2021 Virtual Spring Concert Program

Virtual Spring Concert: “Coming Together”

Saturday, May 8th, 7:00pm

Featuring performances by the Rensselaer Fusion Ensemble

Directed by Michael Century and Chris Fisher-Lochhead

String Octet, Op. 20: I. Allegro moderato ma con fuoco — Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Miriam Rundell, violin

Luca Osborne, violin

Hannah Lim, violin

Sarah Shiang, violin

Chris Fisher-Lochhead, viola

Stephanya Moran, viola

Jack Zhu, cello

Frank Peters, cello

Stars Fell on Alabama — Frank Perkins (1908-1988)

Fusion Horn Band

This Woman’s Work — Kate Bush (1958*)

Renee Roy, voice

Fusion Vocal Ensemble

Sextet — Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)

I. Allegro vivace

II. Divertissement

III. Finale

Molly Monge, flute

Evan Shi, oboe

Dalton Slegel, clarinet

Josh Pratt, bass clarinet

Abbie Snyder, horn

Rory Devin, piano

Vienna — Billy Joel (1949*)

Harshil Patel, voice

Fusion Horn Band

Flow My Tears — John Dowland (1563-1626)

Fusion Vocal Ensemble

Coming Together (excerpt) — Frederic Rzewski (1938*)

Fusion Ensemble

Piano Quintet, Op. 67: II. Adagio espressivo — Amy Beach (1867-1944)

Hannah Lim, violin

Sarah Shiang, violin

Chris Fisher-Lochhead, viola

Frank Peters, cello

Mary Simoni, piano

Who’s Sorry Now? — Ted Snyder (1881-1965)

Fusion Horn Band

Alabama Song — Kurt Weill (1900-1950), arr. Feldman/Fisher-Lochhead

Aaron Lockwood, voice

Fusion Mixed Ensemble

Funky Town / I Feel Good — Steven Greenberg (1950*) / James Brown (1933-2006)

Fusion Horn Band

Winter Song — The Head and the Heart

Lauren Salee, voice

Aaron Lockwood, voice

Catherine Gaspard, voice

Fusion Vocal Ensemble

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune — Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Molly Monge, flute

Evan Shi, oboe

Dalton Slegel, clarinet

Garrett Smelcer, piano

Black Narcissus — Joe Henderson (1937-2001)

Fusion Horn Band

Ricercar (from The Musical Offering) — Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Fusion Mixed Ensemble

String Quartet, Op. 27: I. Un poco andante – Allegro molto ed agitato — Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

Hannah Lim, violin

Sarah Shiang, violin

Chris Fisher-Lochhead, viola

Frank Peters, cello

Peace Piece — Bill Evans (1929-1980)

Fusion Remote Ensemble

Fusion Horn Band

Jon Goodman, trumpet

Ben Viner, alto/baritone saxophone

Sarah Burrows, tenor saxophone

Todd Fellman, trombone

Connor Furman, bass clarinet

Josiah Thieme, piano and soprano/alto saxophone

Mollie Grimminger, bass

Ria Massoni-Nesman, drums

Fusion Vocal Ensemble

Renee Roy

Catherine Gaspard

Lauren Salee

Reagan Stroka

Harshil Patel

Aaron Lockwood

Fusion Mixed Ensemble

Daniel Ackermans, oboe

Mei Mei Dittrich, clarinet

Nihkil Shah, bassoon

Michelle Shen, violin

William Allen, violin

Harris Havlicek, violin

Christina Cavalluzzo, violin

Gabe Gaum, cello

Garrett Smelcer, piano

Fusion Remote Ensemble

Rose Bollerman

Katie Cheng

Larissa Hensch

Katie McCartney

Max Podowski

Kuixiong Wang

Molly Monge, flute

Evan Shi, oboe

Dalton Slegel, clarinet

Josh Pratt, bass clarinet

Abbie Snyder, horn

Rory Devin, piano

Miriam Rundell, violin

Luca Osborne, violin

Hannah Lim, violin

Sarah Shiang, violin

Stephanya Moran, viola

Jack Zhu, cello

Frank Peters, cello

“Coming Together”

“I think the combination of age and the greater coming together is responsible for the speed of the passing time. It’s six months now and I can tell you truthfully few periods in my life have passed so quickly.”

So wrote Sam Melville, a prisoner in the Attica state prison in upstate New York in the spring of 1971—exactly forty years ago. Melville, whose life would be brutally truncated in the Attica prison riots of the following year, was documenting his lived experience of incarceration, but his words could as easily be applied to the state of suspended animation we all occupy in the era of COVID and neoliberal rot. Our moment of collective trauma is seemingly interminable, but it has also created, at least, the possibility for a “greater coming together” around shared concerns for human equality, dignity, and justice. As we begin to embrace anew some few fleeting moments of interpersonal connection, music can again come into its own as a profound joiner of minds and spirits; it can point the way back towards a state of togetherness, and perhaps point the way forward to an—as yet unrealized—state of solidarity and harmony.

Program Notes

“Music is life itself,” wrote Louis Armstrong to a young soldier stationed in Vietnam in 1967, and the full gamut of human experience is amply conveyed by the pieces you will hear in this program of Rensselaer’s Fusion Music Ensemble. 

The full vibrancy of youth rings from Mendelsohn’s skillfully crafted String Octet, written at age sixteen in 1825. The first movement’s soaring melodies and swirling figuration lift the spirit to exhilarating heights, culminating in one of the most satisfying reprises in all chamber music.

Stars Fell on Alabama was one of Armstrong’s own signature tunes, evoking in his renditions a nostalgic mood of love and imagination.  Referencing an actual meteor shower from the 19th century, the song has also been heard in other settings as a foil to darker aspects of the state’s racial history.

Kate Bush wrote This Woman’s Work as the backing track for the film She’s Having a Baby, evoking the anticipation and joys of an uncertain childbirth in progress. Bush’s 1988 song has transcended its origin to become an anthem of courage and fortitude.

Francis Poulenc was one of a generation of French composers who came of age after World War I, during a time of neo-classical renewal. The three movement Sextet for Piano and Winds, composed in 1931 and revised a decade later, combines the exuberant energies and bittersweet harmonic progression characteristic of Poulenc’s style. In this version, the bassoon part is heard on the dulcet tones of the bass clarinet.

Vienna appears on Billy Joel’s 1977 album The Stranger and depicts a young man’s discovery of a great city with a storied history, poised at the geographic crossroads between East and West.

The exquisitely mournful Elizabethan song, Flow my Tears, was originally a vocal solo accompanied by lute. Strophically composed, the air, or “ayre” became one of the most popular and influential compositions of the 17th century.

Contemporary American composer Frederic Rzewski wrote Coming Together as a response to the prisoner uprising and repression at Attica Correctional Facility in 1971. Rzewski based the work on a letter written by inmate Sam Melville, a political dissident, describing his early experience of incarceration. Melville died in the uprising. The musical score consists of a single continuous bass line meant to be embellished by any combination of instruments, and the spoken text, speaking of resilience, patience, and self-discipline, has been divided up here various members of the ensemble.

Amy Beach was the most prominent of the first generation of American women composers and enjoyed early widespread acclaim as a pianist as well. Her widely performed 1907 Piano Quintet extended the genre past Schumann and Brahms into lush new harmonic regions while retaining a Romantic lyric intensity. One can hear in the concluding moments of the second movement a prefiguration of Gustav Mahler’s final symphony, composed a few years later.

The varied career of Who’s Sorry Now, a 1923 popular show tune, spanned country, Latin, pop, big band jazz, and in an antic turn, the Marx Brothers’ movie A Night in Casablanca.

Alabama Song, another song with astonishing cross-genre coverage, first appeared in the Berlin of the Weimar Republic, in a follow-up play to Bertolt Brecht’s and Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera. With a lyric swinging between unbridled lust and sweetness, our version of the song is adapted from an arrangement by modernist U.S. composer Morton Feldman. It is also widely known for being covered by The Doors and David Bowie.

With the medley of Funkytown and I Feel Good, our own student arranger Ben Viner fuses a disco hit from 1970s with the electrifying James Brown soul classic from the 1965 – a fitting vehicle for the eclectic membership of Fusion Ensemble. At this point in the program, it’s time to stretch your legs and dance to the infectious beats!

The lyric to Winter Song speaks of longing and hope for love’s renewal. Seattle indie-folk band The Head and the Heart brought this wistful song to surreal heights in a TV performance on a Ferris Wheel (an invention of Rensselaer alumnus George Ferris, 1881).

The literary program to Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun evokes erotic longing in the summer heat, and the original orchestral version presaged in 1890 many of the musical features that become common in 20th century music: imaginative tone colors, ambiguous harmonies, and throbbing polyrhythms.  Our arrangement pares down still further a version made by Arnold Schoenberg’s students in 1919 for the Vienna Society for the Private Performance of Music.

With Black Narcissus, saxophone virtuoso and Miles Davis alumnus Joe Henderson penned an enduring jazz classic, at once exploring venturesome chord changes while laying down an entrancing triple-meter groove. In 1999 Henderson was accorded the honor of Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.

In one of the most oft-repeated legends in the history of Western classical music, J.S. Bach is said to have improvised a 6-part fugue on the spot upon one hearing of the complex chromatic theme played on the flute of Prussian King Frederic the Great. In fact, the Ricercare was composed a few weeks later than Bach’s storied improvisation, as part of a full compendium of contrapuntal craft presented to the King, The Musical Offering.

Edvard Grieg’s G-minor String Quartet is a deeply serious, intense work, a product of the Norwegian composer’s youth, and aptly connects us back to the soaring heights of Mendelsohn’s Octet. For Grieg, this was a piece “not intended to bring trivialities to the market,” yet it speaks to us today with full immediacy and passion.

Bill Evans, one of the most influential of modern jazz pianists, improvised Peace Piece in a single take for one of his early solo albums. It is underpinned by an ambient atmosphere containing only two alternating chords, over which our student soloists round out the program with tranquility and repose.

Michael Century is Professor of Music and New Media in the Arts Department at Rensselaer.  A pianist and accordionist, Century is at home in classical repertoires and live-electronic improvised settings. As media arts historian, his latest work will be available from the MIT Press in 2022, entitled Northern Sparks: Innovation, Technology and the Arts in Canada from Expo 67 to the Internet Age.

Chris Fisher-Lochhead is a composer, performer, and educator. His music has been performed by the Arditti Quartet, Ensemble Dal Niente, the Spektral Quartet, the JACK Quartet, Quince Vocal Ensemble, Ensemble Recherche, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Mivos Quartet, Ekmeles, Fonema Consort, and Loadbang. In 2016, his string quartet Hack was released on the Spektral Quartet’s record Serious Business, which was nominated for a Grammy Award. As a performer and improviser in the Grant Wallace Band, he has been featured by the Houston Grand Opera, Resonant Bodies Festival, New Amsterdam Records, and Fast Forward Austin. A portrait disc of his music is forthcoming on New Focus Records. He lives in Vermont and has been a lecturer in the Arts Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute since 2018.

Mary Simoni is a composer, pianist, author, educator, consultant, and administrator. She serves as the Dean of Humanities, Arts & Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her compositions have been performed worldwide and have been recorded by Centaur Records, the MIT Press, and the International Computer Music Association. She is the recipient of the Prize in Composition by the ArtNET Virtual Museum and named a semi-finalist for the American Prize in Composition-Chamber Music. She is a Medal Laureate of the Computer World Honors Award for her research in Music Information Retrieval.  Her work as a pianist and Steinway Artist specializes in the use of interactive electronics.

Contact

The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Russell Sage Laboratory (SAGE) 4307, 110 8th Street, Troy, NY 12180
(518) 276-2576

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