Sunday, April 29, 2012

                                                Mad River Transit Singers 2012

Madrigal Singers & MRT Celebrate Love 
HSU Madrigal Singers perform songs of love and celebration from Renaissance times, and MRT jazz singers do the same in the modern idiom in their shared concert on Sunday night, April 29.

For the Madrigal Singers set, Dylan Kinser and Grayson Sandy are featured in a duet on “Rest Sweet Nymphs” by Francis Pilkington, and a dozen voices combine for John Dowland’s “Come Again, Sweet Love.” Other selections include “Dreams and Imaginations” by Robert Jones, “Sweet Day” by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Bob Chilcott’s arrangement of one of the oldest and most familiar English tunes, “Greensleeves.” John Chernoff accompanies the singers on piano.

The Mad River Transit Singers take over for the second half of the concert, featuring two jazz pieces by Bobby McFerrin: his “23rd Psalm” which blends jazz and chant, and “Sweet in the Mornin’” with a solo by Claire Bent. MRT turns stormy with “Stormy Monday Blues” by T-Bone Walker and the classic “Stormy Weather” by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, with an arrangement by Madrigal and MRT director Harley Muilenburg. Famously recorded by Ethel Waters, Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, this became a signature tune for Lena Horne.

   Other selections include “Voice Dance” by Greg Jasperse and “Boplicity” by Miles Davis. MRT is accompanied by the rhythm section of John Chernoff (piano), Charles Welty (bass) and Dylan Williams (drums.)

HSU Madrigal Singers and MRT perform on Sunday night, April 29 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall at HSU. Tickets $7/3/free to HSU students from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Harley Muilenburg, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye.
Madrigal Singers will be performing Madrigals and love songs from the late Renaissance golden age of English Madrigals as well as love ballads from the 20th century. Dylan Kinser and Grayson Sandy will be featured on a duet in "Rest Sweet Nymphs". The theme of the program is music for a celebration, such as a renaissance wedding in old England. John Chernoff will accompany Madrigal Singers on the piano.

MRT will be performing two featured jazz pieces composed by Bobby McFerrin, Sweet in the Mornin' with Claire Bent, soloist and Psalm 23. McFerrin's "23rd Psalm" is composed in quasi chant ballad style with jazz chords influencing the sound. Two "stormy" jazz titles will be performed: "Stormy Monday Blues" and "Stormy Weather". Both songs are standards for jazz singers and these arrangements are most enjoyable to sing and to hear. Our rhythm section includes: John Chernoff, Piano, Charles Welty, Bass, and Dylan Williams, Drums. --Harley Muilenburg

Madrigal Singers: The Program

Rise Up My Love, My Fair One James McCray
Dreams and Imaginations Robert Jones
Greensleeves arr. Bob Chilcott
Rest Sweet Nymphs Francis Pilkington
Come Again Sweet Love John Dowland
  Will Good Ale John Rutter
Sweet Day Ralph Vaughan Williams
Mairi’s Wedding arr. Bob Chilcott

MRT Singers: The Program

Stolen Moments arr. Kirby Shaw
Sweet in the Mornin’ Bobby McFerrin
 Stormy Weather arr. Muilenburg
Voice Dance Greg Jasperse
Stormy Monday Blues Aaron T-Bone Walker
Psalm 23 Bobby McFerrin
O Mary Don’t You Weep arr. Albert McNeil Shawny
The Frim Fram Sauce arr. Paris Rutherford
Boplicity Miles Davis, Arr. Clinton Day

Madrigal Singers Spring 2012

Cayla Crofts, Tiffany Casparis, Hayley Brick, Gloria Gutierrez, Erin Corrigan, Ashley Fields, Jacqui Hernandez,  Kristina Crawford,  Kyana Ballard, Megan May, Jessica Lovelady, Brandy Rose, James Gadd, Cole Buxton, Dylan Kinser ,Kyle McCormick, William Nevin III, Christian Rosales, John Pettlon, Elliott Pennington, Grayson Sandy, Matt Walton.

MRT Singers Spring 2012

Cara Crofts, Claire Bent, Jacqui Hernandez, Sara Scibetta, Jo Kuzelka, Nancy Soriano, Shawny Hard, Tina Toomata, Steven Eitzen, Kristofer Lang, Paul Johnston, Joseph Welnick, Philip de Roulet, Eric Taite.

Rhythm Section: John Chernoff, Charles Welty, Dylan Williams.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Calypso Band Brings Guests to Spring Concert

With a talked-about group of grade school percussionists from southern California called “We Got the Beat” as well as the HSU World Percussion Group to start things off, the Humboldt State Calypso Band presents high-energy dance music in its annual spring concert in the Van Duzer Theatre on Saturday April 28.

Under the direction of percussionist Brenda Myers, “We Got the Beat” is a band of Fresno, California students from grades 2-7 who play throughout the state, including a national music merchants convention in Anaheim and the Oakland Day of Percussion. They will visit the North Coast for several days, and play for the public in the first half of the Calypso Band concert. Also in the first half, the World Percussion Group features a 30-piece samba band playing authentic music from Brazil.

  Then the Calypso Band takes over for the rest of the evening, this year emphasizing music of the Caribbean Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago. Featured selections include Ray Holman’s island anthem, “Pan,” and two Boogsie Sharpe steelband classics: “Woman is Boss” and “Pan Army.”

Humboldt State Calypso Band with the World Percussion Group and We Got the Beat perform on Saturday April 28 at 8 p.m. in the Van Duzer Theatre on the HSU campus in Arcata. $7/3 from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Eugene Novotney and Howard Kaufman, produced by the HSU Music Department.

Media: Lumberjack, Humboldt State Now,  Arcata Eye. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Jazz Orchestra Revives A Jazz Legend

Guest appearances by trumpeter Gilbert Cline and the entire Symphonic Band are part of the HSU Jazz Orchestra’s celebration of jazz legend Gil Evans on Friday April 27 at Fulkerson Recital Hall. “Evans is best known for arranging the music of three great Miles Davis albums in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s,” says Jazz Orchestra director and HSU Music professor Dan Aldag. “But his career began in the 1930s and lasted until his death in 1988.” He would be 100 years old this year.

The Jazz Orchestra will honor his early career with two pieces from the 1940s, when he became the first to arrange in the bebop style for big bands. “Sorta Kinda” features vocalist Jo Kuzelka. The Symphonic Band under the direction of Paul Cummings guests for “Moon Dreams,” a forgotten Evans arrangement for expanded big band that Aldag calls “stunning.”

Evans became the inspiration and facilitator for the nine piece “Birth of the Cool” band, an arrangement which the Jazz Orchestra revives with a Miles Davis tune, “Boplicity.” Gilbert Cline solos on trumpet and flugelhorn for three selections from those classic Miles Davis albums, including a tune from “Porgy and Bess.” “Each features a varied and very colorful orchestration,” Aldag said.

The acclaim he received for the Davis albums allowed Evans to finally record under his own name, so the Jazz Orchestra concludes with several innovative pieces that employ unusual instrumentation, from a bassoon to electric guitar and synthesizer.

The HSU Jazz Orchestra performs the music of Gil Evans on Friday April 27 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7/$3 students and seniors, and free to HSU students, from the HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Dan Aldag, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media Previews: Tri-City Weekly, Humboldt State Now, North Coast Journal, Arcata Eye.
Jazz Orchestra Concert: Director's Notes

The Jazz Orchestra concert is devoted entirely to the music of Gil Evans, in honor of the centennial of his birth. Evans is best known for arranging the music on three great Miles Davis albums from the late '50s and early '60s, Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain, but his career began in the 1930s and lasted until his death in 1988. Over those 50+ years, Evans' music reflected and at times led the myriad of developments that took place during that half-century of jazz's history.

 We will be playing music from throughout Evans' career in this concert, beginning with two pieces he wrote for Claude Thornhill's big band in the early 1940s. "Anthropology" is a bebop tune written by two of the originators of that style, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Evans was one of the first writers to arrange bebop for a big band and he wrote several arrangements in that style for Thornhill.

 Another of those is "Sorta Kinda", a Swing Era pop song that Evans turned into bebop for for Thornhill band. Our performance will feature vocalist Jo Kuzelka.

Next will be a guest appearance by the HSU Symphonic Band. Evans wrote a stunning arrangement of the standard "Moon Dreams" for the Thornhill band, but it was never recorded by them. When Evans wrote the arrangement, Thornhill had expanded his big band to include 8 woodwind players performing on flutes and clarinets as well as saxes, in addition to two French horn players and a tubist in addition to the standard big band trumpets and trombones. When looking at the score, I realized that the instrumentation was closer to that of the Symphonic Band than the Jazz Orchestra, so I offered the piece to Paul Cummings and he agreed to do it with the Symphonic Band.

For several years in the late 1940s, Evans had a one-room apartment in midtown Manhattan that became a gathering place for many of the best and most adventurous young jazz musicians of the time, including Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, and John Lewis. Frequent musical discussions led Evans and the others mentioned above to form a group designed to have all of the colors of Claude Thornhill's band with the flexibility of a small group.

 They settled on a nine-piece group that included, in addition to the conventional jazz instruments of alto and bari, sax, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass and drums, the unusual for jazz French horn and tuba. This group eventually became known as the "Birth of the Cool" band and is generally acknowledged to be first cool jazz group.

While Evans only wrote two of the band's arrangements, it was his style that influenced all of the other writers for the band. The Jazz Orchestra will play both of the charts that Evans wrote, an adaptation of his earlier large-group arrangement of "Moon Dreams" and his arrangement of Miles Davis's tune "Boplicity."

We will be joined by guest soloist Gil Cline on trumpet and flugelhorn for one piece each from the three great Miles Davis albums Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain. "My Ship", "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" and "Will O' The Wisp" each feature a varied and very colorful orchestration, including such instruments as alto and bass flutes, oboe, clarinet and bass clarinet, French horns and tuba.

The acclaim he received for the Davis albums allowed Evans to finally record under his own name, and we'll perform a piece from the first Gil Evans album Big Stuff, "Jambangle", which uses a bassoon along with more conventional jazz instruments.

La Nevada" from the album Out Of The Cool, finds Evans starting to embrace the more open structures first popularized by Miles Davis on his landmark album Kind of Blue. From the late '60s onward, Evans fully embraced the open structures of the jazz and rock of that time, as well as the instrumentation of those styles, and so electric guitar and synthesizer will be prominently featured on the last two pieces, "Zee Zee" and "Anita's Dance." --Dan Aldag

Photos: top: Gil Evans; Gil Evans and Miles Davis; Gil Evans

Sunday, April 22, 2012

New Horizons Music Festival Concerts Honor Visiting Composer Chen Yi

Faculty and students of the HSU Music Department are combining to honor visiting composer Chen Yi in the best way possible: by playing her music and presenting it to a new North Coast public in two different concerts on April 22 and 23. These concerts are the centerpiece of the 4-day New Horizons Music Festival.

Born in China and currently teaching at the University of Missouri, Chen Yi has been called “perhaps the most internationally renowned female Asian composer of contemporary music today.” She is known for combining traditional Chinese folk music with familiar forms of western music. She will be on the HSU campus Sunday and Monday.

“This is the first time that almost all of our faculty and many of our students will play the music of one living composer,” said pianist and HSU Music professor Daniela Mineva, “and she will be here to guide us and to attend our concerts of her work.”

Chen Yi’s chamber music and vocal compositions are showcased in the Sunday, April 22 faculty concert, which features HSU and community musicians Terrie Baune, Karen Davy, Elisabeth Harrington, Carol Jacobson, Nicholas Lambson, Robin Miller, Daniela Mineva, Cindy Moyer, Eugene Novotney, Virginia Ryder, Laura Snodgrass, Shao Way, and guest cellist from San Francisco Thalia Moor.

The Monday (April 23) concert presents the Humboldt Symphony, Symphonic Band and University Singers performing some of Chen Yi’s orchestral and choral works. Her recent “Suite from China West” will be performed as both a symphonic band piece and in a two piano version played by Daniela Mineva and John Chernoff. “Romance and Dance,” features violin solos by Cindy Moyer and Terrie Baune. Paul Cummings conducts the Humboldt Symphony and Symphonic Band. Harley Muilenburg directs the University Singers.

Composer Chen Yi will attend final rehearsals for these two concerts and offer her guidance. She previously has been consulted frequently by email. “It’s a wonderful experience to be able to ask the composer questions,” said Paul Cummings. “We don’t get to do that very often. You can’t call up Mozart and ask him if you can slow down the finale. But we’ve been emailing over the past few months, and she’s been fantastic—she answers every email within a day, and signs each message, ‘Love, Chen Yi.’”

In addition to meeting with faculty and students, Chen Yi will give a talk on Chinese art and music at noon on April 23 in Fulkerson Recital Hall, which is free and open to the public.

The New Horizons Music Festival will also include workshops and master classes, as well as concerts by the Kronos Quartet on April 24 (sponsored by Center Arts) and the Rez Abbasi Invocation Quintet on April 25 (sponsored by Redwood Jazz Alliance.)

The HSU faculty concert of Chen Yi’s chamber and vocal compositions is Sunday April 22, and the large ensembles concert of her orchestral and choral works is on Monday, April 23. Both concerts begin at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $10 general and $5 seniors and all students, from the HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. 

Media: Tri-City Weekly, Arcata Eye, Humboldt State Now.
Chamber Music of Chen Yi: The Program
New Horizons Music Festival
Sunday April 22 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall

Qi (1997) Mixed Quartet for flute, cello, piano and percussion
Eugene Novotney, Laura Snodgrass, Carol Jacobson and Daniela Mineva

Qi is a Chinese character meaning air, energy, power and spirit. A combination of western instruments create the sound of the East, in Chen Yi’s words “to express my feelings of the Qi abstractly—it’s so untouchable, so mysterious, but so strong and powerful. It melts into air and light, it’s like the space in Chinese paintings, it is filled into the dancing lines of Chinese calligraphy; it’s the spirit in the human mind.”

Fisherman Song (1979) Violin and Piano
Cindy Moyer and Robin Miller

With a melody in Cantonese folk song style, Fisherman’s Song had its U.S. premiere in San Francisco in 1996.

Memory (2010)
Cindy Moyer and Robin Miller

This “sad and lovely song of loss” is a memorial work written for Chen Yi’s teacher and mentor, Professor Lin Yaoji.

The Han Figurines (2006) Mixed Ensemble
Virginia Ryder, Karen Davy, Shao Way, Eugene Novotney and Robin Miller

A musical realization of the composer’s impressions of Chinese clay figurines of the Eastern Han (25-220 A.D.) Chen Yi: “Have you seen the shapes of the enraptured storyteller, the vivid acrobat and the moving dancers with long sleeves? They are in highly exaggerated forms and postures, in large and sweeping movements—the innocent and bold images symbolize the strength, motion and speed. It’s the beauty of the crude and primitive power of humanity in its conquest of the material world.”

As in a Dream (1988) Soprano, violin and cello
Cindy Moyer, Elisabeth Harrington, Thalia Moor

The words of the songs come from two poems by Li Qing-zhao, a famous poet of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Suggesting the “reciting speech and lingering charm of the Chinese traditional opera...”

Tibetan Tunes (2006) Violin, cello and piano
Terrie Baune, Thalia Moor, Daniela Mineva

The first movement is inspired by a Tibetan folk tune. The music “presents the rich gestures of Du Mu (a god in Tibetan Buddhism) in a serene mood.”

Chinese Ancient Dance (2004) Clarinet and piano
Virginia Ryder, Daniela Mineva

The first movement, “Ox Tail Dance,” is an imagined version of an ancient tradition. The second movement, “Hu Xuan Dance,” was suggested by a Tang Dynasty poem. Chen Yi: “The energetic dance has continuing fast-spinning gestures, introduced to China from the West in ancient times.”

Three Bagatelles From China West (2006) Flute and piano
Laura Snodgrass, Daniela Mineva

Inspired by folk music and folk instruments from China West. Laura Snodgrass: "The Chinese wooden flute uses a lot of micro-tones and slide effects not typical of the western metal instrument, so it calls for a very different playing style."

The Points (1991)
transcribed for the guitar and performed by Nicholas Lambson

Composed originally for the Chinese lute called the pipa, and influenced by the centuries of music for that instrument, it is also inspired by the eight standard strokes in Chinese calligraphy: the points.

Photos from top to bottom: Laura Snodgrass and Daniela Mineva, Virginia Ryder, Elisabeth Harrington, Nicholas Lambson.
Orchestral & Choral Music of Chen Yi: The Program

New Horizons Music Festival
Monday April 23 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

Capriccio (2000)
University Singers

Chen Yi: “...inspired by the folk tune on the bagpipe that I heard from the lawn outside of the Nelson Gallery, and the wild singing sound of the Asian folk choral music,” it was written for the Kansas City 150th anniversary celebration.                                                                                 

Jing Diao (2011) Full Orchestra
Humboldt Symphony

“Jing Diao” in Chinese means a Beijing Opera tune. Composed to celebrate the farewell season of Gerald Schwarz as Music Director of the Seattle Symphony, this work is barely a year old.

  Chen Yi: “I would like to use the energetic ‘Jing Diao’ to symbolize the high spirit in the meeting of East and West. Jerry’s vision and leadership in American new music brings our creative arts to the whole new world!”

Humboldt Symphony conductor Paul Cummings: “This is an exciting piece with a real sense of celebration. Gerald Schwarz really is a hero to new composers—not many symphony orchestras feel they can afford to do new work and still sell tickets. But he always managed to put a modern work on his program.”

Romance and Dance (1998) Two violins and string orchestra
Humboldt Symphony
with soloists Terrie Baune and Cindy Moyer

The first movement (“Romance”) comes from an earlier work, “Romance of Hsiao and Ch’in,” written for western instruments to reproduce the sound and styles of the traditional Chinese instruments, hsiao (a vertical bamboo flute) and ch’in (a two thousand year old Chinese zither,) often played together.

Of “Dance,” the second movement, Chen Yi said: “The image came from the dancing ink on paper in Chinese calligraphy and the fiery moving gestures of the Chinese ancient women dancers.”

Paul Cummings: “The first movement begins slowly, then becomes much more agitated before a very quiet ending. The second movement is the Dance, so naturally it’s livelier. But the Chinese folk music influence is clear in both movements."

"One of the interesting features of the second movement especially is the composer’s use of string textures, with devices like collegno, which is playing with the stick of the bow. The end of this movement has unison passages as well as highly contrapuntal passages, creating fascinating textures."

"Our soloists are Cindy Moyer and Terrie Baune. We’re excited to have Terrie involved because she played on an earlier version of this work, and she’s a good friend of Chen Yi.”

Spring Festival (1999) Wind Ensemble
Symphonic Band

“The pitch material in Spring Festival is drawn from a southern Chinese folk ensemble piece, “Lion Playing Ball.”

Paul Cummings, Symphonic Band conductor: “Chen Yi wrote this for an organization called Bandquest, which asks modern composers of note to write music that is accessible for young people. Though young people can play it—high school players for example—it does have its challenges, and it’s interesting for college players and for audiences.”

China West Suite: two piano version (2007)
Daniela Mineva, John Chernoff

The authentic folk music from China West “amazed and inspired” the composer to create this suite, first for wind symphony, and then this two-piano version. There are four movements, drawn from the folk songs Gadameiln and Pastoral of the Meng people; Ashima of the Yi People; Du Mu and Amaliehuo of the Zang People; Dou Duo and the Lusheng ensemble music of the Miao People.

Suite From China West (2005)
Symphonic Band

Having played the first two movements in its February concert, the Symphonic Band plays the entire original wind orchestra suite. Paul Cummings: “ This is music in a very modern idiom with lots of dissonance, but it is not atonal. There’s a tonal center in just about everything we’ve encountered. There are unusual timbres and rhythms, and unusual instruments--at least for us—and unusual orchestration, like a technically difficult passage in the third movement that has piccolo playing with orchestra bells. But the effect is very much of a hybrid Chinese and American music, which seems fitting since Chen Yi grew up in China and received her first musical training there, but she has been living and teaching in the United States for quite a while now, so she’s got these two cultures in her consciousness.”

Photos top to bottom: Harley Muilenburg and University Singers, violinst Cindy Moyer, violinist Terrie Baune, conductor Paul Cummings.
Chen Yi : Biography

This is an edited version of Chen Yi's biography (as of June 2009) by the American Music Center.
It includes this note: *CHEN is her family name, Yi is her personal name. CHEN Yi can be referred to as Dr. Chen, Ms. Chen, or Chen Yi.

A native of Guangzhou, China, Chen Yi was born into a family of doctors with a strong interest in music. She began violin and piano studies with Zheng Ri-hua and Lee Soo Sin at the age of three. When the Cultural revolution overtook China in the 1960's, she tried hard to continue her music studies, practicing violin at home (with the mute attached). She was sent for forced labor into the countryside for two years and took her instrument along. A positive aspect of this experience was the knowledge she gained of the wider life and music of her motherland and its people.

When she was 17, she returned to her home city and served as concertmaster and composer with the Beijing Opera Troupe. She began, at this time, her research of Chinese traditional music and Western classical music theory under the supervision of Zheng Zhong. When the school system was restored in 1977, Chen enrolled in the Beijing Central Conservatory, where she studied composition under Professor Wu Zu-qiang and British guest composer Alexander Goehr. She continued her violin studies with Professor Lin Yao-ji and began an eight-year systematic study of Chinese traditional music.

In 1983, Ms. Chen composed the first Chinese viola concerto (Xian Shi) and, in 1986, the Chinese Musicians Association, the Central Conservatory of Music, Radio Beijing, CCTV and the Central Philharmonic of China jointly gave, in Beijing, an entire program devoted to Chen's orchestral works, when she became the first woman in China to receive the degree of Master of Arts in composition.

In 1986, Chen Yi went to the United States for further musical studies. Her chamber music has been featured in the film Sound and Silence produced by ISCM in 1989. In 1993, she received her Doctor of Musical Arts, with distinction, from Columbia University, where she studied under Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky. In the same year, Dr. Chen was appointed, through the Meet the Composer New Residencies program, to a three year term as Composer-in-Residence for the Women's Philharmonic, Chanticleer and the Aptos Creative Arts Program, all in San Francisco.

In June of 1996, Chen had three sold-out gala concerts at the Center for the Arts Theater, Yerba Buena Gardens, SF, with her orchestral works Ge Xu and Symphony No.2, choral works Set Of Chinese Folk Songs and Tang Poems, and the multi-media Chinese Myths Cantata, presented by the WP, Chanticleer and Lili Cai Dance Company, and received critical acclaims. She then joined the composition faculty of Peabody Conservatory, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (1996-1998). She is the Cravens/Millsap/Missouri Distinguished Professor in Composition at the UMKC Conservatory starting in 1998.

As the recipient of the prestigious Ives Living Award (2001-2004) from the American Academy of Arts and Letter, Dr. Chen has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation (1996) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1994), as well as the Lieberson Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1996). Other honors include first prize in the Chinese National Composition Competition (1985), the Lili Boulanger Award from the National Women Composers Resource Center (1993), New York University’s Sorel Medal (1996), the CalArts/Alpert Award (1997), a Grammy Award (1999), the University of Texas Eddie Medora King Composition Prize (1999), the Adventurous Programming and Concert Music awards from ASCAP (1999 and 2001, respectively), the ASCAP Concert Music Award (2001), the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Elise Stoeger Award (2002), the Edgar Snow Memorial Fund’s Friendship Ambassador Award (2002), honorary doctorates from Lawrence University in WI (2002), Baldwin-Wallace College in OH (2008), and University of Portland in OR (2009), and the Kauffman Award in Artistry/Scholarship from the UMKC Conservatory (2006).

Dr. Chen has received major commissions from the Koussevitzky, Fromm, Ford, Rockefeller, and Roche foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and many orchestras and other musical organizations.

Dr. Chen’s music is performed worldwide and published by Theodore Presser Company. Her works have been recorded on New Albion, CRI, New World, Teldec (with a Grammy), Nimbus, Cala, Avant, Atma, Hugo, Angel, Bis, Albany, Cavalli, Centaur, Quartz, Naxos, Koch International Classics, Delos, Hugo, China Record Corporation, among others.

In her compositions, Chen Yi tries to distill from Chinese and Western traditional music the essential character and spirit and to develop materials abstractly in accordance with new concepts. Transcending cultural and musical boundaries, serving as an ambassador for the arts, creating "real music" for society and future generations, which reaches a wide range of audiences and inspires people of different cultural backgrounds, is her main goal.

Chen Yi is in high demand as a lecturer at composition workshops and at concerts of her music throughout the world. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005, and appointed by the China Ministry of Education to the prestigious three-year Changjiang Scholar Visiting Professorship at the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music in 2006. She presently serves on the advisory boards of Meet The Composer, Chamber Music America, the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, American Composers Orchestra, the League of Composers/ISCM, and the International Alliance of Women in Music, among other music organizations.
Chen Yi: An Interview

These are excerpts from "An Interview with Chen Yi" originally published in 2001 in New Music Connoisseur. It was conducted by John de Clef PiƱeiro who called Chen Yi "perhaps the most internationally renowned female Asian composer of contemporary music today."

Q: The history of Western classical music is notable for many things, not the least of which is the exceptionally small number of women composers. Is this also the case in the history of Chinese classical music -- that is, have there only been a very few women composers in Chinese classical music? If so, were you challenged or inspired, in any way, by that fact to become a composer despite the historical odds?

Chen Yi: Up until the first half of the 20th century, there were only a very few professional women composers in China. But this fact was never an obstacle or challenge for me because I had never thought that composition was something that only men could do. My parents were medical doctors who loved classical Western music, and they raised me to love music and to be trained as a musician. I admired tremendously all of great classical composers, and was deeply moved when I listened to their music, even though I didn't realize that they were all dead white men!

I remember one day, when I was a kid, as we listened to recordings of Heifetz and Kreisler playing their own compositions while we had our dinner, that my dad told me that it would be great if one day I could play my own works like them. And when I was a teenager , my father invited my early theory teacher Mr. Zheng Zhong to teach me music theory and Chinese folk songs. This important mentor told me that, since I drank from the Yangtze River's water as I was growing up, and was born with black hair and black eyes, I could understand Chinese culture better, and should be able to carry on the culture and share it with more people. That impressed me deeply and has influenced me my whole life. Later on, I started to do as he had suggested, and I still continue to work on it now.

Q:  As a composer of Asian origins, are there cultural "responsibilities" that you believe ought to be fulfilled in your work and the work of other Asian composers?

Modern society is like a great network of complex latitudes and attitudes -- and despite their differences, all cultures, environments and conditions have something valuable to contribute to the whole. They keep changing all the time and interact with each other, so that each experience that we come across can become the source and exciting medium for our creation. In this sense, a composition reflects a composer's cultural and psychological makeup. For example, I believe that language can be translated into music. Since I speak naturally in my mother tongue, in my music there is Chinese blood, Chinese philosophy and customs. However, music is a universal language. Although I have studied Western music extensively and deeply since my childhood, and I write for all available instruments and voices, I think that my musical language is a unique combination and a natural hybrid of all influences from my background.

Q. In other words, your work embodies a kind of translation or transformation of sorts, a distillation of a life that yet transcends the individual. In the end, this may be the result of the process, but what is your basic intent when you compose?

Since I compose in my most natural language, from my heart, I am glad that my music is in a unique language, and it does reflect my cultural background, and most distinctly my Chinese origins. I think I'm doing it consciously and unconsciously, after all, it's hard to change your background and your taste intentionally. Still, I think the music could become a bridge between peoples from different cultural traditions. I hope that it can be inspiring and helpful to improve the level of understanding between peoples from different parts of the world.

Q. You mentioned before that you had studied Western music since childhood. Just how did this come about?

I started studying piano at the age of 3, by having a weekly one-hour private lesson. I also began to study the violin intensively at age 4, having two and, in some years, three one-hour private lessons a week. As I mentioned before, my parents are classical music lovers. Although they were medical doctors, my mother played piano at a professional level, and my dad played violin with great passion and sensitivity, at an intermediate level, and sang many European folk songs and title songs from Hollywood movies. They collected numerous records of classical music, ranging from solo instrumental and vocal pieces to orchestral works and operas, and they played them at home every day during and after dinner.

My older sister (only a year-and-a-half older) was a child prodigy and performed piano music on stage and on radio since she was three. I grew up listening to her practice every morning before going to school. In our home city of Guangzhou, my parents took us to local weekly symphonic concerts and to hear great visiting soloist recitals, to see ballets from foreign countries (from France, England, the Soviet Union, and other countries), and sometimes to the ethnic song and dance shows from the Congo, Japan, and elsewhere.

Eventually, I played through all of the standard repertoire in classical music, from Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Wieniawski, and Sibelius to the Prokofiev concertos, and from Sarasate and Saint-Saens concert pieces to all of Paganini's 24 Capricci and Bach's six unaccompanied suites. I got drunk by practicing and performing all of these works, and just enjoyed the beauty and the spirit behind the sound and notes. I read all available music history books about classical composers and books about their musical activities (most of them borrowed from my theory teacher).

In addition, I read European novels and stories about operas, while, at the same time, of course, reading the Chinese classics. I believe that literature has also played an important role in my research, study, and appreciation of Western music in the context of its culture.

Q. You have truly become a presence and a force in the music world since your arrival in the West. Do you believe that it is, at all, likely that you could have achieved as much or more if you had not come to the United States?

It would have been different kinds of achievement. I deeply believe that art creation and artists are closely related to the society they inhabit. I must say that I got a great education from New York City, from the atmosphere and conditions to be found in the richest cultural scene I have ever known, and from Columbia University, and from the people around me. My years in San Francisco were also very significant. And I must also acknowledge the great support that I have received from all new music advocates and from my audiences, to all of whom I am grateful. They made me who I am today. It's a kind of face-to-face interaction between life's activities and working, and as a result one becomes deeply rooted in the society where one works and lives. I don't think that I could have had the benefit of all of these influences and experiences if I had not come to the States.

Q. Perhaps we can get a sense of what it is like to be one of your students. Would you please share with us some of the perspectives that you, as a teacher, express in your advice and guidance to young composers today?

Essentially, there are three broad areas in which I encourage my students: first, I advise them to seek their own voice in composition by exploring and drawing from their own background, their traditions, and their interests and experience; second, I urge them to have an open mind and learn to appreciate a wide range of styles and methods, in order to stimulate their setting personal study goals and creative directions as early as possible; and, third, I encourage them to get strict training, to work hard in composing, and to get good performances and recordings of their work that they can use to create opportunities for their developing identities as composers."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

It's men against women--one of the conflicts explored by the Opera Workshop April 20 & 21 

Opera Workshop’s Inclusive Spring Show

With selections from West Side Story, Avenue Q and other musicals and operas, HSU Opera Workshop highlights the serious and comic treatment of race, gender and other bias in two performances with an early start: 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

In addition to such familiar shows as South Pacific, the Workshop performs a scene from lesser-known works such as “Les Mamelles de Tiresias,” a surreal opera by 20th century French composer Francis Poulenc. This farcical scene portrays a woman revolting against her role as a housewife, and a husband certain he can easily raise the children. “He eventually has to deal with an entire stage full of screaming babies,” according to Opera Workshop director and HSU Music professor Elisabeth Harrington.

The Opera Workshop is a class at HSU that produces different kinds of shows on a four-semester rotation. This was a “special topics” semester, and this year’s topic was inspired by Harrington’s participation in last spring’s HSU Inclusiveness Institute. Faculty members were asked to take at least one element from their discussions on prejudicial behavior and incorporate it into a class. “I decided we could do a whole show about it,” Harrington said.

“We began the semester with group discussions about privilege, what is means to be excluded--in any fashion-- and where prejudice comes from,” Harrington said. Students also perform several short original scenes depicting an issue that arose in their own experience, presented with musical help from pianist John Chernoff. There will be audience discussions after each performance.

HSU Opera Workshop performs on Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21 at the earlier time of 7:30 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets $7/3/free to HSU students from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Elisabeth Harrington, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Tri-City Weekly, Arcata Eye, Humboldt State Now.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Metal, Shooting Stars and Sambas

HSU Percussion Ensemble mines metal and the HSU World Percussion Group plays prize-winning sambas in their shared concert on Sunday April 15 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

The Percussion Ensemble performs “First Construction in Metal” by John Cage, which calls for some 58 different metal percussion instruments, including anvils and thunder sheets. “Many consider this piece to be Cage’s finest early work,” notes Ensemble director Eugene Novotney.

The Ensemble also plays works by Michael Udow and John Bergamo, and “The Night of the Shooting Stars,” a piece for 16 percussionists by American composer Wendy Mae Chambers.

In the concert’s second half, the World Percussion Group performs a suite of West African Mandeng drumming, followed by sambas using all indigenous instruments from Brazil. The set includes the prize-winning arrangement of “Amazonas, O Eldorado” as performed by Escola de Samba.

HSU Percussion Ensemble and World Percussion Group perform on Sunday April 15 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Directed by Eugene Novotney and Howard Kaufman, produced by the HSU Music Department.

Media: North Coast Journal, Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye, Tri-City Weekly.
Percussion Concert: Director's Notes

The HSU Percussion Ensemble will feature an exciting & diverse program of material presenting the listener with contemporary and experimental compositions, as well as traditional drumming styles based in the musics of Africa and Brasil. This evening’s performance will feature precise rhythmic interplay and driving rhythms, as well as complex and unusual percussive soundscapes.

The featured work on the program is the “First Construction in Metal” of John Cage written in 1939. This engaging work, written in the years before the United States entered into WWII, is a brash, creative, and vital example of the American avante-guard style pioneered by Cage in the twentieth century. The work calls for over 58 instruments constructed of metal, including gongs, anvils, cymbals, bells, and thunder sheets. In addition, a grand piano is used played by a traditional pianist but with live sound alteration and manipulation by a percussionist who performs on the interior of the piano strings. Many consider this piece to be Cage’s finest early work, ad this is an excellent opportunity to both hear and experience this classic piece!

Also featured on the first half of the show will be works by Michael Udow and John Bergamo, as well as a large ‘Percussion Orchestra’ piece for 16 percussionists composed by Wendy Mae Chambers and entitled, “The Night of the Shooting Stars.”

The second half of the show will feature the World Percussion Group performing a suite of traditional Mandeng Drumming of West African, and that will be followed by an inspiring arrangement of Brazilian Samba presented to the Humboldt audience in its classic form using all indigenous instruments from Brazil. For this show, the World Percussion Group will be presenting the prize winning Samba arrangement from 2006 as performed by the Escola de Samba, Grande Rio, entitled, “Amazonas, o Eldorado,” complete with Cavaquinho and Vocals. This is a show that will delight both the ears and the eyes, and it is guaranteed to have something for everyone!

Eugene Novotny

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Rampangaea: Eliot Claasen, Tyler Burkhart, Ankush Ganapathy, Jo Kuzelka, Josh Foster, Neil Bost

HSU Combos Jazz the Depot

Four bands, three vocalists, with music ranging from gypsy jazz to post-bop and funk, classics to originals, and even an alien tune from a Star Wars bar—all in the HSU version of a relaxed and intimate jazz club, the Depot. Together it’s an evening with Jazz Combos on Saturday April 14.

The sextet Rampangaea features vocals by Jo Kuzelka on tunes with a funky emphasis from Herbie Hancock, Jesca Hoop, Gene Ammons and Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny.” Eliot Claasen plays trumpet, Josh Foster trombone, Ankush Ganapathy guitar, Neil Bost bass and Tyler Burkhart drums.

Some veteran players spice up The Flying Purple Potato Eaters and their post-bop sound with a diet high in original compositions. The group features Ari Davie on trumpet, Aber Miller on piano, Mike Cimino on bass, John Daren Thomas on drums and Claire Bent on vocals, with tunes by Cimino, Miller and Davie.

The Heptet, according to jazz professor Dan Aldag, is the “biggest and most eclectic” group on the program. Their set ranges from a jazz-interpreted show tune by Anthony Newley to an original by the group’s trumpet player Justin Bertolini. Other members are Sandy Lindop (vocals), Danny Gaon (saxophones and bassoon), Aaron Laughlin (guitar), Alex Espe (piano), Max Jones (bass) and Thatcher Holvick-Norton (drums.)

La Musique Diabolique specializes in the gypsy jazz style popularized by Django Reinhardt at the Hot Club of France. Besides tunes written or played by Reinhardt, the group applies its gypsy jazz sound to a Chick Corea tune, as well as John Williams’ “Cantina Band” from the Star Wars soundtrack. Drew McGowan plays violin, Dan Fair and Kris Lang play guitars, and Steven Workman plays bass.

Jazz Combos play the Depot on the HSU campus on Saturday April 14 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7/$3/free to HSU students from the HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Dan Aldag, produced by the HSU Music Department.

Media: Arcata Eye, Humboldt State Now.
Jazz Combos: Director's Notes
La Musique Diabolique: Dan Fair, Kris Lang, Steven Workman and Drew McGowan.

There are 4 bands playing for the Jazz Combos concert, which has been moved to The Depot in order to have a more relaxed, intimate, club-like atmosphere.

The four groups are:

La Musique Diabolique is a gypsy jazz (or jazz manouche) group, the style first popularized by the Roma guitarist Django Reinhardt in the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. For the concert, they will be playing a couple of traditional tunes, Django Reinhardt's "Tears" and "Si Tu Savais", a song popularized by Reinhardt, as well as two more contemporary tunes that they've adapted for their style, Chick Corea's "Spain" and, from the "Star Wars" soundtrack "Cantina Band" by John Williams.

The Flying Purple Potato Eaters plays post-bop with an emphasis on original compositions. Their program will include "The Heroic Adventures of Five Noble Musicians" by Mike Cimino, "Flumberty Floo" by Aber Miller and "Blues For You" by Ari Davie.

Rampangaea plays jazz with a strong dose of funk. Their set will include "Big Fish" by Jesca Hoop, "Jungle Strut" by Gene Ammons, Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" and "Chameleon" by Herbie Hancock.

The Heptet is the biggest and most eclectic group. Their set will include"Mutual Disagreement", an original by trumpeter Justin Bertolini and "Feeling Good", a show tune written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse and famously covered by Nina Simone.

Dan Aldag

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Natural Brass in HBBB Spring Concert at HSU

The Humboldt Bay Brass Band and its related ensembles—including the first U.S. student group to be invited to a prestigious event in New York City—perform classics and familiar tunes on Saturday April 7 at Fulkerson Recital Hall, under the direction of Gilbert Cline.

The ensemble called Trumpet Concert von Humboldt performs on natural (valveless) trumpets, as played in the Baroque era. The group will play at the Historic Brass Society international symposium in New York this July—an event described as “the largest and most important gathering of early brass performers and scholars ever assembled.” The only student group ever invited before was from the Royal Conservatory of Music in London, more than a decade ago.

But on April 7 the North Coast audience will hear the ensemble perform a bolero. Among selections by another ensemble, the Brass Quintet, are Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” and the Rondeau by Jean-Joseph Mouret, familiar as the Masterpiece Theatre theme on PBS.

The Humboldt Bay Brass Band itself performs several classical pieces, including Suite from The Royal Water Music by Handel, Finlandia by Jean Sibelius and Mille regretz from the early 1500s by Josquin des Prez.  Popular melodies on the program include “American Patrol” (made famous by the Glenn Miller Orchestra) and the Beatles’ “Day Tripper,” as well as selections from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music and a selection from the ever-popular John Philip Sousa.

As for the ensemble Trumpet Concert von Humboldt, Professor Cline notes that it is one of the few ensembles anywhere to perform on authentic reproduction natural trumpets. He incorporates research of historic brass music in the HSU ensemble, as played in the upcoming concert.

Humboldt Bay Brass Band and ensembles performs its spring concert on Saturday April 7 at 8 p.m. in the in Fulkerson Recital Hall. Tickets are $7 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Directed by Gilbert Cline, produced by the HSU Music Department.

HBBB and Ensembles: The Program

1- Finlandia by Jean Sibelius

2- Mille regretz by Josquin des Prez

3- Brass quintet: Sonata from Bankelsangerlieder by Daniel Speer

4- Suite from The Royal Water Music by G. F. Handel

5- Brass quintet: Rondeau by Jean-Joseph Mouret

7- Sousa On Parade by J P Sousa


- TCvH: Bolero anonymous

- Brass quintet: The Entertainer by Scott Joplin

- Selections from The Sound of Music by Rodger & Hammerstein

- American Patrol by F W Meacham

- Day Tripper by Lennon-McCartney (The Beatles)

- Hide & Seek by Imogen Heap

Media: Tri-City Weekly, Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye, North Coast Journal, Lumberjack.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Chameleon Flute in  Concert

The flute can sound like a singer, mimic a violin or even imitate a blackbird—and in this concert featuring Laura Snodgrass on flute and Daniela Mineva on piano, it does all three, and more. The flute as chameleon is the theme on Friday April 6 at the Fulkerson Recital Hall.

“In every piece on the program, the flute is imitating another instrument or sound,” said HSU Music faculty member Laura Snodgrass. In two selections, this involves adapting the original composition. Claude Debussy first wrote “Chanson de Billitis” for voice, but later re-worked it for flute and piano, with the flute taking the singing part.

Cesar Franck’s Sonata in A is among the best known works for violin and piano, transcribed for flute and piano. “Retaining the style and timbre of a stringed instrument while maximizing the capabilities of the flute is very challenging,” Snodgrass said. “The piece literally transforms and reinvents itself in performance on the flute.”

French composer Olivier Messiaen believed birds to be the greatest musicians and in the later part of his composing career he incorporated his transcriptions of birdsong into a number of pieces. One of the first was La Merle Noir, written for piano and flute in 1952 and based entirely on the song of the Eurasian blackbird.

But can the chameleon flute pull off the most difficult imitation of all—another flute? In 3 Bagatelles from China West by Chen Yi, the western flute must mimic the traditional Chinese wooden flute. “It uses a lot of micro-tones and slide effects not typical of the western metal instrument,” Snodgrass said, “so it calls for a very different playing style.”

This is the second piece by contemporary Chinese composer Chen Yi played at HSU this spring, in advance of her appearance on campus and two concerts devoted to her music on April 22 and 23.

Laura Snodgrass and Daniela Mineva perform this Faculty Artist Series concert on Friday April 6 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets: $8/$3 students and seniors from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Proceeds to HSU Music scholarship fund. Produced by the HSU Department of Music.

Media: Tri-City Weekly, Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye.