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Performers of all kinds often serve as opening acts for bigger, better-known names as they make their way to the top. At 6:30 pm on Saturday, works by student composers at Settlement will be featured as the opening act for a concert of contemporary music by the award-winning Philadelphia ensembles The Crossing and Network for New Music.
The students' pieces will be presented alongside a new work by their teacher, Roberto Pace, the Robert Capanna Fundamentals of Music Distinguished Faculty Chair. All are world premieres being performed for the very first time, and the project is funded by the American Composers Forum.
These new pieces are the product of a year-long concentration on the intersection of words and music, plus a collaboration with Philadelphia-based poet Lamont Steptoe, a writer, in Pace's words, "in the tradition of Whitman and Ginsberg." For students in Pace's Advanced Music Theory and Composition classes, it was the first time they had set poetry to music or worked with professional musicians.
Pace and his students started out with a Bach chorale, then moved on to more advanced examples by Brahms, Debussy and other greats. "We would talk about the words: about how the composer dramatically draws out the words, when the words have to be allowed to bloom, and when do you push the text forward," Pace says.
Roberto Pace leads members of the ensemble during rehearsal
After months of closely studying poems and musical settings heavy with words, the students began their composition process in January and worked on their pieces throughout the spring. After evaluations by Pace and workshops with musicians, works by five students were selected for the concert-opening honor:
Pace says that when Steptoe heard the pieces in a workshop setting several months ago, he was blown away, saying, "I'm so humbled that you have thought about my words and made them your own." In turn, the students enjoyed the experience of working with Steptoe - "the person whose brain and body the poem came from," in Pace's words - and gaining his perspective on the words they chose to set.
Pianist and SMS faculty member Linda Reichert and baritone Jackson Williams
All of the student works, as well as Pace's own "Somewhere without a map," will be performed by an ensemble of piano, clarinet (played by SMS faculty members Linda Reichert and Arne Running, respectively) and double bass accompanying soprano and baritone soloists.
Come out to support these students and their first forays into composition! The recital is at 6:30 pm on Saturday, June 2, 2012 at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. 8855 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia. Tickets for the 8:00 pm concert to follow are $18/$27 in advance and $20/$30 at the door.