Pictured below, from L to R: Heather Meyer, Robert S, Cohen, John Eaton, Christopher Berg, Daniel Neer, Peri Mauer, Debra Kaye, Jennifer Griffith, Patricia Leonard, Christopher Oldfather, Sharon Harms, Valerie Gonzalez.
New York Composers Circle
New Music for Voice and Piano
St. Peter’s Church, NYC
March 6, 2014
Written by Ted Gorodetzky
Neither inches of unwelcome snow nor blustery winter temperatures can keep a good concert down. The proof was last week’s presentation of new music from the New York Composers Circle concert at Saint Peter’s Church in midtown Manhattan. Forced to reschedule from their original January date due to weather none of us now miss, all composers and performers were remarkably able to reassemble on March 6th for a stimulating and varied evening that featured three premieres amongst the program of New Music for Voice and Piano.
Debra Kaye’s solo piano composition, “While We Were Sleeping”, a piece which sprang to life during the onset of Super Storm Sandy, introduced the evening with Craig Ketter at the keys. Following, was the ﬁrst performance of Peri Mauer’s At Home with Allen Ginsberg, a song cycle inspired by Ginsberg’s readings of his own poetry. The ﬁve evocative songs – including the dramatic “Sunset”, recounting the moving premature death of a young son – were brought to unique life by Daniel Neer’s expressive and dynamic
baritone paired with Christopher Berg’s skillful ﬂow at the piano. Parable, another song cycle, presented by composer Robert S. Cohen, brought Craig Ketter’s talents back to the piano and welcomed the lovely soprano, Valerie Gonzalez. This ambitious work, a New York premiere, utilized ten haikus by various Japanese poets to weave a narrative
illustrating natural cycles of life. Cohen’s song cycle, with its many components and frequent shifts, provided an intriguing change of pace from the lyric storytelling of Mauer’s compositions.
The evening’s second act began with a set of Rumi Songs. Jennifer Grifﬁth’s music, set to passionate and provocative texts, was matched in conviction by mezzo-soprano Heather Meyer’s performance. Christopher Oldfather, a musician well-deserving of the affection he receives, accompanied at the piano, where he remained for the rest of the concert.
Patricia Leonard’s Demonstrations of Love, three lush and rich compositions, were then presented for their ﬁrst American performance. The wonderfully romantic and pleasing pieces were infused with great emotion by Sharon Harms’ spirited and robust soprano.
Both Harms and Oldfather then returned to the stage to bring the program to its theatrical conclusion with the Sor Juana Songs, by John Eaton. The theme explored by Eaton here is love – illusive, rebellious, and even anguished love – and was keenly accentuated by
innovative choices, in both the musical composition and performance.
Although it may have taken six weeks to get here, New York Composer Circle’s concert was a welcome arrival. The simple balance of joining solo voice and piano offered a program that, regardless of style or subject matter, always achieved an intimate and comfortable setting. It is no easy task to create a salon within St. Peter’s cavernous and cold church, and their New Music for Voice and Piano concert did just that. What’s more, these fresh compositions complemented by refreshingly bold performances were well worth the wait.
TED GORODETZKY is a writer, performer, and stage director whose work has brought him across the United States and overseas. Recent directorial work in the realm of new music has included premieres at Long Leaf Opera Festival, Queens New Music Festival and Adelphi University. He is currently directing an evening of urban cantata with multimedia, which will see production in NYC in the spring and fall of 2014.