The second episode of Encore Houston presents KINETIC, the conductorless ensemble in their season-opening concert of 2016, “Illuminations.” a concert which began with the premiere of Luctus Profugis. Encore Houston, hosted by Joshua Zinn, airs Saturdays at 10 pm, with a repeat broadcast Sundays at 4 PM, all on Houston Public Media Classical.
What characterizes American classical music today? The Da Camera Young Artists explore this question at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston in a concert entitled “Defining America”. The performance features the music of living American composers Angélica Negrón, Jason Treuting, and Karim Al-Zand’s Duo for Flute and Cello. Performances are free and take place in the exhibition’s galleries at 2pm and 3pm on Saturday, February 4th. Performers include Amanda Galick, flute and Sonya Matoussova, cello.
Ring the Bells at Break of Day was written to mark the 40th anniversary of the Shepherd School of Music, as part of a project to commission each of the school’s faculty composers on this auspicious occasion. The piece is a short, joyful and celebratory work, which commemorates the outstanding music-making that has flourished over the school’s history. The piece was premièred on December 2, 2016 under the direction of Larry Rachleff.
And, oh, the bells at break of day
That roused us, ringing merrily!
—John Morgan (1889)
I wrote Ring the Bells at Break of Day while living in Rome in 2016, and it features a stately chorale tune, Inni e canti [Hymns and Songs], which rang daily from a bell tower across the street. The graceful hymn is interrupted by a quick, punchy theme in the winds (and later, strings)—perhaps the sounds of street bustle and frenetic motor traffic. Eventually the majestic chorale returns: in a solo horn, a short fugato, and finally in combination with the ecstatic, lively music. The piece closes with the jubilant pealing of bells.
Kinetic, the dynamic conductorless string orchestra led by Natalie Lin, performed the world premiere of Luctus Profugis on October 16, 2016. The performance, at the MATCH theater in Houston, was as part of its “Illuminations” concert, also featuring works by Britten and Schoenberg’s Verlärte Nacht. The concert was also attended by member of various Houston refugee relief agencies and advocates, including PAIR Houston.
Luctus Profugis is a lament that reflects on the current European refugee crisis. The title translates roughly from the Latin as “Grief for the Displaced.” The word “profugus” has a connection to the opening lines of Virgil’s “Aeneid,” which describes one of the earliest refugees: Aeneas fleeing the Trojan war to the shores of Italy. In Luctus Profugis, the percussionist at the heart of the ensemble plays a simple three-note motive that repeats for the duration of the piece. Its persistence symbolizes for me the refugees’ journey, their tenacity, courage and resilience.
The current European refugee crisis started in 2015, when tens of thousands of migrants began fleeing their war ravaged homes to seek asylum in the West. Displaced families, primarily from Syria and other areas of conflict, endured perilous journeys to reach safe destinations in the EU. The most dangerous routes have included crossings of the Eastern Mediterranean to ports in Greece and Italy. Thousands of migrants are estimated to have perished at sea. In the United States, which arguably has played the largest role in catalyzing the migration, the reaction to the crisis has been characterized politically by inaction and fear-mongering. Governors in 26 states (including Texas) have refused to settle Syrian asylum seekers. To date, the US has settled 0.05% of the total number of refugees. Canada and Germany have settled over 19 times that number. It is my hope that Luctus Profugis serves as not only an elegy, but also a call to action.
Violinist Natalie Lin and pianist David Mamedov performed the final movement of Imaginary Scenes on February 20th, in Washington, DC as part of the Shepherd School of Music’s contribution to the Kennedy Center’s Conservatory Project. View the terrific performance of Whirling Dervish above.