Heller Bassoon Ensemble to Present Three World Premieres in June

The event will take place on June 8, 2024, at the Fridman Gallery in New York City.

By: Jun. 03, 2024
Heller Bassoon Ensemble to Present Three World Premieres in June
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Renowned bassoonist Rebekah Heller will be accompanied by 10 of the world's most impressive bassoonists for a one-night-only event that features three world premieres on Saturday, June 8, 2024 at 7:30 p.m. at the Fridman Gallery (169 Bowery). The program showcases debut compositions by esteemed composers with strong ties to New York City: Steve Reich, Julius Eastman, and Fay Victor.

Grand Street Counterpoint is an arrangement by Rebekah Heller of Steve Reich's Cello Counterpoint. Originally composed in 2003, the piece is challenging with tight rhythmic relationships. The arrangement for bassoons captures a lively energy and consists of three movements, with the second being a canon in E flat minor. The collaboration between Reich and Heller started in 2018, and Heller found Cello Counterpoint suitable for solo bassoon performance and began the arrangement during the 2020 pandemic.

The Holy Presence of Joan d'Arc by Julius Eastman, originally for cellos, was lost and later transcribed for bassoons by Rebekah Heller. Full of dark energy and driving rhythmic propulsion, this 18-minute tour-de-force feels at points both wrenching and full of hope, as well as discordant and optimistic. This performance will feature the world premiere performance of the bassoon ensemble version.

"When Rebekah Heller asked me to compose a work for eight bassoons, I was initially intimidated by the task," shares Nurture composer Fay Victor. Nurture is a beautifully heartbreaking, meaningful piece heavily inspired by Victor's late confidant, Ingram Washington. "Ingram Washington was one of my dearest friends... He was a great entertainer; going to his shows, you knew you'd have a ball along with listening to good music. He was generous and supportive and made space for many people he thought deserved a shot, not just me. Ingram died while I was in the middle of writing what would become Nurture... It was clear that the contours within the composition align with the complex and calm person that Ingram Washington was."

Performers include: Maribel Alonso, Trey Coudret, Alexander Davis, Ryan Ghassemi, Joy Guidry, Stephanie Patterson, Sara Schoenbeck, Jamael Smith, Joseph Swift, and Francisca Wright, lead by conductor Lester St. Louis, with guest vocalist Damian Norfleet.

Performance Details

Heller Bassoon Ensemble
Saturday, June 8, 2024 at 7:30 p.m., doors at 7:00 p.m.
Fridman Gallery | 169 Bowery | New York, NY 10002
Tickets: $25, students $20
Link: https://www.new-ear.org/event-details/heller-bassoon-ensemble

STEVE REICH: Grand Street Counterpoint (2003, 2023), arranged for 9 bassoons by Rebekah Heller
JULIUS EASTMAN: The Holy Presence of Joan d'Arc (1981), arranged for 10 bassoons by Rebekah Heller
With vocalist Damian Norfleet
FAY VICTOR: Nurture (for Ingram) (2024), for 8 bassoons

Maribel Alonso
Trey Coudret
Alexander Davis
Ryan Ghassemi
Joy Guidry
Rebekah Heller
Stephanie Patterson
Sara Schoenbeck
Jamael Smith
Joseph Swift
Francisca Wright
Damian Norfleet, guest vocalist
Lester St. Louis, conductor

About the Heller Bassoon Ensemble

The bassoon ensemble is a rare and unique sound world, one that Rebekah Heller has been intrigued by since composer Felipe Lara wrote a piece for 7 bassoons for Heller back in 2015 (Metafagote). The overtones of the bassoon, when multiplied, create the sound of another instrument entirely - eerily rearranging time and space for listener and performer alike. As a soloist and chamber musician, Heller rarely gets the chance to perform with other bassoonists, and this Heller Bassoon Ensemble debut is a chance for some of her most treasured and respected colleagues to join her in an exploration of a mostly uncharted sound world.

The rarity of 10 bassoons creating new sounds together cannot be overstated.

Inspired by her collaboration with Steve Reich on Grand Street Counterpoint (2023), Heller made both a solo bassoon and bassoon ensemble arrangement of his 2003 Cello Counterpoint, which premieres on June 8. Another cello ensemble piece, The Holy Presence of Joan d'Arc, by Julius Eastman, made a perfect companion for the bassoon choir. To round out the program, Heller commissioned collaborator Fay Victor to compose a new piece for the ensemble, called Nurture (for Ingram), which will also receive its world premiere.

About Rebekah Heller

Rebekah Heller's work aims to expand the sonic possibilities of her instrument - both in her solo work and through a deep collaborative practice. Called "an impressive solo bassoonist" by The New Yorker, she has released two acclaimed solo albums of new music written for and with her by a diverse community of composers. In 2024, she released a collaboration with Steve Reich, a multi-track bassoon piece called Grand Street Counterpoint (on which Reich and Heller are co-producers), and she is set to release her first solo EP featuring her own compositions on June 28, 2024, on Relative Pitch Records.

In 2018, Heller made her solo debut with the New York Philharmonic, and has been a featured soloist with the Seattle Symphony, at the Tokyo-based Born Creative Festival, at the TIME:SPANS festival, and many others. As bassoonist (since 2008), and former Co-Artistic Director of the renowned NYC-based International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Heller has collaborated with hundreds of composers worldwide to make countless groundbreaking new chamber and bassoon solo pieces come to life. Heller has been on the faculty of The Mannes School of Music at The New School since the fall of 2019, where she leads a bassoon studio, co-chairs the wind department, and teaches classes in contemporary repertoire, improvisation for classical musicians, and new music practices.

More info at rebekahheller.com

About Fay Victor

Fay Victor is a sound artist/bandleader who uses performance, improvisation, and composition to examine representations of modern life and blackness. Victor has released thirteen critically acclaimed albums as a leader, seeing praise in venerable media outlets such as Downbeat, JazzTimes, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Wire, The San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Quietus, and the Huffington Post. Victor has performed with luminaries such as Gary Bartz, Archie Schepp, Nicole Mitchell, Randy Weston, Tyshawn Sorey, and Moor Mother and is a member of the esteemed new music ensemble, International Contemporary Ensemble. In 2023, Victor released her first solo record on Northern Spy Records, and most recently has released Life Is Funny That Way, a full-on project dedicated to the unsung pianist, Herbie Nichols on the Tao Forms label that includes Victor's own arrangements and lyrics to Nichols' iconic compositions.

As a composer, Victor has been commissioned by Anthony Braxton's Tri-Centric Foundation, The Jazz Coalition, and The International Contemporary Ensemble; presented works at institutions such as the New England Conservatory, Brown University, The International Double Reed Society Conference (Bangkok, Thailand 2023), Roulette Intermedium, The Chelsea Factory, University of California at San Diego and Santa Cruz and The New School.

Fay Victor is on the faculty of the College of Performing Arts at the New School and at ROC Nation School for Sports, Music, and Entertainment at Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY where she teaches vocal and interdisciplinary performance tactics around improvisation. Moreover, Victor is the Board chair for the Jazz Leaders Fellowship, an initiative of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music to fund black women/non-binary jazz leaders.

Learn more about Fay Victor at www.fayvictor.com

About Steve Reich

Steve Reich has been called "the most original musical thinker of our time" (The New Yorker) and "among the great composers of the century" (The New York Times). Starting in the 1960s, his pieces It's Gonna Rain, Drumming, Music for 18 Musicians, Tehillim, Different Trains, and many others helped shift the aesthetic center of musical composition worldwide away from extreme complexity and towards rethinking pulsation and tonal attraction in new ways. He continues to influence younger generations of composers and mainstream musicians and artists all over the world.

Double Sextet won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 and Different Trains, Music for 18 Musicians, and an album of his percussion works have all earned GRAMMY Awards. He received the Praemium Imperiale in Tokyo, the Polar Music Prize in Stockholm, the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge award in Madrid, the Debs Composer's Chair at Carnegie Hall, and the Gold Medal in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has been named Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France, and awarded honorary doctorates by the Royal College of Music in London, the Juilliard School in New York, and the Liszt Academy in Budapest, among others.

One of the most frequently choreographed composers, several noted choreographers have created dances to his music, including Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Jirí Kylián, Jerome Robbins, Justin Peck, Wayne McGregor, Benjamin Millepied, and Christopher Wheeldon.

Reich's documentary video opera works-The Cave and Three Tales, done in collaboration with video artist Beryl Korot-opened new directions for music theater and have been performed on four continents. His work Quartet, for percussionist Colin Currie, sold out two consecutive concerts at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London shortly after tens of thousands at the Glastonbury Festival heard Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead) perform Electric Counterpoint, followed by the London Sinfonietta performing his Music for 18 Musicians. "There's just a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history and Steve Reich is one of them," The Guardian.

About Julius Eastman

Fighting against the "invisibilisation" of minority cultures and racial and sexual discrimination, Julius Eastman (1940-1990), a free-spirited and militant artist, described himself as "Black to the fullest, a musician to the fullest, a homosexual to the fullest".

An eminent figure of the New York scene as a composer, conductor, singer, pianist and choreographer, Julius Eastman also played the Lincoln Center with Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic, and recorded an album of experimental disco with the producer Arthur Russell. According to a 1980 press release, "Eastman is a sort of cult figure among composers and singers". A pioneer of the minimalist movement, he was among the first composers to combine elements of pop and minimalist music.

Following his death in 1990, after seven years of "deliberate martyrdom" between psychotropic drug-taking and vagrancy in homeless shelters, he was largely forgotten. A great number of his scores disappeared with him.

His music remained dormant for decades until Unjust Malaise, a 3-CD set of his work, was released by New World Records in 2005. Since the early 2010s, his work has been re-emerging and attracting growing interest worldwide.

Photo of Rebekah Heller By Tarishi Gupta, photo of Fay Victor by Deneka Peniston