Tuesday, August 25, 2015

In the News: SF Bay Times

Opera Superstar Frederica Von Stade to Sing Street Requiem in Support of Homeless Choir 

reposted from:  http://sfbaytimes.com/opera-superstar-frederica-von-stade-to-sing-street-requiem-in-support-of-homeless-choir/

operaladyFamed mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade will join with a mass chorus of singers and chamber orchestra in two California premiere performances of Street Requiem by Australian composers Dr. Kathleen McGuire, Andy Payne, and Dr. Jonathon Welch AM. Other vocal soloists include Blake Quin, Ilyas Iliya and Mark Jackson.
This week, it was also announced that Street Requiem has been selected as a semi-finalist in the professional choral composition division of The American Prize national non-profit competitions in the performing arts. (For more information, see http://theamericanprize.blogspot.com.au/2015/08/composer-semi-finalists-2015-choral.html)
McGuire, who is well known to Bay Area audiences having led the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and others from 2000 to 2013, will return from Melbourne, Australia, to conduct Street Requiem on Saturday, August 29, at 7:00pm at Old First Presbyterian Church at 1751 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, and on Sunday, August 30, at 2:00pm at the Congregational Church of San Mateo, 225 Tilton
Avenue in San Mateo.
The concert is a benefit for Singers of the Street (SOS), which McGuire founded in 2010. Now led by Ashley Moore and a project of Welcome, SOS is a choir of San Franciscans who have experienced, or are at risk of, homelessness. Its mission is to raise their voices for justice, healing and joy. SOS will open the concert and will also sing with the mass choir in Street Requiem.
opera2Street Requiem provides a musical opportunity for us to mourn not only the homeless who have passed away, but also our own frustration that there are still so many homeless individuals living in streets and shelters,” said the Rev. Megan Rohrer, Executive Director of Welcome. “Beyond a one of a kind concert experience, audience members can also celebrate that the price of admission enables homeless individuals to heal and express themselves for years to come.”
Composed in 2014, Street Requiem has already received international acclaim. Music critic Wayne Lee Gay (Dallas Magazine) said: “A remarkable, unique and beautiful work…an unfailingly engaging cantata. The religious texts were constantly questioned, but with an effect that produces transformation rather than blasphemy. The audience is never let off the hook: in the final movement, the chorus intones, as if to remind those who observe suffering are as much in need of divine intervention and guidance as those who suffer directly: ‘Given them peace. Give us peace.’”
Street Requiem is a 40-minute multi-movement cantata scored for choirs, soloists, and chamber orchestras. It aims to bring a sense of peace, remembrance, and hope to communities struggling with homelessness, poverty, war, hate-crime and street violence. The work is neither secular nor religious, but is intended to be spiritual and includes English and African lyrics, as well as traditional Latin texts. While at times deeply moving, the work is optimistic and uplifting, and employs Gospel, Celtic, neo-Romantic, neo-Baroque, and contemporary compositional styles and instrumentation to reflect the multicultural and multi-faith traditions of modern city living.
opera
McGuire said, “Street Requiem provides an opportunity to mourn those we’ve lost—often ‘nameless’ on our streets—and to protest the tragic injustices we witness every day. These are global issues, but we can each make a difference, one by one. Ms. von Stade’s generous participation is a testament to the importance of this project and the wider cause.”
Ms. von Stade will be joined on stage by a mass choir including singers from The Choral Project (San Jose), the Chancel Choir of the Congregational Church of San Mateo, singers from CREDO (Dallas, Texas, who performed the U.S. premiere in January), and Singers of the Street (San Francisco). Accompaniment will be provided by members of the Community Women’s Orchestra, and Carl Pantle will play piano.

Rehearsals led by Stephanie Lynne Smith, Grace Renaud, Daniel Hughes, Dana Sadava, Dr. Jonathan Palant and Carl Pantle are currently underway in San Francisco and San Mateo; singers wishing to participate should visit: trybooking.com/IEJK
Tickets for Street Requiem range from $15–$50 and are available online at http://streetrequiem.blogspot.com/p/tickets.html or by calling (415) 731-1305. All proceeds benefit Singers of the Street.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

STREET REQUIEM a semi-finalist for The American Prize

Great News! STREET REQUIEM has been selected as a semi-finalist in the professional choral composition division of The American Prize national non-profit competitions in the performing arts.

Here's the link: http://theamericanprize.blogspot.com.au/2015/08/composer-semi-finalists-2015-choral.html?m=1. The American Prize will be announcing finalists in my division next month. You can learn more about this prestigious national competition here: www.theamericanprize.org or follow the news on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-American-Prize-celebrating-American-excellence-in-the-arts/214320622728 or Twitter: https://twitter.com/americanprize

Friday, July 31, 2015

Street Requiem – California Premiere
OPERA SUPERSTAR FREDERICA VON STADE
SINGS STREET REQUIEM TO SUPPORT HOMELESS CHOIR
Frederica-von-Stade-Photo.jpg
SAN FRANCISCO and SAN MATEO – Famed mezzo-soprano, Frederica von Stade will join with a mass chorus of singers and chamber orchestra in two California premiere performances of Street Requiem by Australian composers Dr. Kathleen McGuire, Andy Payne, and Dr. Jonathon Welch AM.
McGuire, who is well known to Bay Area audiences having led the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and others from 2000 to 2013, will return from Melbourne, Australia, to conduct Street Requiem on Saturday, August 29 at 7:00PM at Old First Presbyterian Church at 1751 Sacramento Street, San Francisco and on Sunday, August 30 at 2:00PM at the Congregational Church of San Mateo, 225 Tilton Avenue in San Mateo.
The concert is a benefit for Singers of the Street (SOS), which McGuire founded in 2010. Now led by Ashley Wai'olu Moore and a project of Welcome, SOS is a choir of San Franciscans who have experienced or are at risk of homelessness. Its mission is to raise their voices for justice, healing and joy. SOS will open the concert and will also sing with the mass choir in Street Requiem.  
“STREET REQUIEM provides a musical opportunity for us mourn not only the homeless who have passed away, but our own frustration that there are still so many homeless individuals living in streets and shelters,” said the Rev. Megan Rohrer, Executive Director of Welcome.  “Beyond a one of a kind concert experience, audience members can also celebrate that the price of admission enables homeless individuals to heal and express themselves for years to come.”

Composed in 2014, Street Requiem has already received international acclaim. Music critic Wayne Lee Gay (Dallas Magazine) said: "A remarkable, unique and beautiful work... an unfailingly engaging cantata. The religious texts were constantly questioned, but with an effect that produces transformation rather than blasphemy. The audience is never let off the hook: in the final movement, the chorus intones, as if to remind those who observe suffering are as much in need of divine intervention and guidance as those who suffer directly: 'Given them peace. Give us peace'."

Street Requiem is a 40-minute multi-movement cantata scored for choirs, soloists, and chamber orchestras. It aims to bring a sense of peace, remembrance, and hope to communities struggling with homelessness, poverty, war, hate-crime and street violence. The work is neither secular nor religious, but is intended to be spiritual and includes English and African lyrics, as well as traditional Latin texts. While at times deeply moving, the work is optimistic and uplifting, and employs Gospel, Celtic, neo-Romantic, neo-Baroque, and contemporary compositional styles and instrumentation to reflect the multicultural and multi-faith traditions of modern city living.
Kathleen McGuire, composer and conductor, said: “Street Requiem provides an opportunity to mourn those we’ve lost – often ‘nameless’ on our streets – and to protest the tragic injustices we witness every day. These are global issues, but we can each make a difference, one by one. Ms. von Stade’s generous participation is a testament to the importance of this project and the wider cause.”
Ms. von Stade will be joined on stage by a mass choir including singers from The Choral Project (San Jose), the Chancel Choir of the Congregational Church of San Mateo, singers from CREDO (Dallas, Texas, who performed the US premiere in January), and Singers of the Street (San Francisco). Accompaniment will be provided by members of the Community Women’s Orchestra, and Carl Pantle will play piano.
Rehearsals led by Stephanie Lynne Smith, Grace Renaud, Daniel Hughes, Dana Sadava, Dr. Jonathan Palant and Carl Pantle are currently underway in San Francisco and San Mateo; singers wishing to participate should visit: trybooking.com/IEJK
Tickets for Street Requiem range from $15 - $50 and are available online at http://streetrequiem.blogspot.com/p/tickets.html or by calling (415) 731-1305.
All proceeds benefit Singers of the Street.


ABOUT FREDERICA VON STADE
Described by the New York Times as “one of America’s finest artists and singers,” Frederica von Stade continues to be extolled as one of the music world’s most beloved figures. Known to family, friends, and fans by her nickname “Flicka,” the mezzo-soprano has enriched the world of classical music for four decades.
Ms. von Stade’s career has taken her to the stages of the world’s great opera houses and concert halls. She began at the top, when she received a contract from Sir Rudolf Bing during the Metropolitan Opera auditions, and since her debut in 1970 she has sung nearly all of her great roles with that company. In addition, Ms. von Stade has appeared with every leading American opera company, including San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Los Angeles Opera. Her career in Europe has been no less spectacular, with new productions mounted for her at Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera, and the Paris Opera. She is invited regularly by the finest conductors, among them Claudio Abbado, Charles Dutoit, James Levine, Kurt Masur, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, AndrĂ© Previn, Leonard Slatkin, and Michael Tilson Thomas, to appear in concert with the world’s leading orchestras, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra, Washington’s National Symphony, and the Orchestra of La Scala.
Her repertoire is continually expanding with the works of contemporary composers. She created the role of Tina in Dallas Opera’s world premiere production of Dominick Argento’s The Aspern Papers (a work written for her) as well as the role of Madame de Merteuil in Conrad Susa’s Dangerous Liaisons and Mrs. Patrick De Rocher in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, both for San Francisco Opera. In the 2013-14 season, Ms. von Stade created the role of Myrtle Bledsoe in the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s A Coffin in Egypt at Houston Grand Opera, a role she performed later that season at Opera Philadelphia and The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. Ms. von Stade will reprise the role of Myrtle Bledsoe with the Chicago Opera Theater in the 2014-15 season.
She has made over seventy recordings with every major label, including complete operas, aria albums, symphonic works, solo recital programs, and popular crossover albums. Her recordings have garnered six Grammy nominations, two Grand Prix du Disc awards, the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, Italy’s Premio della Critica Discografica, and “Best of the Year” citations by Stereo Review and Opera News. She has enjoyed the distinction of holding simultaneously the first and second places on national sales charts for Angel/EMI’s Show Boat and Telarc’s The Sound of Music.
Frederica von Stade is the holder of honorary doctorates from Yale University, Boston University, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (which holds a Frederica von Stade Distinguished Chair in Voice), the Georgetown University School of Medicine, and her alma mater, the Mannes School of Music. In 1998 Ms. von Stade was awarded France’s highest honor in the Arts when she was appointed as an officer of L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 1983 she was honored with an award given at The White House by President Reagan in recognition of her significant contribution to the arts. For more information, visit fredericavonstade.com


ABOUT SINGERS OF THE STREET
Singers of the Street (S.O.S.) is a San Francisco-based community choir for people affected by homelessness. S.O.S. was founded in September 2010 by Dr Kathleen McGuire and is now led by Ashley Moore. S.O.S. has performed widely; its “Stand By Me” video was included in the cultural festival of the London Olympics. S.O.S. also performed at Davies Symphony Hall for the 100th anniversary of the San Francisco Symphony. The group meets each Wednesday morning for rehearsal and a meal at the First Congregational Church of San Francisco. Membership is open to all age 18 or over. No experience or auditions are necessary.


More than a dozen choirs of a similar focus are already operating successfully in Dallas, Chicago, Madison WI, Washington D.C., Australia, Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom. Their success has been threefold:
  1. Providing participants with a strong sense of purpose, achievement, teambuilding, socialization, community, and 'family'.
  2. Building participants' self-esteem, self-worth and self-respect via audience appreciation.
  3. Giving audiences a positive, personal, and human experience of people who are homeless and disadvantaged.
For more information, visit: www.singersofthestreet.org

Monday, February 16, 2015

In the News: NPR's All things Considered

The Dallas Street Choir performed in T-shirts, then changed into formalwear for the Street Requiem. Baritone Russell Rodriguez is in front, far right, in an orange T-shirt.
The Dallas Street Choir performed in T-shirts, then changed into formalwear for the Street Requiem. Baritone Russell Rodriguez is in front, far right, in an orange T-shirt.Courtesy of Mark Mullaney 
 
The Dallas City Performance Hall is packed, sold out. As the late arrivers scramble down the aisles looking for their seats, two dozen homeless singers quietly walk out of the wings and line up across the stage single file. It's a thin band stretched across a large expanse of stage and they look fairly terrified. The orchestra plays the opening bars of "Somewhere" from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story. The house goes completely quiet, a sense of anxiety in the air. The Dallas Street Choir has been practicing for months, but as they begin, it's shaky.

If they're still a bit wobbly, it's nothing compared to before. The road to the performing stage began last year at the city's largest homeless shelter, The Stewpot. Veteran Dallas choral director Jonathan Palant stands at the front of the room with two long rows of homeless people facing him. Palant has about five regulars. The other 20 singers are constantly changing.

Palant used to do this once a year, at Christmas — a couple of hours of rehearsal and then they'd put on a nice little singing concert at the huge Christmas meal for the homeless. But now he's trying for something much more ambitious. And risky. Palant says he's practiced with 57 different homeless singers over the last 12 weeks.

"Every week is a new challenge," Palant says. "Every week it's a new chorus. It's difficult, it's difficult to be consistent in our musical preparation. My goal however is that we just continue to get better."

Russell Rodriguez is one of the regulars. A 53-year-old day laborer from Sweetwater, Texas, he lost his apartment six months ago. So, for the time being, he sleeps in the shelter and cuts lawns and works construction to accumulate a security deposit and a few months' rent. Rodriguez joined the Dallas Street Choir because he sang in high school and wants to perform in front of an audience one more time. He's taking it very seriously.

"Yeah, I'm nervous every day," Rodriguez says. "I get nervous 'cause the date's getting closer and I don't want to make a fool out of myself in front of everybody."
Composer Jonathon Welch (left), mezzo Frederica von Stade and conductor Jonathan Palant after the U.S. premiere of Street Requiem.
Composer Jonathon Welch (left), mezzo Frederica von Stade and conductor Jonathan Palant after the U.S. premiere of Street Requiem.  Courtesy of Mark Mullaney 
 
Hotel rooms have been donated and the women will sing in custom-made evening gowns, the men in tuxes. Rodriguez's eyes light up at the prospect — a night on the town, the star of the show.
"I mean, I haven't been in a tux since I got married," Rodriguez says. "That was a long, long time ago."

A month later, Rodriguez is wearing his tux, squinting against the klieg lights while anchoring the baritones. Suddenly a world-famous opera singer appears on the stage seemingly out of nowhere. Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade walks into the in the middle of the Dallas Street Choir and puts her arms around two of the singers.

Under the spell of von Stade's voice, the hall is transformed. There's suddenly a lot of surreptitious wiping of eyes. Must be a little dusty in here. Backed by the power of the great mezzo, the Dallas Street Choir finds its stride. It was a turning point. The crowd loved it and everyone, performers and audience, relaxed.

In the second act, the Dallas Street Choir was joined by the Richland College Chamber Singers and the local ecumenical choir CREDO; surrounded by a hundred trained voices, they happily performed the American premiere of Street Requiem, which was written just last year by Australian composers Kathleen McGuire, Andy Payne and Jonathon Welch. The 10-movement piece honors the world's homeless who've died disregarded on the pavement and in the dirt. When it was over, the audience offered a long standing ovation.

Backstage the members of the Dallas Street Choir celebrated, laughing and taking group pictures of themselves in their tuxedos and long dresses. The transformation was frankly astonishing. Rodriguez looked so proud his bow tie threatened to pop off.
Members of the Dallas Street Choir in formalwear.
Members of the Dallas Street Choir in formalwear.Courtesy of Mark Mullaney 
 
"I thought it was awesome, man. I think we pulled it off and tonight I'm going to enjoy a room in the motel and sleep late in the morning," Rodriguez said, laughing.

It was an evening, they said, they'd remember the rest of their lives. For a night, two dozen of Dallas' homeless people were lifted from the city's cold streets and sidewalks to bask in the warm glow of spotlights. For the usual hostility and indifference to their fate, they were traded love, respect and goodwill. One performance only.