University of Cincinnati - CCM American Voices Concert Series to Present John Adams' EL NINO, 3/2
The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music's (CCM) Philharmonia Orchestra, Chamber Choir, Chorale and Cincinnati Children's Choir proudly present a stirring rendition of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams' El Niño at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 2, in UC's Corbett Auditorium. CCM welcomes guest artists Michael Maniaci, Eric Jurenas and Steven Rickards for this performance. Director of Choral Studies Earl Rivers conducts.
"John Adams' El Niño is a joyous composition," says Rivers. The text of El Niño retells the traditional biblical story of the birth of Jesus. Although this composition is about a specific event, the true subject is larger and widely relate-able: the inexhaustible miracle of birth. "The opening movement of El Niño pulsates with repetitive, engaging rhythms," Rivers explains. "The strong rhythmic drive of the opening sets the stage for the unfolding of the work."
A piece told in three languages, El Niño was originally a co-commission by four major arts organizations: the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Lincoln Center in New York City and the Barbican Center in London. It was created to be performed as either an oratorio or a staged production. CCM will be presenting the work as an oratorio.
About one third of the composition is sung in Spanish and incorporates the poetry of Rosario Castellanos, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Hildegard von Bingen, Gabriela Mistral, Vicente Huidobro and Rubén Dario. A majority of the Spanish texts were written by female authors. El Niño also draws from selected passages from the Wakefield Mystery Plays, Martin Luther's Christmas Sermon, the Gospel of Luke and several Gnostic Gospels from the Apocrypha.
An unusual requirement for any musical work, El Niño requires three countertenors, which is a type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range is equivalent to that of the female contralto, mezzo-soprano or soprano voice types. CCM welcomes three guest artists to fill these solos: Michael Maniaci and Eric Jurenas, both CCM alumni, and Steven Rickards, who sang and recorded the original production of El Niño.
There are three additional vocal soloists whose parts are very demanding, and these will be sung by current CCM students: soprano Kerrie Caldwell, a second-year Masters of Music in Vocal Performance major; mezzo-soprano Leah de Gruyl, a second-year Artist Diploma student; and baritone Edward Nelson, a first-year Artist Diploma student
In addition to traditional instrumentation, the CCM Philharmonia will be playing with two amplified guitars, a unique challenge for the talented musicians to negotiate.
In April of 2006, CCM gave the regional premiere of Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls, which was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in memory of 9/11. Later this season, the May Festival will present his choral masterwork Harmonium, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra will present Adams' Harmonielehre in concert in late September of 2014.
Steven Rickards has received international acclaim as one of America's finest countertenors. After performing in the premiere of John Adams's oratorio El Niño at the Châtelet opera in Paris, he has sung with the Adelaide Symphony, the BBC Philharmonic, the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, the Tokyo Symphony and the Malmö Opera in Sweden. His schedule of performances has included frequent appearances with Joshua Rifkin and the Bach Ensemble, as well as the American Bach Soloists, Chanticleer, Ensemble Voltaire (formerly Ensemble Oubache), the Gabrieli Consort, Chicago's Music of the Baroque, the New London Consort, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, the Opera Company of Philadelphia and the Santa Fe Opera.
Rickards has sung at Carnegie Hall with the Oratorio Society of New York and in France as a soloist with the Festival Singers under the direction of Robert Shaw. His current ensemble Echoing Air presents programs of Purcell and other pre-Baroque composers in the U.S. and Great Britain. Rickards currently lives in Indianapolis where he teaches singing at Butler University and the University of Indianapolis.