PERFORMANCES, COMMISSIONS AND PREMIERES
On Disc: 1) Kantorei of Kansas City, Chris Munce, Artistic Director: see above. 2) Voce released a CD of the complete Six Books of Shakespeare Songs. 3) Montage Music Society's Starry Night Project — Music Based on Visual Art [MS 1264], featuring Harris's award-winning "Starry Night: Seven Paintings for violin, cello & piano," is available at MSR Classics, Amazon, and downloadable at CD Baby, etc.
On The Air: 1) On WQXR (105.9 in New York), Choral Fixation (about 14 minutes in) played seven Shakespeare Songs from the New Amsterdam Singers CD. 2) Harris was interviewed at WWFM (89.1 in NJ and on the web) on Cadenza and Sounds Choral. 3) An NPR Morning Edition segment: Barenaked Ladies Meet Shakespeare, wherein Harris's It Was a Lover and His Lass is compared with the rock group's version.
In Print: 1) British scholar Charles Pettit has been in touch with Harris for an article he's writing for The Hardy Review (the journal of the Thomas Hardy Association). It will include information about Harris's previous opera Tess, based on Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles. 2) The American Choral Director's Association publication, Choral Journal, featured an article in their August issue titled "Matthew Harris's Shakespeare Songs: The Bard's Lyrics Meet American Popular Music" by John M. Petzet, based on his doctoral thesis.
In Books: There's an entry on Matthew Harris in Choral Repertoire, a new book by Dennis Shrock, published by Oxford University Press, covering composers from the Medieval era to present date. Harris is also in Choral Music in the Twentieth Century, by Nick Strimple, published by Amadeus Press.
Chelsea Opera premiered the Harris-Quinn opera The Mark of Cain last season in lower Manhattan. Blythe Gaissert and Brace Negron sang the lead roles; Steven M. Crawford, formerly of The Metropolitan Opera, conducted. St. Francis College in Brooklyn presented a concert performance of the opera in the spring. Laila Salins and Bruce Negron sang the lead roles; Samuel McCoy conducted. The previous spring, Center for Contemporary Opera gave a preliminary semi-staged reading of the opera at the Flea Theater in downtown New York City.
Golden Fleece's 21st annual opera commission went to Matthew Harris this year to create a condensed, three-singer, one-hour version of his three-act opera, TESS, for a concert performance produced by Golden Fleece at Opera America's NYC Recital Hall on June 22-23.
On May 23, the New Amsterdam Singers presented the U.S. premiere of the 8-part, William Carlos Williams triptych, Three Plums and the New York premiere of Fantasy on La Bamba.
Amor Artis premiered Three Sacred Pieces on May 19 at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in New York City.
Kantorei of Kansas City, previewed the material on their upcoming Harris album on a pair of concerts in Kansas City, May 18-19.
On March 23-24, the Voce Chamber Singers premiered their most recent commission from Harris, a setting of E. E. Cummings's i love you much(most beautiful darling), in the D.C. area.
Amuse, the women's vocal ensemble that commissioned Harris's 6-part Women in Love, have become a sextet called Amuse Too and reprised the work for a performance on March 2 in Manhattan.
And a sampling of Shakespeare Songs from all over: Connecticut Chamber Choir/MixTape Dance, University of Washington Choir, Houston Cecilia Chamber Choir, Brooklyn Conservatory Chorale, La Caccina (Chicago), Harmonium Choral Society (New Jersey), LOCUS (Japan), Treblemakers (England) and Con Brio (New Zealand).
THE SEASON BEFORE
The Astoria Symphony and Symphonic Choir, conducted by Adam Eggleston, performed Arias and choruses from TESS in Astoria, Queens.
CHELSEA OPERA presented A Child's Christmas is Wales, a cantata for chorus and orchestra at Christ & St. Stephen's Church in New York City. Other recent performances of this work : Wellington Shropshire, England: New College Chorale, directed by Bob Wysome; Newtown, CT: Newtown Choral Society, conducted by Mary Andreotta; and giving the West Coast premiere in Sacramento, CA: Camerata California, directed by Daniel Canosa.
Amuse commissioned a women's chorus arrangement of three Shakespeare Songs and performed it in New York City.
Cois Cladaigh, the Galway group that commissioned Three Plums and performed it at the Cork Festival last April, also performed it on their 30th anniversary concert with guest conductor Donal Doherty.
Western Wind, continued their 14-year tradition of performing little tree on their Holiday Light concert in New York City. (They are currently preparing a CD which will include Sweet and Low, which they also perform often.) Chicago A Cappella, a group with a CD of various Shakespeare Songs, performed On This Starry Night on their holiday concerts.
Some other performances: Kansas City Chorale, Voce Chamber Singers, The U. of Arizona Symphonic Choir, McDaniel College's Madrigal Singers, Wisconsin Lutheran Choir, and Southern Oregon Repertory Singers.
Shakespeare Songs: San Francisco Lyric Chorus and Da Camera Singers (Amherst, MA); Dallas Chamber Singers, Voce Novae (Louiville, KY) and Carroll U. Vocal Collective (Waukesha, WI), Concora's 35th Anniversary Gala (New Britain, CT), and the Virginia Chorale.
A Child's Christmas in Wales: North Country Chorus (Vermont and New Hampshire), Buck's County Choral Society (Pennsylvania), and Village Voices (New York State) performed A Child's Christmas in Wales, and performed On This Starry Night.
Live from New York (and environs): The Walt Whitman High School Choir, directed by Jeff Davidson, gave the New York premiere of Fear No More from the new Book VI at Carnegie Hall. Angelica, an ensemble of women's voices led by Marie Caruso, performed How Like a Winter Hath My Absence Been; Western Wind performed Sweet and Low around town; Judith Clurman guest conducted an honor choir at the New Jersey State Music Association conference in a performance of O Sacrum Convivium in Secaucus; and the above-mentioned women's vocal ensemble AMUSE, led by Guest Conductor Steven Fox, performed How Like a Winter Hath My Absence Been.
From Sea to Shining Sea: Macalester College and the Festival Chorale: Minn., Musica Sacra: Cambridge, Ma; Amare Cantare: Exeter, NH.; George Fox University Chamber Singers: Newberg, OR; University of Virginia Chamber Singers: Charlottesville, Acappellago: Chicago, and the Bowdoin College Chamber Choir.
And Across the Pond: Romulus Singers in Hale Barns, Yeovil Chamber Choir, Somerset Chamber Choir, The Levens Choir in Kendal, and The Nonesuch Singers at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London.
Catch of the Day whilst Google-fishing: Accragio, a chorus in Ghana, performed "It was a Lover and her Lass."
It's for the Children: three recent commissions from high school choruses:
To You, on a poem by The Mark of Cain librettist Terry Quinn, for James Rensink, Artist in Residence and choral director at The Storm King School.
My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold, for Daniel Beal, Director of the York Suburban High School Concert Choir in Pennsylvania, in celebration of the school's 50th anniversary.
If Music and Sweet Poetry Agree, for Robert Drafall, Director of the State College High School Chorus in Pennsylvania.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
2010 — 2011
An excerpt from the upcoming opera, The Mark of Cain, was performed in Brooklyn Heights. There was a dramatic reading of the libretto as well.
The Oriana Choir sang Shakespeare Songs at St. Martin in the Fields in London, the Cornell Men's Glee Club performed Love Songs at the University and on tour.
Orpheus Men's Choir, who sang Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird — the 13-composer collaboration led by
Harris — in Pennsylvania.
Montage Music Society, who performed Harris's piano trio, Starry Night at the Corcoran Gallery in D.C. and the Chautauqua Institution.
Hopewell Valley Chorus, who celebrated their 50th anniversary in May, 2010 at the Princeton Performing Arts Center with a premiere of the work they commissioned, In The Arms of Music. It's a six movement, half-hour ode to music for soloists, chorus, children's chorus and chamber orchestra.
AND... Ave Maris Stella, in various cities around England, The Westminster Choir at Charleston's Spoleto Festival, the Kodaly Conference at New York University, Central City chorus in NYC and De Angelis Vocal Ensemble on the West Coast.
2008 — 2009
Center for Contemporary Opera performed a reading of scenes from Harris's libretto for his opera Tess (based on Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles) at The Cell in New York City in January. Harris introduced the work beforehand and joined a panel discussion afterward. At the end of the evening the audience heard a musical recording of the excerpt that was read earlier.
In November, Harris was invited to Galway, Ireland by the Cois Cladaigh Chamber Choir to coach and attend the premiere performance of the work they commissioned from him, Three Plums.
The Phoenix Chorale's 50th Anniversary celebration concerts in October and November included the Harris pieces they recorded on their first Chandos album.
Jazzica, a women's choir in Germany performed How Like a Winter Hath my Absence Been at various dates throughout the country.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, the 13-composer collaboration headed by Harris, was accepted for publication by Walton Music.
The Southern Oregon Repertory Singers sang Harris at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on July 14th in Ashland.
NPR stations around the country broadcast The Western Wind performing Sweet and Low on the Fourth of July. The special program on American music also included an interview with Harris. Sweet and Low will later be released on an upcoming Western Wind CD.
Montage performed Starry Night on Sunday, May 19th in Dedham, MA.
Anne Matlack and the Harmonium Choral Society included Shakespeare Songs Book IV on their final concerts of the season on Saturday June 7th and Sunday June 8th in Madison, NJ.
On May 16th, Winchester Musica Viva performed Harris's Love Songs at Trinity Episcopal Church, Upperville, VA.
Jeff Davidson and his Walt Whitman High School Chorus in Bethesda, MD, premiered Break, Break, Break, a piece they commissioned to honor the memory of a recent graduate.
The Hopewell Valley Chorus sang Sweet and Low on May 9th in Pennington, NJ.
The Masterworks Choral in San Carlos, CA perform Harris at their "Serenade to Shakespeare" on March 15th & 16th.
The New Amsterdam Singers sang Innocence & Experience and Love Songs in New York City on March 7th and 9th at The Church of the Holy Trinity.
Voce (see above) performed a set of Shakespeare Songs on February 23rd & 24th in the D.C. area.
Harris and choral director Joseph Ohrt led a 13-composer commissioning project where each composer set a stanza from Wallace Stevens's iconic poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird for men's chorus and piano. Harris set the opening stanza and coordinated the work from the aesthetic side, while Ohrt chose a stellar cast of choral composers from around the world. Dr. Ohrt and the Central Bucks West High School Men's Chorus premiered the work at the National Gallery in Washington D.C. on January 27th and at the American Choral Directors Association conference in Hartford on February 14th.
The Santa Fe Desert Chorale included O Mistress Mine on their recently-released "Live from Loretto Chapel," a 2-disc album on Clarion Records. Matthew Tresler conducted the work.
The classical radio show Sounds Choral, on WWFM in New Jersey, featured an hour-long interview with Harris on November 25th. Host Marjorie Hellerman also played recordings of Harris's choral music.
The Ebor Singers (York, England), Directed by Paul Gameson, sang selections from Shakespeare Songs, Books 1-4 on November 10th at The Chapter House in York Minster.
On November 4th, Charles Bruffy led the Phoenix Bach Choir in a performance of O Mistress Mine at the Episcopal Cathedral in Phoenix.
The Americas Vocal Ensemble – Nelly Vuksic, director – sang Crotalo from Harris's Two Lorca Songs on their “Crossing Cultures in the Americas" concerts in October. The performances took place at various venues in Queens and Manhattan.
Dr. John Pretzet's dissertation, "A Conductor's Guide to the Shakespeare Songs of Matthew Harris" was approved by Texas Tech University in June and copies were printed in August. He reports it will be available online in the near future.
A small sampling of Shakespeare Songs performances from the summer of 2007: the Romulus Singers, led by Jon Henderson, in Halebarns, England; Pizzicante, under the direction of Christiana Duyck, in Turnhout, Belgium; the Monmouth Civic Chorus, under Mark Shapiro, in Red Bank, New Jersey.
The Western Wind Vocal Ensemble performed Sweet and Low Friday June 8th, 8pm at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York City. The concert also included premieres by Meredith Monk and Tania León.
On June 6th at St. Vibiana's Cathedral, the Los Angeles Chamber Singers premiered Fantasy on La Bamba at the opening concert of the Chorus America Conference 2007 in L. A.
The Kennedy Center presented a complete evening of all five Books of Harris's Shakespeare Songs as part of their Shakespeare In Washington festival. The Voce Chamber Singers, under Kenneth Nafziger, performed at two locations in the D.C. area on May 11th and 12th.
The Amherst College Concert Choir, under Mallorie Chernin, performed works by Harris on May 5th at the Buckley Recital Hall in the Arms Music Center.
Cois Cladaigh (Brendan O'Connor, Director) performed It Was a Lover and His Lass at the Cork International Choral Festival on May 4th at St. Fin Barre's Cathedral in Cork, Ireland. They also commissioned a new work from Harris, to be performed next season.
The festival for the 400th Anniversary of Jamestown, VA, presented the Selinsgrove Area Honors Choir performing Innocence & Experience on May 11th.
Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble, led by Kristina Boerger, premiered Sweet and Low in three concerts in the New York area on May 13th, 19th and 20th.
The Alaska Chamber Chorale presented Las Seis Cuerdas and Innocence & Experience on their farewell concert on May 6th, in the Davis Concert Hall at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
On April 27th, the Shakespeare Festival in Washington D.C. performed the first of two events featuring Harris's Shakespeare Songs (see above for the other): Joseph Ohrt's Central Bucks West Choir at St. Matthew Cathedral.
John Pretzet, the Texas Tech University doctoral student whose thesis is on Harris's five Books of Shakespeare Songs, gave his Lecture-Recital at the school on April 22nd.
Anne Matlack's Harmonium Choral Society performed Oceanic Eyes, a large work for chorus, guitar and string quartet, and Two Lorca Songs in Morristown, NJ on March 3rd and 4th.
Shakespeare Songs were performed around the world in March: in Indonesia with the Musicanova Chamber Choir under the baton of Ivan Yohan; in Galway, Ireland with Cois Cladaigh, directed by Brendan O'Connor; and in the US at the Music Educators National Conference in Connecticut with the Central Bucks West Choir, led by Joseph Ohrt.
C.F. Peters recently released their publication of Harris' "Love Songs" for a cappella men's chorus.
The Manchester Choral Society, directed by Daniel R. Perkins, presented A Child's Christmas in Wales on December 2nd & 3rd, at St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester, New Hampshire.
A Child's Christmas in Wales was also performed by The West Side Singers, directed by Gayle Swymer, on December 14th in New York's Greenwich Village. The concert included On This Starry Night as well.
The Western Wind sang little tree at their annual New York Holiday Concert on December 23rd at The Church of St. Paul in New York City.
University of Arizona's Kantorei, led by Adam Eggleston, sang Two Lorca Songs on November 19th.
The Danbury Concert Chorus performed Shakespeare Songs, Book V in Danbury, CT on November 12th.
The Los Angeles Chamber Singers, directed by Peter Rutenberg, performed Shakespeare Songs, Books I & II on June 16, 17 & 18, each date in a different space in the LA area. The program was entitled "The Poet's Art IX: American Serenade."
Amuse, a Women's vocal ensemble directed by Kristina Boerger, premiered Women in Love in New York City on June 11th. The work was commissioned by Amuse. Harris had conducted excerpts from it, as well as other works of his, at the Amuse Benefit on April 25th.
On June 11th, Jeremy Faust directed International Orange in a performance of three Shakespeare Songs in San Francisco.
The Monmouth Civic Chorus, directed by Mark Shapiro, performed Shakespeare Songs, Book I on June 10th at Two River Theatre in a concert called Sounds Like Shakespeare.
Cerddorion, also led by Kristina Boerger, performed Shakespeare Songs, Books I & V on their May 13th concert in Greenwich Village.
Clara Longstreth led The New Amsterdam Singers in Object Lesson on May 18th in Manhattan.
Anne Matlack's Harmonium Choral Society performed Shakespeare Songs, Book V in Madison, NJ on June 3rd and 4th. The chamber singers did it in Basking Ridge, NJ in April.
Laurence Smith conducted the Interlochen Arts Academy Choir in a concert version of Act II, Scene One of Harris' opera TESS on Friday, April 21st at the Interlochen Center for the Arts.
The American Choral Directors Association's Eastern Division convention in New York City included a performance of O Mistress Mine by the New Amsterdam Singers, conducted by Clara Longstreth; and a reading of Shakespeare Songs, Book V, conducted by Steven Bell.
The Klein Collins Chorale
performed Crotalo at the Texas Music Educators Association Convention in San Antonio in February.
Harris was a guest composer in January at the St. Andrew's Performing Arts Series in Wellesley, where MONTAGE performed Starry Night: Seven Paintings for Violin, Cello and Piano.
The Western Wind Vocal Ensemble performed Harris's setting of the e.e. cummings poem, little tree at their "Holiday Lights" concert in New York in December.
A Child's Christmas in Wales was recently performed in Doylestown, PA. The amazing Joseph Ohrt conducted his award-wining choir plus a reduced orchestra.
Chicago A Cappella released an album on Cedille Records, “Shall I Compare Thee,” which includes Harris’s And Will a’ Not Come Again?; It was a Lover and his Lass; Take, O Take Those Lips Away and Who is Silvia? from his Shakespeare Songs. They will perform all the works from the album in April.
The Aaron Copland Fund awarded a grant to the Los Angeles Chamber Singers to record Harris' choral works. Last summer they gave the West Coast premiere of Innocence and Experience on three concerts around Los Angeles celebrating their 15th anniversary season
The New Amsterdam Singers (see above) toured Eastern Europe last summer with a collection of Shakespeare Songs, which they had just performed New York City. (Read the New York Times review.)