This summer, a trio of faculty and alumni artists from CCM will premiere a new work by Grammy award-winning composer Libby Larsen.
The Birth Song Cycle will be performed at the Colburn School’s Thayer Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 12, as part of this year’s SongFest Signature Series of concerts. The concert is free and open to the public.
The Birth Song Cycle was written for CCM Associate Professor of Voice Gwen Coleman Detwiler and CCM alumna Audrey Luna (MM Voice, 1988). The two sopranos will collaborate with internationally renowned pianist and CCM Associate Professor of Opera Lydia Brown in performing this cutting edge composition, giving fresh and current perspective to the powerful subject of childbirth.
While the canon of vocal literature touches on many deeply felt human experiences, the profound transformation of childbirth is scarcely addressed. Larsen’s The Birth Song Cycle breaks that taboo, exploring those human sensations of exuberance and loss, of pain and triumph that are the emotional fabric of childbirth.
Through humor and lyricism, Larsen illuminates our humanity with a genius blending of music and the words of modern authors including Pheobe Damrosch, M. K. Dean, Jennifer Gilmore, Lauren Groff, Langston Hughes, Heidi Pitlor, A. E. Stallings, Cheryl Strayed, Akiko Yosano and Gina Zucker.
You can learn more about this and other SongFest 2015 events by visiting www.songfest.us/2015-festival.
Following the work’s world premiere at SongFest, The Birth Song Cycle will be performed as part of CCM’s 2015-16 Faculty Artist Series on Saturday, Sept. 26.
About Libby Larsen
Libby Larsen is one of America’s most prolific and most performed living composers. She has created a catalogue of over 400 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over 12 operas. Her music has been praised for its dynamic, deeply inspired and vigorous contemporary American spirit. Constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles and orchestras around the world, Larsen has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory.
Larsen has been hailed as “the only English-speaking composer since Benjamin Britten who matches great verse with fine music so intelligently and expressively” by USA Today; as “a composer who has made the art of symphonic writing very much her own” by Gramophone; as “a mistress of orchestration” by Times Union; and for “assembling one of the most impressive bodies of music of our time” by Hartford Courant. Her music has been praised for its “clear textures, easily absorbed rhythms and appealing melodic contours that make singing seem the most natural expression imaginable” by the Philadelphia Inquirer. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Libby Larsen has come up with a way to make contemporary opera both musically current and accessible to the average audience.”
Larsen has received numerous awards and accolades, including a 1994 Grammy as producer of the CD The Art of Arlene Augér, an acclaimed recording that features Larsen’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. Her opera Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus was selected as one of the eight best classical music events of 1990 by USA Today. The first woman to serve as a resident composer with a major orchestra, she has held residencies with the California Institute of the Arts, the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, the Philadelphia School of the Arts, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony and the Colorado Symphony. Larsen’s many commissions and recordings are a testament to her fruitful collaborations with a long list of world-renowned artists, including the King’s Singers, Benita Valente and Frederica von Stade, among others. Her works are widely recorded on such labels as Angel/EMI, Nonesuch, Decca, and Koch International.
As a past holder of the 2003-04 Harissios Papamarkou Chair in Education at the Library of Congress and recipient of the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Larsen is a vigorous, articulate champion of the music and musicians of our time. In 1973, she co-founded (with Stephen Paulus) the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composers Forum, which has been an invaluable advocate for composers in a difficult, transitional time for American arts. Consistently sought-after as a leader in the generation of millennium thinkers, Larsen’s music and ideas have refreshed the concert music tradition and the composer’s role in it.
About Gwen Coleman Detwiler
Soprano Gwen Coleman Detwiler has been praised by music critics for possessing a voice of “divine beauty” with “sparkling coloratura” and “impressive high-flying top notes.” Her solo concert work includes appearances with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Bangor Symphony Orchestra and the Western New York Chamber Orchestra. Dr. Detwiler made her European debut as the soprano soloist for the Klassiche Musikfest’s performances of Haydn’s Die Jahreszeiten and Beethoven’s Mass in C at the Esterhazy Palace in Eisenstadt, Austria. Her opera role repertoire includes Gilda in Rigoletto, Adele in Die Fledermaus, Blonde in Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, the Governess in Turn of the Screw, Monica in The Medium and the title role in Cendrillon, among others. Dr. Detwiler can be heard on the Newport Classic’s CD recording of Moore’s The Ballad of Baby Doe and as the leading soprano, Suleika, on Centaur Record’s world-premier recording of Schubert’s Der Graf von Gleichen.
In recital, Dr. Detwiler’s repertoire includes literature spanning Baroque chamber music, German lieder, and the modern American art song. Audiences have enjoyed her performances at the Chautauqua Institute in New York, Summerfest Chamber Music Festival in Missouri, the Grandin Chamber Music Festival in Ohio, the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Ohio, the Fredonia Opera House in New York, the Château de Vianden in Luxembourg and in Central City, Colorado, among many others.
A 1999 Metropolitan Opera National Council regional winner, Dr. Detwiler has won numerous national awards for her artistry, including a MacAllister Award, the Italo Opera Award, a Presser Award and the Naftzger Young Artists Auditions first prize. She received her vocal and opera training at Northwestern University, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and the San Francisco Opera Center Merola Young Artist Program.
Dr. Detwiler is currently an associate professor of voice at CCM. In the summer of 2012, she joined the faculty of SongFest at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. In addition, she has taught at the Spoleto Festival in Italy (2011), the Vianden International Music Festival in Luxembourg (2010) and the State University of New York at Fredonia (1999-2010). Her vocal students have sung on the some of world’s most illustrious stages from the New York Metropolitan Opera to the stages of Broadway, others have attended prestigious graduate schools in the United States and in Europe. Dr. Detwiler was the recipient of the 2006 Revolutionary Woman on Campus Award and the 2001 Outstanding Professor Award. Dr. Detwiler performs and provides vocal master classes throughout the United States. She currently lives in the greater Cincinnati area with her husband, Jim, and two children, Jacob and Katelyn.
About Audrey Luna
Audrey Luna has been heard in international festivals and concert halls across the US, Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East. She launched her career abroad on tour with the famous Hagen Quartet and in Germany as a fest soloist in Bremen, where she was lauded as “musically and theatrically first class… with technical sovereignty, she laid before us so much warmth, expression, and sensitivity that it was pure joy.”
Luna has enjoyed a widely varied career opera, oratorio, chamber music, art song recitals and contemporary music. Among her credits are the Salzburger Festspiel, Schleswig-Holstein Festival, the Ludwigsburg Schlossfestspiel, Mettlach Chamber Music Festival, Jerusalem Festival, Shanghai Spring Festival, Lexington Bach Festival, Konzerthaus Wien, Berlin Philharmonie, Wigmore Hall, Queens Hall, the Louvre, St. John the Divine and the Kennedy Center to name a few.
Luna’s love of chamber music has led to collaborations with not only the Hagen Quartet, but also the Artis Quartet, Baseler Quartet, Ciompi Quartet, Amernet Quartet, Carpe Diem Quartet and the Bennewitz Quartet. She works regularly with renowned percussionist and CCM faculty member Allen Otte in recital and experimental theatre and recently performed at the Lucerne Festival with Walter Levin (of CCM’s legendary string quartet-in-residence the LaSalle Quartet) in his lecture recitals. A frequent collaborator with pianists Brad Caldwell and CCM Eminent Scholar in Chamber Music James Tocco, she has appeared in numerous recitals across the Midwestern United States and at the Great Lakes Chamber Festival. Recent performances with Laura Hynes and their soprano duo Detour de Force, have received wide acclaim.
Luna’s extensive work in contemporary music is marked by her invitation to sing with the Hagen Quartet at the historic opening of the Schoenberg Institute in Vienna and to premier music of Chinese composer Qu Xiao-Song at the Shanghai Spring International Music Festival. Dramatic work with Dagmar Birke led to the commission of the monodrama CLOTHO, based on original writings of Camille Claudel, for soprano, percussion and computer. Her most recent contemporary music projects include work in Paris with Hungarian composer György Kurtag, which resulted in her recording of his Kafka Fragmente, as well as work with Chinese composer Chen Yi, German composer and guitarist Wolfgang Netzer and American composers Moiya Callahan, CCM Professor Mara Helmuth, Allen Otte and John Corigliano. Luna also appeared in New York City Opera’s Showcase of American Composers series.
Luna currently teaches at Miami University of Ohio and during the summer teaches voice and the Alexander Technique at SongFest at the Colburn School. Her students are singing in opera houses internationally, have toured worldwide with William Christie and Chanticleer and are winners in competitions in the US including the Metropolitan Opera Regional and District Council Auditions, Columbus Opera and NATSAA. Luna’s students sing with young artist programs and in opera houses across the US and attend some of the most prestigious graduate schools in the US and Europe: CCM, Eastman, Mannes School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Indiana University, Rice University, the Royal College of Music in London and Paris Conservatory. Luna has mentored students to win Fullbright, Marshall and Frank Huntington Beebe scholarships.
Luna has sung with such noted conductors as Niklaus Harnoncourt, Marcello Viotti, Anthony Pappano, Jesús López-Cobos, Helmut Rilling, José-Luis Novo, Stephen Cleobury and Stephanie Gonley. Luna is recording the music for soprano and percussion in Mode Records’ integrated edition of the complete music of John Cage with Percussion Group Cincinnati, as well as the voice and percussion music of Qu Xiao-Song for Peer Publishers. She can be heard on the Bonneville Classics, Oehms Classics, and arsmoderna labels.
About Lydia Brown
Lydia Brown has performed extensively as a soloist and collaborative pianist throughout the world. A graduate of the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, she currently serves as assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera.
Brown won the Second Prize of the 1996 New Orleans International Piano Competition and was honored as an NFAA Presidential Scholar in the Arts. Her recital appearances include notable venues such as the Salle Cortot, the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, the Dusseldorf InselFestival, Alice Tully Hall, 92nd St. Y, Caramoor, the Goethe Institute of New York, the Phillips Gallery and Steinway Hall among others.
Brown holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Collaborative Piano from the Juilliard School as well as degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Yale University. She studied art song with Elly Ameling and pianist Rudolf Jansen and has served on the musical coaching staffs of the Spoleto Festival USA, Opera Cleveland, Chautauqua Institute Voice Program, the Marlboro Music Festival and the Ravinia Steans Institute.