In conjunction with its Project W initiative which makes bold steps for gender equity in classical music, Chicago Sinfonietta announces performances of Hear Me Roar at Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville, IL (March 11, 2018, 3pm); and at Symphony Center, Chicago (March 12, 2018, 7:30pm).

This performance is the fourth of five Main Stage programs throughout the Sinfonietta’s 30th Anniversary Season. Maestro Mei-Ann Chen, who is Music Director of Chicago Sinfonietta, will conduct. Chicago Sinfonietta is Chicago’s professional orchestra dedicated to modeling and promoting diversity, inclusion, and both racial and cultural equity in the arts.

This timely and topical program includes new works Dance Card by recent Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon, as well as #MeToo by Reena Esmail, both commissioned as part of Sinfonietta’s Project W initiative. Featured instrumentalists include Carol Dylan, violin; Karen Nelson, violin; Marlea Simpson, viola; and Ann Griffin, cello. Hear Me Roar falls right after International Women’s Day (March 8) and within Women’s History Month (March).

The Program includes:
*Dances in the Canebrakes by Florence B. Price
*Dance Card by Jennifer Higdon (Chicago Premiere)
*#MeToo by Reena Esmail (World Premiere)
*Symphony in F sharp minor, Op. 41 by Dora Pejačević (Chicago Premiere)

The concert will be performed at Wentz Concert Hall, North Central College, 171 E. Chicago Ave, Naperville, IL on Sunday, March 11 at 3pm; and at Symphony Center, 220 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL on Monday, March 12 at 7:30pm.

Tickets range from $20-$99 for concerts at Symphony Center and $49-$62 for concerts at North Central College with special $10 pricing available for students at both concerts. Tickets can be purchased by calling Chicago Sinfonietta at 312-284- 1554 or online at chicagosinfonietta.org. Hear Me Roar is sponsored in part by Skadden, ITW, and Fifth Third Bank, in partnership with YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. Chicago Sinfonietta Season Sponsors include Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aon, and Southwest Airlines.

Ticket holders are invited pre-show and during intermission to experience activities with Girls Rock! Chicago and YWCA. These activities are presented as part of BRIDGE – Chicago Sinfonietta’s audience engagement thematic concert programming established to break social, racial, and economic barriers within the symphonic experience.

Hear Me Roar takes Chicago Sinfonietta into uncharted repertoire with two major new commissions among three Chicago Premieres” says Music Director Chen. She continues: “the entire program is comprised of incredible works created by women composers – both past and present. While Jennifer Higdon and Reena Esmail represent the new generation of composers who are making symphonic history with every piece they compose, Florence Price and Dora Pejačević wrote music that has literally become the hidden gem of the orchestral repertoire as very few music lovers know their music well. With less than 2% of the symphonic repertoire annually performed by American professional orchestras being works written by women, the Chicago Sinfonietta has hit the national radar championing for one of the most underrepresented minorities in the classical music world – the women who expressed their life experiences through the musical voices of symphony orchestras.”


For more information, please visit chicagosinfonietta.org

This article by Betsy Schwarm about composer Gerald Cohen’s new opera STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME is reprinted with permission from Opera Colorado’s Ovation newsletter, summer 2017.

Many of the very best operas are love stories. Few, however, are closely based on actual experiences of actual couples. This season, Opera Colorado will present the world premiere of an opera telling the tale of a very true love. The work of composer Gerald Cohen and librettist Deborah Brevoort, Steal a Pencil for Me, was inspired by the romance of Ina and Jaap Polak, survivors of Bergen-Belsen and members of the Shaarei Tikvah synagogue in Scarsdale, New York, where Cohen serves as cantor.

Having known the Polaks for over twenty years, Cohen was well familiar with their experiences. “Here,” he says, “was an amazing story right under my nose.” Imagining what a powerful opera it could make, he broached the idea to Ina and Jaap, who, as he recalls “didn’t take a lot of convincing;” there was already a filmed documentary of their story, though an opera would be something new, and even more dramatic. However, at the time, Ina was 87 and Jaap 97, a fact that led Jaap to advise “write it quickly.”

Having permission from the central subjects to make an opera of their life is one thing, but one also needs a text suitable for singing. Cohen approached librettist Deborah Brevoort. “At first, I said no,” Brevoort admits. “I was just too busy to take on something new at the time. But I agreed to read the letters, and found them too beautiful to resist.”

Jaap and Ina Polak
Jaap & Ina: through the years

Brevoort and Cohen sat down to visit with the actual persons at the center of the story: an immensely rare privilege in the opera world. Admittedly, when composer John Adams wrote his opera Dr. Atomic, he drew upon recently unclassified government documents concerning the Manhattan Project, but Robert Oppenheimer himself was already long gone. Of the conversation with Ina and Jaap, Brevoort says she found it “uplifting to actually spend time with them. I would be writing words to express their personalities.”

In another time and place, it might have been a romantic comedy. Brevoort sums it up: “boy meets girl – boy loses girl – boy gets girl back.” However, Ina, Jaap, and their friends and family are Dutch Jews during World War II; the Nazis are already on the scene and a concentration camp is in the immediate future.

Gerald Cohen
Gerald Cohen, composer

Brevoort cautions, however, that the resulting opera isn’t a typical Holocaust story: “Their situation made them appreciate the joyous wonder of the world, how beautiful and wonderful a glass of water was. They dreamed about sitting in a chair at a table and having an ordinary breakfast. I was struck by the ordinariness of it, and the beauty.” If the classic verismo opera concept, a la Puccini, is using music to tell believable stories about believable people, here it was.

An initial version of Steal a Pencil for Me was workshopped in New York in 2013. In an opera workshop, a work-in-progress is performed before an audience, perhaps semi-staged. Seeing it come to life, its creative team can get a stronger sense of the piece and begin to refine their creation. Opera Colorado’s Music Director Ari Pelto was asked to conduct. He found the piece sufficiently intriguing that he discussed it with Opera Colorado’s General Director Greg Carpenter, and the two decided they might be interested in staging the work.

As Pelto remembers, “it had a lot of potential, though it wasn’t ready to be produced. It needed some dramaturgical attention for better story-telling.” The suggestions that Pelto and Carpenter presented to Cohen and Brevoort were well received, and the new opera began to take more definite form. “It’s a privilege beyond what you can imagine,” says Pelto, “to have this much input this early on, and it’s personally rewarding to see how far it’s come.” Pelto’s suggestions ranged from instrumental choices to re-ordering of events in Act One: factors that affect both how the music sounds and how the story flows.

Deborah Brevoort
Deborah Brevoort, librettist

Comparing the opera’s to what Ina and Jaap actually experienced, Brevoort says “there’s very little that’s invented. We changed some sequencing and altered the opening scene in context, so we could introduce one principal character to the audience before the Nazis take him. It seemed to make Ina’s memories of Rudi – at the time, he’s her fiancé – that much more vivid.” Ina and Jaap had agreed that, when one brings real life to the stage, something need to change for dramatic flow.

Ina and Jaap are the central love story, but before coming together, both had other loves. Ina was engaged to Rudi; Jaap was married to Manja. Cohen saw this “romantic square” as a perfect opportunity for an operatic quartet late in the work, with poor departed Rudi appearing as a ghost; both Rudi and Manja free their former partners to pursue new happiness. He decided to write Ina, the younger of the two women, as a light lyric soprano, making Manja a mezzo. Rudi, being a ghost, is a high tenor. Jaap is a baritone, in part to contrast Rudi, but also because Cohen himself, as a cantor, is a baritone; the composer admits he may gravitate to his own vocal range when setting important male characters. In fact, when it comes to writing an opera, he sees an advantage in his experience as a singer: “I sense what it feels like in the voice to sing these lines, what feels right and normal.” Many an opera singer wishes more composers would approach their operatic writing in that way.

Bringing out characters and situations through musical means is exactly what the best operas do, and Steal a Pencil for Me proves that this long-standing vision still works. Anyone wanting a preview of the story itself can find it on Netflix in a 2007 documentary by director Michele Ohayan that composer Gerald Cohen found truly inspirational. However, this touching tale of love in the face of deadly peril will become even more powerful with music to carry it into the hearts and minds of the audience.

After a full life together, both Ina and Jaap passed away recently. “Fortunately, they had been ableto attend the performances in Scarsdale and New York City, sitting in the front row for both performances – a deeply emotional experience for both them and the cast. The initial workshop performance was presented in honor of their 90th and 100th birthdays. Members of their extended family are hoping to come to Denver for Opera Colorado’s production early next year.

Don’t miss Opera Colorado’s world premiere of Steal a Pencil for Me January 25, 27, 28 and 30 at the Wolf Theatre at Denver’s Mizel Arts and Culture Center, Denver, Colorado.

Musica Pacifica, one of America’s premier baroque ensembles, seeks a Booking Agent.

This part-time position starts at 15-20 hours per week; Although Musica Pacifica is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, candidates could work remotely from other areas of the country.

Note: if more hours are desired, another organization, also in need of a booking agent, could potentially double these hours.

Responsibilities:
·      Regularly and consistently contact presenters by phone and email to secure concert engagements.
·      Maintain and grow/develop database of prospective presenters active in booking live performances of classical music.
·      Prepare copy for bi-monthly or monthly newsletter emailed to presenters and mailing list; distribute to list.
·      Potentially negotiate fees and arrangements with presenters when group is engaged.
·      Create simple sales sheets with graphics.
·      Possibly other PR duties to be discussed.

Qualifications:
·      Sales ability, including making cold calls, tracking contacts, timely follow-up, and closing deals.
·      A familiarity with classical music is required, and familiarity with early music preferred.
·      Experience in this field is desirable, but resourcefulness, discipline and the ability to work independently are even more important.
·      Competence with email, a direct mail platform (such as MailChimp), word processing, preparing marketing pieces, and database management.
·      Basic to intermediate graphic design skills.

Compensation: an hourly fee plus commission on any engagements booked.

Please submit resume, cover letter and hourly salary requirements to Peter McDowell Arts Consulting, [email protected]

New York-based composer Gerald Cohen, known for his moving and vibrant chamber music, opera, choral and liturgical music, announces the exciting and important upcoming world premiere performances of his opera Steal a Pencil for Me, based on the true love story of Holocaust survivors Jaap and Ina Polak.

From January 25-30, 2018, Opera Colorado will produce the world premiere of Steal a Pencil for Me, with music by composer Cohen and libretto by Deborah Brevoort. The opera is a love story, full of hope, set during the the dark times of WWII concentration camps. It is based on the book of the same title by Jaap and Ina Polak, whom the composer knew for more than 25 years, and who had the chance to see the opera in its workshop phase in 2013. This unusual and dramatic plot features a love “quadrangle” revolving around the story of the dissolution of Jaap’s first marriage to the difficult Manja, his romance with Ina, and Ina’s ill-fated relationship with her youthful sweetheart Rudi. Opera Colorado Music Director and conductor Ari Pelto and stage director Omer Ben Seadia will lead a cast featuring soprano Inna Dukach, baritone Gideon Dabi, and mezzo Adriana Zabala.

Conductor Ari Pelto says, “Gerald Cohen’s music is compelling, sophisticated and approachable for the listener…There is a tight, natural connection between text and music, writing the music so as to make Deborah Brevoort’s text very clear.” He continues, “The story is compelling partly because there is no heroism. The three lead characters wrestle with the challenges, complications and emotions of life, love and partnership. At the same time, they are faced with surviving the horrors of the Holocaust.”

The opera will be performed at the Elaine Wolf Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center at the JCC, 350 S. Dahlia Street, Denver, CO. Tickets start at $20 and are available at www.operacolorado.org/steal-a-pencil-for-me/.


For more about composer Gerald Cohen, please visit geraldcohenmusic.com

American composer and pianist Sam Post, whose work spans classical, jazz and chamber music, announces performances of his newly orchestrated work Sketches of Kazakhstan: a Chamber Symphony in a larger program called “CONNECTIONS” at the San Francisco Symphony’s SoundBox series, under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas, on December 8 and 9, 2017 at 9 pm.

SoundBox is an experimental performance space inside Davies Symphony Hall, 300 Franklin Street, San Francisco, CA. Information on tickets and on the works performed during each concert is available at www.sfsoundbox.com. The doors open at 8pm for each event, with the performance beginning at 9pm. Tickets to the December 8 and 9 SoundBox performances are available at 10 a.m., Monday, November 20. General admission is $45. To become a supporter of SoundBox, patrons may purchase Producer-level tickets at $350. For more information about the benefits of becoming a Producer, please go to www.sfsoundbox.com/producer

Mr. Post was originally connected to the San Francisco Symphony by Yo-Yo Ma after Sam played one of his pieces for Mr. Ma, and then performing together with Mr. Ma and Renée Fleming at the Kennedy Center Arts Summit 2016. The original San Francisco Symphony commission, premiered in February 2017, was for a string quartet based on the themes of the late Kazakh dombra player Karshyga Akhmedyarov. His daughter, Raushan Akhmedyarova, is a violinist in the symphony and played first violin in the quartet. Each of the five movements is loosely based on one or more musical themes from one of his pieces. This mini-orchestrated (28 players) version receives its world premiere with these performances.


Watch this video of Raushan Akhmedyarova talking about her background and about this new work:

And watch this video of Sam Post playing original work, “Dizzy Days” – the title track from his newest album:


To learn more about Sam Post and his music, please visit samueljpost.com
And for more about the SoundBox series, visit sfsoundbox.com