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New Amsterdam Singers Will Perform Zigeunerlieder (Gypsy Songs)

In the second concert of its 51st season, New Amsterdam Singers (NAS) will perform Brahms's popular Zigeunerlieder (Gypsy Songs), along with choral works by Haydn, Mendelssohn, Wolf, and recent pieces by contemporary American composers Carol Barnett and Robert S. Cohen. The concert will take place Friday, March 8, 2019, at 8:00 p.m., at Broadway Presbyterian Church, Broadway at 114th Street.

Brahms, who was fascinated with gypsy music, focused on romantic love, both tragic and ecstatic, in Zigeunerlieder, the gypsy songs he set on Hungarian folk texts and translated into German, for chorus and piano. This will be the third performance of the songs by NAS in its 50-year history.

Haydn will be represented by Die Beredsamkeit (Eloquence) - a satirical, humorous song on the effects of wine, and Der Greis (The Gray-Haired One) - a musing on old age, by turns resigned, combative, and fulfilled. Nature is the focus of three Mendelssohn songs from his Opus 59.

Award-winning Minnesota-based composer Carol Barnett wrote Musica, Dei donu optimi using a famous Dryden text about the music of the spheres, with the final lines "The dead shall live, the living die, and music shall untune the sky," adding an anonymous Latin text in praise of music. The piece, here receiving its New York premiere, was commissioned by the Rose Ensemble in 2016. Barnett studied at the University of Minnesota with Dominick Argento and Paul Fetler (composition), Bernard Weiser (piano) and Emil J. Niosi (flute). She was composer-in-residence with the Dale Warland Singers from 1991 to 2001.

New Jersey-based Robert S. Cohen chose the well-known 1915 poem, Peter Quince at the Clavier by Wallace Stevens, for his piece of the same name, which focuses on the connections among art, beauty, and death, reimagining the biblical story of Susanna and the Elders. Cohen has received numerous awards and commissions in addition to co-authoring the book and composing the score for the 2000 Richard Rodgers Award-winning Off-Broadway musical, Suburb.

Music Director Clara Longstreth

In 1968 Clara Longstreth became conductor of what was then called the Master Institute Chorus. When the Master Institute dissolved in 1971, the singers regrouped as the New Amsterdam Singers, with Ms. Longstreth at the helm, where she remains today. From 1972-78, NAS was associated with the Bloomingdale House of Music; it became fully independent in 1978 under the management of its own elected Board of Directors. Over these five decades, Ms. Longstreth's tenure and programming instincts with NAS have been acknowledged by audiences and the press alike.

"Clara Longstreth, the longtime music director of the estimable New Amsterdam Singers, has a gift for devising adventurous programs with interesting juxtapositions," wrote Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times. Allan Kozinn, writing in the same publication, noted: "When a director takes up the challenge of building a cohesive program around a broad theme, we are reminded that programming can be an art."

Clara Longstreth has also served on the faculty of Rutgers University, where she conducted the Voorhees Choir of Douglass College. A student of conductor G. Wallace Woodworth at Harvard University, Ms. Longstreth trained for her master's degree at The Juilliard School under Richard Westenburg. Further study included work with Amy Kaiser and Semyon Bychkov at the Mannes College of Music, and with Helmuth Rilling at the Oregon Bach Festival. She has guest-conducted the Limón Dance Company in performances with NAS and the Riverside Choir, and with NAS and the Mannes College Orchestra in the folk opera, "Down in the Valley" during a Symphony Space "Wall to Wall Kurt Weill" program. In 2009 she received an Alumnae Recognition Award from Radcliffe College for her founding and longtime direction of New Amsterdam Singers.

New Amsterdam Singers

New Amsterdam Singers, which celebrated its 50th anniversary during the 2017-18 season, has been hailed as an "outstanding avocational choir" by The New Yorker, and is known for the breadth and variety of its repertoire. The ensemble specializes in a cappella and double chorus works, presenting music from the 16th century to contemporary pieces, including many it has commissioned.

Over the course of its five-decade history, the chorus of 70-plus singers has performed numerous world, American, and New York premieres. This programming reflects Ms. Longstreth's desire to focus efforts on lesser-known works by pre-eminent composers and on new works by living composers. Among them have been Matthew Harris, Paul Alan Levi, Ronald Perera, Ben Moore, Elizabeth Lim, Katherine Hoover, Alla Borzova, Charles Fussell, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Richard Rodney Bennett, Petr Eben, Robert Paterson, Abbie Betinis, Kirke Mechem, Steven Stucky, Luna Pearl Woolf, Ruth Watson Henderson, and Daniel Pinkham.

New Amsterdam Singers has performed with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein; American Russian Youth Orchestra at Carnegie Hall; at Tanglewood's Ozawa Hall under Leon Botstein; Concordia Orchestra and Anonymous Four in Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light with Marin Alsop at Avery Fisher Hall; and with the Limón Dance Company in Kodály's Missa Brevis. On March 13, 2016, NAS presented Golgotha, a 90-minute oratorio for chorus, orchestra, organ, and soloists by the Swiss composer Frank Martin in its first performance since 1952, as part of the Trinity Wall Street Concert Series. In 2013 the singers performed in South Africa, in 2015, in Greece, and in 2017, Iceland.

For further information, call (914) 712-8708 or go online to www.nasingers.org. Tickets are available at the door for $30. Tickets are also available in advance online for $25 (general admission), and $20 (students); by phone at the above number; or by mail (New Amsterdam Singers, P.O. Box 373, Cathedral Station, New York, NY 10025).


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