Holy Women: Lives of the Women Saints... Plays Corpus Christi Church


Tonight at 7:30pm, Holy Women: Lives of the Women Saints in the StaiNed Glass Windows of St. Bede's Chapel will have its New York premiere at Corpus Christi Church (529 West 121st Street, NYC). Holy Women is a new Cantata for nine singers and chamber ensemble composed by Robert Sirota, with a libretto by Victoria Sirota. It was commissioned by Palladium Musicum and premiered last November at St. Bede's Chapel in Greenwich, CT.

The performers, conducted by Robert Sirota, include sopranos Maeve Hoglund, Amy Justman, Michelle Repella, and Jessica Klein; mezzo sopranos Abigail Fischer, Laurel Masse, Margaret Peterson, Amy Baumann; contralto Lisa Chavez; Christopher James, flute; Lauren Blackerby, oboe; Jordan Dodson, guitar; Victoria Sirota, organ; Nicholas Mann, violin; and David Geber, cello.

Holy Women tells the stories of the nine women saints - whose lives spanned 16 centuries - represented in St. Bede's Chapel's magnificent staiNed Glass windows. Each window tells the story of a different saint, depicted with specific images and symbols emblematic of her life. In Holy Women, the saints are arranged in three groups: the Mystics (Saints Walburga, Catherine of Sienna, and Theresa), the Martyrs (Saints Ursula, Barbara, and Agnes), and the Mothers (Saints Anne, Elizabeth, and Mary). The Cantata is a conversation with and among these women.

The staiNed Glass windows in St. Bede's Chapel were designed by two prominent London firms. The north window, installed in 1915, was designed by influential London artist Christopher Whall and his daughter, Veronica, and reflects the influence of the arts and crafts movement in England at the time. The south window was designed by the highly regarded London firm of James Powell & Sons and installed in 1921.

The music of Robert Sirota, composer and conductor of Holy Women, has been performed throughout the United States and Europe, at venues including Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, Merkin Hall in New York, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Tanglewood Music Center, the Aspen Music Festival, the Yellow Barn Music Festival, Benaroya Hall in Seattle, and at The Juilliard School, the Shepherd School of Music, Peabody, Oberlin Conservatory, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory in Singapore, Royal Conservatory in Toronto, and the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. His commissions include works for the Empire Brass, American Guild of Organists, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, the Fischer Duo, the Peabody Trio, the Webster Trio, and the Chiara String Quartet. Of his music, The New York Times has reported, "Sirota's compositional voice has a distinctive tartness and rhythmic bite. Thick, astringent chromatic harmonies come in tightly bound chords to create nervous sonorities. Yet the textures are always lucid; details come through."