featuring violinist Ilmar Gavilán, under the baton of Justin Bischof
also included: works by Morricone, Rossini,
Tchaikovsky, and Bach/Gounod

On April 30, 2022, at 7:30 PM, Modus Opera Orchestra, under the baton of Music Director and Founder Justin Bischof, will be marking their return to live performance with a concert at St. Mary Church in Long Island City where they are in residence.

The centerpiece of the evening’s program is composer Guido López-Gavilán’s Afro Cuban Antilles Violin Concerto (US Premiere, first performance outside of Cuba). The featured soloist will be the composer’s son, violinist Ilmar Gavilán of the Harlem Quartet. This marks the orchestra’s celebration of their first concert since Nov 2019.


Rossini: Overture (Barber of Seville)
Gavilan: Afro Cuban Antilles Violin Concerto
JS Bach / Gounod Ave Maria
Morricone: Gabriel’s Oboe (The Mission), performed in memory of those who died of COVID
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5

Here’s what makes this concert so special:

  • 65 member orchestra comprised of some of the finest players in the New York City area
  • US premiere and first performance outside of Cuba of this Concerto
  • Father/son collaboration – son Ilmar (first violinist, Harlem Quartet) will be soloist in his father’s composition
  • Concert is dedicated to those lives lost due to complications from the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Gavilan’s concerto is inspired by a children’s poem written by Nicolas Guillen, musically depicting the inception of Cuba, from the initial geological formation of the larger Island of the Antilles to the rich and distinct culture it has become. 
  • Afro-Cuban instruments and rhythmic elements in the symphonic mix tell unique stories of African heritage, using batá drums, congas, shekeré, claves, maracas, guiro, and bongo

St. Mary Church is located at 1008 49th Avenue in Long Island City, one stop from Manhattan on the 7 subway train, and tickets are available at Eventbrite. General Admission tickets are available for $25 – $50 at mooticketsapril30.eventbrite.com

Composer Guido López-Gavilán has received awards in the most important composition competitions held in Cuba, such as the National Composition Competition, the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists Competition, the 26th of July Competition, the ‘Edad de Oro,’ and the Adolfo Guzman Competition. He is a 1966 graduate of the Choral Conducting program of the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory in Havana and a 1973 graduate of the Orchestral Conducting program of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow.

López-Gavilán has made an outstanding contribution in the development of the Cuban Youth Orchestra Movement by founding and conducting symphony and chamber orchestras that have performed with resounding success in and outside of Cuba. As the President of the Havana Festival and Chairman of the Orchestral Conducting Department at the Instituto Superior de Arte, he has received several distinctions including the National Culture Award and the Recognition Award granted by the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists for his life’s work. He is a member of Colegio de Compositores Latinoamericanos de Música de Arte.

Cuban-American Violinist Ilmar Gavilán, a native of Havana, Cuba has had a remarkable performing career that has taken him all over the world. This fascinating journey ranges from performing for world leaders such as President Obama at the White House and Queen Sofia of Spain at The Royal Palace of Madrid to performing with top stature artists of diverse styles such as Itzhak Perlman and Chick Corea. 

As a soloist, Mr. Gavilan has performed concertos with the Atlanta, New Jersey, Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Hartford, Nashville, Ann Arbor, Santa Monica, Phoenix, Denver, Louisiana, Anchorage, Santa Fe, Havana, Mexico City, and Venezuela Symphonies and played recitals in England, Russia, Spain and Portugal. Mr. Gavilan won first prize at the Sphinx competition, as well as top honors at the Lipinsky-Wieniaswsky and the Henryk Szeryng International violin competitions. 

Currently engaged in a visiting residency at The Royal College of Music in London as the first violinist of the Harlem Quartet and a full-time residency position at Montclair State University. Mr. Gavilan is an experienced educator, having taught for six years at Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program. Ilmar and his brother Aldo, a world-class pianist and composer, were presented by Carnegie Hall in the featured documentary “Los Hermanos/The Brothers”.

New York City resident Justin Bischof is an internationally active orchestral & opera conductor as well as concert organist, pianist and improviser. He has performed in some of the world’s great venues including New York’s Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Lincoln Center, Rose Theatre Lincoln Center, Tonhalle of Zurich, Eli Broad Theatre of Los Angeles, St. Paul’s Cathedral London, Notre Dame Paris, Cologne Cathedral, to name a few. He has collaborated with some of the world’s most prominent artists including Joshua Bell, Bright Sheng, Tan Dun and Roberta Peters. As an orchestral conductor, he was worked with numerous ensembles including National Arts Center Orchestra, The Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Vancouver Symphony, the Royal Symphony of Oman, the State Philharmonic Kavkazskiye of Russia, the WAAPA orchestra in Perth Australia, and the National Orchestra of Haiti. Of his conducting, Michael Miller of New York Arts said “….Beethoven’s 9th Symphony does not get much better than this!” 

He is the Founder & Artistic Director of MOO: Modus Opera Orchestra of New York City which presented an Annual Children’s Benefit for 10 years to help at-risk children that raised over $1,000,000. Their gala 10th Anniversary Concert featured soloists from the Metropolitan Opera in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Bischof is sought after as a guest professor for master classes around the world, maintaining a private conducting studio for gifted conductors, and serving on numerous boards including as Chair of the Alumni Council of MSM and Chair of the Conductors Retreat at Medomak.

Modus Opera Orchestra (MOO) is comprised of some of the finest players in the New York City area. Led by internationally acclaimed conductor Justin Bischof, their concerts have been met with critical acclaim and a dedicated audience following.  Many players have gone on to perform with major ensembles including Berlin’s Konzerthaus Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony and St. Paul’s Chamber Orchestra.  

A stellar roster of international guest soloists have appeared with Vienna Philharmonic, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Edinburgh Festival, Lyric Opera Chicago, New Israeli Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Seattle Symphony, Hong Kong Opera, Seattle Opera, Vlaamse Opera (Belgium), Sante Fe Opera, Montreal Opera, Opera North (UK), New York City Opera, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

Founded by Artistic Director Justin Bischof, MOO began as the Canadian Chamber Orchestra of New York City CCO/NYC. The orchestra’s debut was at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in 2007 as part of the Variety NYC Opera Trash Benefit which raised money for children in need in the tri-state area. They made their Le Poisson Rouge debut with internationally acclaimed Canadian mezzo Ariana Chris in the same program. They returned to LPR in a program of Shostakovich, Strauss and Bischof. They were the resident orchestra for Modus Opera (click here) performed all of the Mozart/Da Ponte operas in fully staged productions with orchestra as well as various recitals showcasing up and coming opera singers in many venues.

MOO’s mission is to provide the opportunity for the finest freelance musicians in New York City to perform, at the highest artistic level, the staples of the great symphonic and operatic repertory as well as contemporary works and world premieres with their colleagues.

MOO was in residency at the historic Church of St. James the Less for 11 years in Scarsdale, NY where they performed several times annually. They are now the resident orchestra in New York City at St. Mary Church.

3AM” is the newest single from her
upcoming new album: Nodding Terms
Featuring the London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Hugh Brunt

photo credit: Anna Azarov

As a preview to her forthcoming album project that challenges the conventions of the definition of classical music, Nodding Terms, the Los Angeles-based composer and producer Shruti Kumar announces the release of the record’s third single on April 22, 2022. Titled “3AM”, the single is poised for major streaming platforms worldwide, including Apple Music/iTunes and Spotify. The full album boasts a top-tier, all-women technical team, self-produced by Kumar, engineered by Fiona Cruikshank (Dot Allison, Marc Shaiman, Jacob Collier), mixed by Eva Reistad (Hans Zimmer, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus), and mastered by Heba Kadry (Björk, Big Thief, Animal Collective, Beach House, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Garbage, Japanese Breakfast).

The album’s first two singles already released are: “SALT” (feat. London Contemporary Orchestra) and “LAST CALL” (feat. Shungudzo) and are available now, streaming on all digital platforms. The next two tracks from the album “3AM” (feat. London Contemporary Orchestra) and “WHAT’S AT PLAY” (feat. Def Sound) will be released on April 22 and May 6 respectively. The full album will contain 10 tracks and is projected for a July release.

The album Nodding Terms is sewn together featuring the London Contemporary Orchestra and multiple featured artists — all the orchestral/electronic tracks have a counterpart rework featuring an artist, actively mixing and almost employing traveling through genre as a narrative tool. The title “Nodding Terms” itself is from a quote from the late Joan Didion: 

“ …I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise, they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.”

Says Kumar: “[Didion’s quote] embodies my relationship to all my musical selves as someone who started off very classical and departed to pop, hip hop, electronic, scoring, and have somehow found myself back in the concert world but with all of these added sensibilities I used to hide for so long while trying to fit into each genre I ‘tried on’.”

The London Contemporary Orchestra is the thread throughout the record, and each bigger orchestral/electronic track has a partner rework that features an artist — all featured artists across multiple genres Kumar worked in throughout her career. In addition to Shungudzo and Def Sound, Kumar presents tracks with Seema Hari, Lara Somogyi, Michelle Ross, Hainbach, Nadia Sirota, and others. Remixes are also in the pipeline from Bad Snacks, Kate Simko, Kim Anh, and Sandunes. 

For more about the artist, please visit shrutikumar.com

Pianist Jenny Q Chai has released a thrilling new album of music by Bach, Ives, and Schumann on the Divine Art Recordings Group label. Available now as both a physical CD and in digital format, Songs of Love presents Schumann’s legendary Kreisleriana alongside two movements by Bach and Ives as Jenny’s tribute to her esteemed first teacher at the Curtis Institute, the late Seymour Lipkin who she calls ‘my music grandpa’. The album can be acquired through major music retailers, and through the Divine Art label directly: divineartrecords.com

Known for performing and recording new music, Jenny Q Chai also proves herself a superior interpreter of classic works for piano in this album, her first featuring compositions of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): Aria from the ‘Goldberg’ Variations, BWV 988
Charles Ives (1874-1954): ‘The Alcotts’ from Piano Sonata No. 2 (the ‘Concord’)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856): Kreisleriana, Op.16

Jenny has a special connection with Robert Schumann, whose work she learned from Lipkin, with whom she studied from the ages of 12 to 19. She has a special love for Kreisleriana which she says never grows old but ’ lives inside of you’. Hence the title, “Songs of Love”.

Lipkin, also a great Beethoven interpreter, “was known as a very tough teacher, but he was always sweet to me,” says Chai. “I wanted to evoke Mr. Lipkin and Beethoven — without actually recording Beethoven.” Charles Ives quotes the famous beginning of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in “The Alcotts” from the “Concord” Sonata, the second selection on this album. Published in 1921, the work is an enduring invention of this original and idiosyncratic composer.

Everything comes from Bach,” according to Jenny Q Chai, so it is fitting that the Aria to his “Goldberg Variations” should begin this album. Robert Schumann found Bach to be “an inexhaustible source of ideas,” and even after thirty variations, the aria doesn’t seem at all exhausted and, as it is reprised at the end of the piece, it is as fresh as it was at the beginning.

The musician and conductor Johannes Kreisler was the creation of the extraordinary imagination of the author, composer, conductor, and music critic E. T. A. Hoffmann, one of the initiators of the Romantic movement in German literature and music. Hoffmann’s novel, in which Kreisler appears, purportedly has two authors — one is a cat, who pours out his life story, while the other is the narrator who recounts the remarkable tale of Kreisler.

Kreisler captivated the imagination of Robert Schumann and was the inspiration for his eight-movement fantasy cycle: Kreisleriana. Perhaps the novel with two authors appealed to Schumann, who sometimes attributed his writings to “Florestan the wild,” and at other times to “Eusebius the mild.”

Written in just a few days in April 1838, Kreisleriana is one of the great pieces of the Romantic era. Schumann’s contemplative lyricism and passionate spontaneity combine to express both the intriguing personality of Kreisler and of Schumann himself.

A champion and noted interpreter of 20th century and contemporary works as well as core repertoire, Jenny Q Chai also works to develop new interactive music score software and teaching in China and the USA. She both founded and manages the Face Art Institute of Music, a Shanghai-based music school devoted to bringing Western music education to China, and has served on the board of Ear to Mind, the contemporary music organization in New York. She is currently based both in Shanghai and in California where she is a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley.

The New Yorker described Jenny as “a pianist whose dazzling facility is matched by her deep musicality”. On top of all that she also projects a modern and liberated self image.

For more about the artist and the album, please visit:
jennychai.comfaceart.info, and divineartrecords.com

Part of the 40th annual Pride Bands Alliance Conference

Hosted by Denali Foxx and Angeria Paris VanMicheals
(of RuPAUL’S Drag Race fame)
Featuring world premieres by composers
Christen Taylor Holmes and Evan Williams

On Sunday, May 29 at 7pm, Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre will host the culmination of the 40th annual Pride Bands Alliance conference. Chicago’s Lakeside Pride is welcoming Pride Bands Alliance members from its family of 38 affiliate bands spread across the United States, Australia, the UK, and Canada to return to Sweet Home Chicago where the organization started 40 years ago!

Held in a different city each year, here’s what makes this year’s celebration so special:

  • World premiere compositions Griffin by young composers Christen Taylor Holmes and Love Words by Evan Williams
  • Celebrity hosts, both contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race: Denali Foxx and Angeria Paris VanMicheals, will emcee and appear in a special performance and an exclusive VIP Meet & Greet
  • Two ensembles conducted by four conductors
  • 40th anniversary celebration showcasing diversity in the LGBTQ spectrum

General Admission tickets are available at an early bird price of $18.75 (price increases to $25.00 after April 15 and $30.00 on the day of show) and are available at sweethomechicago2022.org. A very limited number of VIP Meet & Greet tickets, available at the same link, are $140.50 and include preferred seating, and an exclusive champagne reception with Denali Foxx and Angeria Paris VanMicheals.

In addition to the world premieres, works by Kimberly Archer, Steven Reineke, Tania León, Brent Michael Davids, Julie Giroux, Randall Standridge, Tawnie Olson, Lawren Brianna Ware, Yukiko Nishimura, and Adolphus Hailstork will also be performed.

Conductors Kyle Rhoades, Manic Maxxie, Jon Noworyta, and Jadine Louie will lead two full symphonic bands. Each band will play half the concert, with nearly 250 musicians gracing the stage over the course of the evening! 

The 2022 Annual Conference of the Pride Bands Alliance (formerly Lesbian and Gay Band Association), brings this exciting event to the shores of Lake Michigan in the heart of Downtown Chicago. With the theme “Returning to Our Roots” the conference recalls that in 1982, seven LGBTQ individual music bands from across the country met here in Chicago to unite as one larger music organization, and since those early years, Pride Bands Alliance has grown exponentially into the successful international music organization it is today. Forty years later, there is no better way to mark the accomplishments of Pride Bands Alliance than where it originated, back in the Midwest and in the hometown of a founding member.  

Christen Taylor Holmes (b. 2000) born and raised in Southern Maryland is an emerging Composer and French Hornist. She graduated from Calvert High School in 2018 and is currently at the University of Maryland where she is in the process of earning a Bachelor of Music in Music Composition, a Bachelor of Science in Information Sciences, and a minor in Arts Leadership. Through UMD, she has experienced many fantastic opportunities like collaborating with professional chamber groups such as yMusic and Dal Niente, and participating as a Fellow for the Sphinx Connect Conference in Detroit, MI.

The music of Evan Williams has been performed across the country and internationally by members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the International Contemporary Ensemble, Quince Ensemble, Fifth House Ensemble, and at festivals such as SEAMUS and the New York City Electronic Music Festival. In addition, he has been commissioned by notable performers and ensembles including the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Urban Playground Chamber Orchestra, and many more. For this concert’s world premiere, Mr. Williams will draw inspiration from the poetry of Claude McKay, a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance. McKay was bisexual and spent the last four years of his life in Chicago. Williams plans to compose a fantasia-like piece of many moods, reflective of McKay’s ungendered love poems. 

For more information, please visit:
sweethomechicago2022.org and lakesidepride.org

On March 19, 20, and 27 at BFI Southbank in London, England the 89-minute documentary film Jimmy in Saigon (jimmyinsaigon.com) will have its World Premiere. Jimmy in Saigon explores the tragic death, radical life, and forbidden romance of a 24-year-old Vietnam veteran who died in Saigon in 1972.

Featuring modern day scenes shot in the United States, Vietnam and France, as well as archival footage, the film is directed by Peter McDowell, Jimmy’s youngest brother, with Dan Savage as the executive producer.

The original musical score was written by the filmmaker’s brother, John McDowell (composer of Oscar-winning Born Into Brothels) and by Italian-German singer and composer Sabina Sciubba (lead singer of the GRAMMY®-nominated electropop powerhouse Brazilian Girls; actor in the television series Baskets).

Screenings will be held on March 19 at 1:45pm and March 20 at 1:00pm at BFI Southbank Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XT, United Kingdom; ticketing information is at bfi.org.uk/flare

Due to the popularity of the film at BFI Flare, an additional screening was added as part of their “Best of Fest” program on March 27 at 3:10pm.

Jimmy’s rejection of his family’s values and his eventual death created deep trauma within the lives of his surviving family and complicated how he was remembered.

2022 is both the year of completion for the film and the 50th anniversary of Jimmy’s death in Saigon. As we both celebrate finishing the film and commemorate the anniversary of Jimmy’s last year in Saigon, his provocative choices cause us to reflect: how has the United States changed, or remained stagnant in terms of foreign policy, domestic politics, and national conversations surrounding sexual identity? As a kick off points to these discussions, Jimmy in Saigon provides a window to fruitful and lively dialogues.

Through making the film, it has come to light that Jimmy had a relationship with a Vietnamese man in the last few years before his death –  a relationship he kept secret from his friends and family in the U.S. A veteran from a middle class, catholic, background, returns to the country where he was involved in a war in order to be with a Vietnamese man from a poor family; the story of Jimmy’s life asks difficult questions still relevant today.

For more about Jimmy in Saigon, please visit the film’s website: jimmyinsaigon.com

Surrounded by opera as a child and trained as a musician and actor, Director and Producer Peter McDowell has always been drawn to melding story, image and sound in his own stage and film productions. Born and raised in Champaign, Illinois, he produced opera professionally in Chicago from 1999-2006; prior to that, he made two Super 8 short films that were shown at San Francisco’s Frameline Film Festival. One of those shorts, I Dream of Dorothy, went on to festivals worldwide.

In addition to filmmaking, Peter works as a fundraiser, publicist, and a teacher of fundraising, which has helped him bridge the creative aspects of filmmaking with the more managerial aspects essential for production. Peter recently served as Director of Development for American Friends of the Louvre, and is the recipient of a highly competitive three year DeVos Institute for Arts Management International Fellowship at the University of Maryland. In 2018, Peter was also the recipient of a Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Individual Artists Program grant for Jimmy in Saigon, and in 2020 he won a California Humanities Council grant, also for this film. He currently resides in Los Angeles and runs his own firm, Peter McDowell Arts Consulting, currently teaching fundraising workshops for filmmakers and other artists.