May 23 2023 at 7:30PM, at DiMenna Center’s Cary Hall, Ekmeles sings Verfluchung, a program featuring a world premiere by Corie Rose Soumah, the live premieres two works only previously recorded by Joshua Alvarez Mastel and Katherine Balch, a recent Ekmeles commission by Erin Gee, and the title work: a monumental trio by Mathias Spahlinger.
Mathias Spahlinger’s verfluchung is a searing 30 minute tour de force for three vocalists playing small wooden percussion. The title translates to a ‘cursing’, and Li Tai-Pei’s text ‘cursed be war, cursed be the work of weapons’ is intoned, broken apart, and repeated endlessly, in a powerful cry for peace. The titanic structure of the piece is built on prime numbers, especially twin primes, separated by two. E.g. 107 and 109.
Joshua Alvarez Mastel’s animal takes a fragile and intimate soundworld of subtle vocalization, and makes it mechanically intense via the means of close amplification. The composer’s performance note for the piece implores the singers to ‘focus their performance inwardly, as if singing to each other in a darkened cellar’. Gossamer threads of voice at the edge of control are gently passed back and forth across the ensemble in space, with each voice placed in a single speaker surrounding the audience.
Corie Rose Soumah’s like a frog on the road to it will explore aspects of her biracial identity, and will feature immersive, uninterrupted electronics throughout, making use of a complex 6-speaker setup surrounding the audience.
Katherine Balch’s forgetting takes as its text an excerpt from Katie Ford’s Estrangement, dealing with forgetting as a labor and a practice, a kind of inverse of learning. Stuttering and whispered vocal figures are complemented by the clicking of toy ratchets played by each member of the ensemble. The work grows toward a gentle chorale, only to be overwhelmed by the crescendo of the ratchets.
Finally Erin Gee’s Mouthpiece XXXVI, written for Ekmeles after working with the composer to record her Three Scenes from Sleep, and with the support of a Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Grant, skitters and pops along with Gee’s idiosyncratic and idiomatic vocal gestures. Despite the unfamiliar materials, the subtle play of repetition and variation draws the listener forward through the intricate web of voices.
- Corie Rose Soumah – like a frog on the road to it (2023) World Premiere
- Katherine Balch – forgetting (2021) Live Premiere
- Joshua Alvarez Mastel – animal (2021) Live Premiere
- Erin Gee – Mouthpiece XXXVI (2021)
- Mathias Spahlinger – verfluchung (1983/85) US Premiere
Total duration of the program is approximately 90 minutes including 10 minute intermission.
Personnel for concert
- Charlotte Mundy, soprano
- Elisa Sutherland, mezzo soprano
- Timothy Parsons, countertenor
- Gregório Taniguchi, tenor
- Jeffrey Gavett, baritone and director
- Steven Hrycelak, bass
Ekmeles’s 2022-2023 season is made possible with funds from the Amphion Foundation, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Alice M. Ditson Fund, The Fritz Reiner Center for Contemporary Music, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Ekmeles is a recipient of the 2023 Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation Ensemble Prize.