"Of Dreams, Desires & Dragons: Music by Women from Hildegarde to Joni Mitchell"

Earle Recital Hall, Smith College (51 College Lane, Northampton, MA 1063)

Photo By Lynne Graves
Entertainment + Music
The Grammy-nominated **Western Wind Vocal Sextet **will present "**Of Dreams, Desires & Dragons: Music by Women from Hildegarde to Joni Mitchell"**on Monday August 8, at 8:00 PM at **the Earle Recital Hall **in Sage Hall on the Smith campus. The concert kicks-off a 5-day workshop in ensemble singing at Smith College. The concert celebrates women composers with a rich assortment of music by classical and modern composers from Hildegarde to Joni Mitchell. The program features "Certain Dragons" by Martha Sullivan, Medieval chant by Hildegarde von Bingen, Baroque works by Strozzi, and Aleotti, part-songs by Fanny Hensel, Rebecca Clarke and Amy Beach, and songs by Joni Mitchell. “Certain Dragons” was made possible by the Chamber Music America Commissioning program with support provided by the Andrew Mellon Foundation. Also featured are Fantasy Variations on *Ave Maris Stella* for viola da gamba by Susan Matsui. ___ The Western Wind singers are sopranos Linda Lee Jones and Christina Kay (guest artist), countertenor Eric S. Brenner, tenors Todd Frizzell and David Vanderwal, and bass Paul Greene-Dennis. They will be joined by guest artist Robert Eisenstein on viola da gamba. ___ For more concert information, please call 212-873-2848 or e-mail: info@westernwind.org. ___ Western Wind began its 53rd year in 2022. Since 1969, this Grammy nominated vocal sextet has devoted itself to the special beauty and variety of *a cappella* music. The New York Times has called them "A kaleidoscopic tapestry of vocal hues." The ensemble’s repertoire reveals its diverse background, from Renaissance motets to Fifties rock’n’roll, medieval carols to Duke Ellington, complex works by avant-garde composers to the simplest folk melodies. Visit them at http://www.westernwind.org. ___ **B A C K G R O U N D** ___ **COMPOSERS IN THIS CONCERT** **Hildegarde von Bingen** (1098-1179) Abbess, artist, author, composer, mystic, pharmacist, poet, preacher, theologian. She was born into a noble family and at eighteen she became a Benedictine nun Ordered by her confessor to write down the visions that she had received since the age of three, she went on to write short works on medicine and physiology as well as rhapsodic religious chants. ___ ___ ___ **Barbara Strozzi **(1619- c. 1664) A composer and singer publishing eight collections of songs - more music in print during her lifetime than even the most famous composers of her day - without the support of the Church or the patronage of a noble house. She is sometimes credited with the genesis of the cantata. Her works were included in important collections of song, which found their way to the rest of Europe and England. Yet she died in obscurity in Padua in 1677 with little wealth or property. She grew up in a household frequented by the greatest literary and musical minds of the age. She was the adopted daughter of poet Giulio Strozzi, who was the founder of several accademie or groups of creative intellectuals and was an influential member of the *Accademia degli Incogniti*. This group was almost single-handedly responsible for the 'invention' and spread of what was to become known as Opera. It was into this milieu that young Barbara was introduced as a singer and composer. ___ **Vittoria Aleotti (1575-1620)** Italian Augustinian nun, a composer and organist. She was renowned for her skills at the organ and also well known in playing other instruments such as the harpsichord, the trombone, and other wind instruments. She had the talent and the skills to lead an ensemble of twenty-three nuns; she was also the Maestra at the convent until her death. She enjoyed complex music and would often use harmony and dissonance to heighten the text. However, she was at times criticized because some thought that as the music became more complex by utilizing more voices, the holiness of the music disappeared and gave way to pleasure! Program includes both a sexy madrigal and a sacred motet. ___ **Fanny Hensel (****1805-1847**) Fanny Hensel Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn’s sister, was born in Hamburg, the oldest of four children. She was descended on both sides from distinguished Jewish families and shared the early musical education and upbringing of her younger brother Felix. The siblings shared a great passion for music. Like Felix (who was born in 1809), Fanny showed prodigious musical ability as a child and began to write music. Visitors to the Mendelssohn household in the early 1820s were equally impressed by both siblings. However, Fanny was limited by prevailing attitudes of the time toward women, attitudes apparently shared by her father, who was tolerant, rather than supportive of her activities as a composer. Although Felix was privately broadly supportive of her as a composer and a performer, he was cautious (professedly for family reasons) of her publishing her works under her own name. Felix did however arrange for a number of her songs to be published under his name. Program includes several of her Romantic vocal quartets. ___ **Amy Beach (1867-1944)** Amy Beach was born in New Hampshire into a distinguished New England family. A child prodigy, she was able to sing forty tunes accurately by age one; by age two she could improvise a countermelody to any melody her mother sang. She taught herself to read at only four years old and began composing simple waltzes at five years old. She began formal piano lessons with her mother at the age of six and a year later started giving public recitals, playing works by Handel, Beethoven, Chopin and her own pieces. The Program includes one of her Shakespeare Songs for four high voices. ___ **Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979)** Rebecca Clarke achieved what she called “my one little whiff of success” in 1919 when her viola Sonata tied for first place in a competition sponsored by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. Clarke lived much of her life in the US, although she was born and educated in Great Britain. Striking for its passion and power, her music spans a range of 20th-century styles including Impressionism, post-Romantic, and neo-Classical. Although she wrote nearly 100 works (including songs, choral works, chamber pieces and music for solo piano), only 20 pieces were published in her lifetime. The program includes her Ave Maria. ___ ___ ___ **Joni Mitchell (b. 1943)** Roberta Joan "Joni" Mitchell is a Canadian singer-songwriter. Drawing from folk, pop, rock, and jazz, Mitchell's songs often reflect social and environmental ideals as well as her feelings about romance, confusion, disillusionment, and joy. The program includes two of her songs: "Woodstock" and "Both Sides Now," arranged by Yumiko Matsuoka. ___ **Martha Sullivan (b. 1964)** Martha Sullivan composed her first works for voice during the seven years she sang with the Gregg Smith Singers, who promoted new American choral music for half a century. She has become a sought-after New York composer of music for voices. In 2018, Ms. Sullivan was awarded a Chamber Music America Composer’s Commission award to create "Certain Dragons,” a multi-movement work for The Western Wind. The five movements of "Certain Dragons" are unified by texts that all refer to dragons by John Keats, W.B. Yeats, Siegfried Sassoon, Trad. African-American and Martha Sullivan herself. ************************************************************************** **Susan Matsui (b. 1959)** Susan Matsui began composing as a child. She plays French horn, piano, and organ, and many medieval and folk instruments, both string and wind. She studied composition at Williams College with Dan Gutwein and at the Salzburg Mozarteum with Cesar Bresgan. From 1982 to 2000 Susan lived in Japan, where her three children were born, and where she became an author of Japanese books and songs. She has published thirty-five books for children, including four songbooks; also one book of essays for adults, several translations of German children’s books into Japanese, and four kamishibai, or paper plays. Her compositions for vocal and instrumental soloists and ensembles have been performed in Japan and America. Since 2000, she has lived in western Massachusetts, where she is now an elementary school music teacher, high school strings teacher, and church organist and choir director (St. Mark’sEpiscopal Church in East Longmeadow, MA). She continues to write stories for the Japanese children’s book market and compose chamber music, songs, and sacred music, while enjoying country life with her family. Susan is also a great lover of medieval music, and plays a variety of medieval and Renaissance stringed instruments, as well as folk fiddle. ___ ___ **WESTERN WIND: SIGNATURE PERFORMANCES AND RECORDINGS** In the United States, Western Wind has appeared in many distinguished venues, including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, ArtPark, Ordway Theater, the Metropolitan Museum, the Frick Museum, the Jewish Museum, Folger Shakespeare Library, Library of Congress, and Cleveland Museum of Art. ___ In Europe, the sextet has appeared at the Geneva Opera, performing works it commissioned: "Batéy" by Tania León and Michel Camilo and "De Orishas" by Tania León. The Western Wind has also recorded early and contemporary American vocal music for the German National Radio at Cologne and made several triumphant tours of northern Italy, performing Italian Renaissance as well as American music. The group has appeared with the RAI Orchestra and Chorus of Rome at the Rome Opera and at Venice’s legendary opera house, Teatro La Fenice. In 1985, The Western Wind premiered Cesar Franck’s opera, "Stradella," for La Fenice in an outdoor Venetian setting. At the request of the State Department (USIA), The Western Wind has also performed American and Latin American music throughout East Asia. In March 2012 The Western Wind was invited to inaugurate the first Australian Jewish Choral Festival, performed widely in the Sydney area and created a special program for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. ___ In 2007, The Western Wind won the ASCAP-Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music. In addition to their many live performances, The Western Wind appears frequently on radio, television, film and CD. A series of public radio holiday specials by The Western Wind has been broadcast nationwide since 1989 and the group has been televised on The Today Show (NBC). On film, the ensemble sings music by Philip Glass in the movies "Koyaanisqatsi" (Nonesuch Records) and "Candyman." ___ Public Radio holiday programming includes "Chanukkah in Story & Song," narrated by Leonard Nimoy, "The Birthday of The World: Music and traditions of the High Holy Days, narrated by Leonard Nimoy and "Holiday Light: Singing Angels, Silver Bells," narrated by Roma Downey, which have all become public radio perennials. Award-winning recordings include "I Am the Rose of Sharon: Early American Vocal Music" (Grammy nominee, 1973) and "The Happy Journey" (both Early American Vocal Music), "Christmas in the New World" and "Holiday Light" (Christmas); "Mazal Bueno, A Portrait in Song of the Spanish Jews," narrated by Tovah Feldshuh; "Taste of Eternity, A Musical Shabbat," "The Passover Story," narrated by Theo Bikel; "Blessings and Batéy," featuring music by David Darling, Tania León, and Michel Camilo; "My Funny Valentine" (Pop and Jazz) and "Man in The Moon: music of Robert Dennis." A CD featuring two works written for The Western Wind by Meredith Monk and Eric Salzman was chosen album of the week by WQXR Q2. Western Wind’s latest release is "We Are Still Here – The Holocaust Through Music & Memory." A version of this program, narrated by Danny Burstein and Jessica Hecht, is distributed to public radio stations by Public Radio International. ___ The Western Wind presents workshops in ensemble singing at Smith College and other venues in Washington, DC and Vermont. The ensemble is in residence at several New York City public high schools, providing intensive instruction in ensemble and solo repertoire as well as interdisciplinary lecture demonstrations. (www.westernwind.org) ___ ___ **SINGERS OF THE WESTERN WIND VOCAL SEXTET** ___ **Eric S. Brenner **(countertenor) has been hailed for his "penetrating eloquence" (NY Times), "astonishing musicality" (NY Classical Review) and "Mr. Roboto majesty" (Stage Mage). You may recognize him as the angry monk just to Madonna’s right in footage from the 2018 Met Gala. Brenner is countertenor soloist in recent performances and recording of Hannah Lash’s "Requiem" (Naxos) and Du Yun’s Pulitzer Prize winning "Angel’s Bone" (VIA Records). Other engagements include: alto soloist in Vivaldi’s "Introduction & Gloria" at St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue; soprano and alto soloist in Handel’s "Messiah" at Avery Fisher (Geffen) and Alice Tully Hall; Bernstein’s "Chichester Psalms" at St. Thomas Church, St. John the Divine, and St. Ignatius Loyola; soprano in collaborative concerts with Les Canards Chantant and the Folger Consort at the National Cathedral; Doodle in "Scarlet Ibis" by Stefan Weisman and David Cote; and Poet in Virko Baley’s "Holodomor" in Ukraine. Brenner is also co-composer with Matt Shloss of music for Rob Reese’s Yahweh’s Follies. He writes fiction and persists in being an incorrigible Mets fan. (www.ericsbrenner.com) ___ **Paul Greene**-**Dennis** (bass) joins The Western Wind for the first time with this concert. Paul hails from Brentwood, NY. He is a versatile musician, mainly an opera singer, who also lends his bass to other styles and genres of music, including jazz. He has performed opera and oratorio with various organizations in the New York area including the Oratorio Society of New York, the Long Island Choral Society and the Queens College Opera Studio. Paul also does voice-over for various projects to which he has lent his voice and artistry. ___ **Todd Frizzell **(tenor) is a native of Denver Colorado. He has spent the last 25 years performing in San Francisco, Hawaii, and New York City. He has been featured on ABC-TV’s Nightline, singing music from a Mass written in the first millennium which he also performed in Limoges, France in May 2001. He has performed internationally with New York’s Ensemble for Early Music. He serenaded Dame Judi Dench in June 2000 at Broadway’s Ethyl Barrymore Theater. He was the tenor soloist in Handel’s "Israel in Egypt" at Avery Fisher Hall with the National Chorale and soloist at Alice Tully Hall with the National Symphony Orchestra. He has performed with the Choir of St. Luke in the Fields, The New York Virtuoso Singers, Musica Antica at St. Bart’s and the New York Concert Singers and has appeared at the Bard College Festival. ___ **Linda Lee Jones** (soprano), Soprano Linda Lee Jones has performed and recorded with a variety of vocal ensembles in New York and CA, including the choir of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Clarion Music Society, Musica Sacra, New York Choral Artists with the NY Philharmonic, Voices of Ascension, Antioch, Essential Voices, the choir of Trinity Wall Street Church, and the Carmel Bach Festival Chorale. As a member of the vocal sextet The Western Wind, Miss Jones performs a wide variety of music, spanning six centuries, enjoys coaching small ensembles at summer workshops for amateur singers, and recently co-curated their Holiday concert. Recent solo appearances include the role of Belinda in Dido and Aeneas, and a recital appearance at the Carmel Bach Festival. Recordings include the three Grammy nominated cds released by Clarion Music Society, and the newly released Robert Kyr: In Praise of Music, by the Antioch Chamber Ensemble. She earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Loyola University (New Orleans), and a Master of Music degree from Westminster Choir College, where she studied voice performance and choral conducting. ___ **Christina Kay **(*soprano*) enjoys a versatile career that spans concert, opera, and choral repertoire. An avid performer of early music, she made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2019 as soprano soloist in Handel's* Messiah* with the Masterwork Chorus and Orchestra. Her skill with Renaissance and Baroque-era repertoire has led her to notable summer festivals, including the Carmel Bach Festival's Virginia Best Adams Masterclass, the American Bach Soloists Academy, and the Baroque Opera Workshop at Queens College. In New York City, she performs with period ensembles ARTEK and The American Classical Orchestra, and has also appeared with Brooklyn Baroque, Ensemble Leonarda, and Gotham Early Music. Christina is particularly interested in ornamentation and improvisation of late Renaissance and early Baroque repertoire, and loves writing and performing her own ornamented arrangements of popular 16th and 17th century madrigals. Also a passionate advocate of contemporary works, she has performed the role of Lead Singer in Petr Kotik’s *Master-Pieces *(S.E.M. Ensemble), premiered the role of Daphne in David Chesky’s *La Farranucci *(Operavocateur), and most recently appeared as Annabelle in an Act I preview of Timothy Lee Miller’s new opera *The Bird Lady* with OperAvant, Inc. www.christinakaysoprano.com ___ **David Vanderwal **(tenor) is a native of Portland, Oregon. He has performed as a soloist with The American Bach Soloists, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra, Austin Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, New York Collegium and Tafelmusik. Recently Mr. Vanderwal performed in Handel’s "Messiah" with the St. Paul’s Cathedral Choirs of Buffalo, NY, Pax Christi of Toronto, ON, Danbury (CT) Symphony Orchestra, The Mendelssohn Choir (CT) and First Congregational Church of Greenwich, CT. He performed Bach’s "Easter Oratorio" and a new concert, "Mass of John Tavener," with the Choir of St. Thomas Church in New York. Mr. Vanderwal appeared at the Carmel Bach Festival in California and taught at the International Bachakademie’s Stuttgart Festival in Überlingen, Germany. He also presents a set of song recitals throughout the year.