i’ve been out here in beautiful San Francisco all week, running along the ocean, working/procrastinating in many fine coffeeshops, considering the pluses (always smells good) and minuses (fog) of living here… and my piece PRIVILEGE will be premiered tonight by the vocal ensemble Volti.
Volti is the kind of choir i always hoped existed but until now had never encountered. a group of extremely smart musicians, dedicated exclusively to new music, in search of genuinely new compositional voices. they program some daring (not to mention difficult) repertoire, and the singers themselves are proud of their work and their unique place in the music community here. as someone who grew up in a choir and has a deep connection to choral music, it’s unfortunate that so much choral music in this country conforms to expectations without a fight, fails to challenge thinking musicians and thinking audiences, and is generally so… bland.
the musicians of Volti clearly reject this state of affairs and actively work against it. rehearsing with them, and with their excellent conductor Robert Geary, has been a pleasure - they’ve been full of questions and are eager to enrich their understanding of my piece and the ideas it should convey. and, you know, Volti could teach something not just to the many choirs across the country who could stand to take more risks with their programming, but also to the vocal ensembles in urban centers whose musicians may be super talented technically, but somewhere along the line have lost a meaningful appreciation for the communal benefits of singing in a choir - or even for the very purpose of making music with your fellow human beings to begin with. because Volti does it for love, and in music, that’s really the only thing that matters.
i’m excited about hearing my new piece too - it’s about 14 minutes. i set some texts from an interview Bill Moyers did with writer David Simon (creator of The Wire and Treme), alongside some texts i wrote, and an English translation of one of my favorite Xhosa anti-Apartheid songs, Az Kwaz uKuhamba. (This is actually one of the lesser known songs… the UCT Choir for Africa taught it to Mollie Stone who then taught it to me, and when I travelled to Cape Town to work with choirs in 2006, many of them had a fleeting recognition of this piece but didn’t know it intimately. It is a song protesting the forced removals of non-white residents of Cape Town, from integrated neighborhoods to segregated townships, in the 1950’s). “Privilege” will be performed tonight and tomorrow, along with challenging new works by Robin Estrada and Donald Crockett. If you’re in the Bay Area, I’d love for you to come out.
8pm Fri May 14 - First Congregational Church, Berkeley
2345 Channing Way
8pm Sat May 15 - St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco
1111 O’Farrell Street
you get a discount on tickets if you purchase in advance.