40th anniversary season, had something of a retrospective flavor, in that a couple of other pieces on the program (along with mine) were revivals of music previously programmed by the group. These included George Crumb’s Voice of the Whale (complete with masks and blue lighting), and Joseph Schwantner’s Sparrows, the latter having been written for the 21st Century Consort. Soprano Mary Mackenzie was the soloist for the Schwantner, a part originally performed by Lucy Shelton, with whom Mary studied. The program was rounded out by Andrea Clearfield’s Convergence for viola and piano. I was struck by the compelling dramatic shape of this piece which held me throughout. There is an excellent recording of Convergence on the Bridge label, featuring the artists for whom the piece was written: violist Barbara Westphal and pianist Christian Ruvalo.
There was also a Philadelphia angle to the program, as George, Andrea, and I are all based in the Philadelphia area.
Here is a picture of myself, Andrea and Christopher Kendall, founding artistic director and conductor of the 21st Century Consort, chatting at a pre-concert event. Many thanks to Christopher and the Consort members for their continued advocacy of my music. You can hear the group on Bridge’s CD of my vocal music, Sacred Songs, and on a new Albany release, Cathedral Music, which includes my Sacred Songs and Meditations. (Thanks to Andrea’s friend Gina Biver for the picture.)