Jonathan Leshnoff's MONICA SONGS Tour Opens this Sunday at U.C. Berkeley
Baltimore-based composer Jonathan Leshnoff's newest commissioned work, Monica Songs, featuring soprano Jessica Rivera and pianist Robert Spano, will receive its world premiere performance on Sunday, October 13, 2013 at U.C. Berkeley. The performance launches the five-city tour of this work, which also includes performances on Oct. 17 at Bailey Hall, Atlanta, Oct. 20 at Smothers Theatre, Malibu, Calif., Oct. 26 at Memorial Hall, Cincinnati and culminates in a performance on Oct. 29 at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York. Please see below for complete tour details.
Monica Songs was inspired by the life of Monica Langhammer, who died in 2003 at age 38 from an undiagnosed case of Cushing's Disease. Langhammer, an accomplished printmaker and poet, had a personality that was "vivacious and multi-faceted" said her mother Sandra Hyslop, the lead-commissioner of the project. Co-commissioners include the Friends of Monica-a group of 139 personal friends of Langhammer, many of whom will travel to see the work performed in one or more of the venues on the five-city tour-and the Carnegie Hall Corp.
The work is a six-movement song cycle is based on a variety of texts that were meaningful to Langhammer:
- It opens with texts from the Old Testament Book of Ruth to frame the song cycle, "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go...."
- Then follows the deeply contemplative sonorities surrounding Emily Dickinson's "We cover Thee-Sweet Face-,"
- This leads to the joyful perpetual motion that propels e.e. cummings's "i thank You God for most this amazing,"
- Leshnoff's laugh-out-loud traveling music fuels a letter that Monica wrote to her mother from a truck stop, "Greetings from Troy, Illinois";
- Inspired music of hope to sets the tone for a letter of encouragement from mother to daughter;
- The song cycle closes as it began with another excerpt from the Book of Ruth, here serving as its final benediction.
Monica Langhammer's mother, Sandra Hyslop, chose Jonathan Leshnoff for the weighty task of eulogizing her daughter with music for several reasons. She had heard his Yiddish Dance Suite performed by Gil and Orli Shaham at the 92nd Street Y in New York, and appreciated the lyricism, honesty and subtle complexity characteristic of his style. She also knew that he was a kind person, likely to listen with a very perceptive ear, and a devoted family man. These qualities drew Hyslop to Leshnoff for the project. She wanted to create a living memorial to her daughter by commissioning a work of music.
"I wish I knew Monica while she was living. But, in a way, writing this work has helped me get to know her," said Leshnoff. "I discovered a young woman with a compassionate heart, wacky sense of humor and effervescent spirit. Sandra's heart for her daughter is something that I can understand and relate to as a parent. It is my honor to create what I hope will be something substantial, wonderful and lasting that can use a mother's pain to pierce all of our hearts and remind us what is really important."
Named by the Washington Post as one of the "gifted young composers" of this generation, Jonathan Leshnoff is a leader of contemporary American lyricism. His compositions have earned international acclaim for their accessible melodies, structural complexity and weighty themes.