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Ad Astra Singers, NOTUS and UC Berkeley Chamber Singers Join Forces for DCINY Concert at Carnegie, 3/21

Three innovative choral ensembles, all specializing in exciting new music, take the stage on Friday, March 21 at 8:00pm for the next concert in DCINY's Distinguished Concerts Artist Series at Weill Recital Hall. The three vocal ensembles include the Ad Astra Singers, a professional choir from Wichita, Kansas; NOTUS, Indiana University's Contemporary Vocal Ensemble; and the UC Berkeley Chamber Singers.

One of the only collegiate choirs in the world that has a singular focus on new music and living composers, NOTUS is comprised of 24 singers from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and directed by conductor-composer Dominick DiOrio (pictured left). Deriving its name from the Greek wind god, it signifies the winds of change. And, appropriately, all of the works on the DCINY program deal with "winds of change" in some form. NOTUS is committed to championing music of living and emerging composers, especially notable works for voices composed by Indiana University faculty and students.

NOTUS' program for DCINY features five works by young composers, each under the age of 40 and all of whom will be in attendance March 20. They include the Passacaglia from Caroline Shaw's (b.1982, pictured right) Partita for 8 voices, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music and a wonderfully inventive work that makes use of extended vocal techniques. Watch a video of NOTUS performing an excerpt from Shaw's Partita here.

NOTUS has commissioned and will perform two world premieres: "To the Roaring Wind" by Zachary Wadswoth (b. 1983), a beguiling experimental work that uses consonants and vowels in inventive ways; and "Virginia: The West" by Aaron Travers (b.1975), based on a poem by Walt Whitman. NOTUS will also perform Robert Vuichard's (b. 1986) fascinating "Zephyr Rounds" about the circling winds, and a majestic work by conductor Dominick Diorio (b. 1984) based on a chant of Hildegard. Listen to a performance of Diorio's"O Virtus Sapientiae" here.

Widely acclaimed at home and internationally, the adventurous UC Berkeley Chamber Choir is led by Marika Kuzma, director of choirs at UC Berkeley since 1990. All of the works featured on their eclectic program have links to Berkeley: Requiem: a Dramatic Dialogue is by Randall Thompson, who taught at UC Berkeley during the 1930s; Ashes is a musical meditation on the tragedy of 9-11 by New York composer Trevor Weston, who attended UC Berkeley as a graduate student in the 1990s; Robin Estrada, another alumnus, skillfully merges a folk style of singing from the Philippines into a setting of a sacred text; and Sephardisms I&II by Jorge Liderman, a professor of composition at Berkeley as recently as 2008.

Also featured is Richard Felciano's Seasons, composed in the late 1970s while teaching at UC Berkeley. In this ingenious work, each movement represents each season in a completely different, non-western musical style: spring follows the intervals and rhythms of Indonesian gamelan music; summer employs overtone singing of Tibet; fall employs percussive tongue clicks of sub-Saharan Africa, and the stark severity of winter is depicted with a spare Japanese aesthetic. Concluding US Berkeley's program is "Vesna" [Spring] by Ukrainian composer Lesia Dychko and an optimistic ode on the first day of spring, the date of the concert.

A vibrant, sixteen-voice professional chamber choir, the Ad Astra Singers takes its name from the Kansas state motto, "To the stars." Led by director John Paul Johnson, the Singers are developing a reputation for creative programming, vocal depth, and contributing to the choral repertoire by commissioning new works.

Their program includes "Four Haikus," a work the Ad Astra Singers premiered earlier this year by award-winning Wichita-based composer Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn; two works by Kansas-based composer Jean Belmont Ford, a specialist in chamber and choral music who has composed for ensembles including Chanticleer and the Emerson String Quartet; "O Magnum Mysterium" by Wayne Oquin's a Juilliard-based composer known for his music's dreamlike spirit and beautiful complexity; and "Cantus Gloriosus" by popular Polish composer Josef Swider.

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