Orpheus to Debut Jessie Montgomery's RECORDS FROM A VANISHING CITY at Carnegie Hall
Composer/violinist Jessie Montgomery's latest orchestral score, Records from a Vanishing City, will be given its world premiere by Orpheus at the Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall, Thursday, October 27 (8 pm). The Carnegie date will be preceded by a preview performance at Colgate University on Sunday, October 23 (3 pm); ticket details follow.
Commissioned by Orpheus, the thirteen-minute work highlights the legendary ensemble's Opening Night program, which also includes Mozart, Bizet, and Beethoven (Piano Concerto No. 1, with Christian Zacharias as soloist).
Records from a Vanishing City is inspired by Montgomery's childhood on the Lower East Side during the 1980s and '90s, when the still-gritty neighborhood was a vibrant hub of New York's artistic community. The 'records' in the title take two forms: an eclectic collection of vintage vinyl that Montgomery inherited from a departed family friend, and her own recollections of the music that surrounded her growing up. Records from a Vanishing City is a deeply personal tribute to the individuals and community that nurtured her creative growth, as well as a lament for the gradual disappearance of that creative enclave, dispersed in the wake of gentrification.
During her childhood, Jessie's father ran Context Studios, a rehearsal facility on Avenue A. She would come home from school and do her homework in the lobby, listening to "all this music swirling around me" - string quartets, metal bands, free jazz ensembles, singer-songwriters, and indie-rockers among the practicing multitudes. Violin lessons at the Third Street Music School Settlement set her on a path that led to Juilliard, where she received her Bachelor's degree in violin performance; NYU, where she earned a Master's in film scoring; and ultimately to fellowships and commissions from the American Composers Orchestra, Sphinx Organization, Young People's Chorus of New York, Cygnus Ensemble, and others.
The mood of Records is largely dreamlike and elegiac, punctuated by a more energetic episode. Fragments of familiar motives flicker in the work's artfully layered textures, like the "practice licks" Montgomery heard musicians play at Context. It ends with a sweep of chromatically ascending parallel chords...a wistful gesture of farewell.
Writes Montgomery, "Artists, truth seekers, and cultures of all kinds defined our vibrant community. The embracing diversity burst out with an effortless everydayness in block parties, festivals, and shindigs of every sort. Partly because my parents were artists - but also because I just couldn't help it - I soaked up all that surrounded me: Latin jazz, alternative rock, Western classical, avant-garde jazz, poetry, and Caribbean dance music, to name a few."
"A year before completing this work, a very dear family friend passed away and it was decided that I would be the one to inherit a large portion of his eclectic record collection. Writer and illustrator James Rose was one of the many suns in the Lower East Side cosmos who often hosted parties and generous gatherings for our extended artist family. His record collection was a treasure trove of the great jazz recordings of the 50s, 60s and beyond - he was mad for John Coltrane, but also MiLes Davis and Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman, and-and-and --- as well as traditional folk artists from Africa, Asia and South America. In the process of imagining this piece, a particular track on a record of music from Angola caught my ear: a traditional lullaby which is sung in call and response by a women's chorus. This lullaby rang with an uncanny familiarity in me. An adaptation of this lullaby and the rhythmic chant that follows it appears in each of the three main sections of Records. This piece is dedicated to the memory of James Rose."Records from a Vanishing City is part of Orpheus's American Notes commissioning initiative. Tickets for the Carnegie Hall performance are $12.50 - $110, available at carnegiehall.org, CarnegieCharge (212-247-7800), or the Box Office at 57th and Seventh. The Colgate performance will take place at the Colgate Memorial Chapel on the university's campus in Hamilton, NY; tickets will be available later this month at colgate.edu.
Jessie Montgomery is a New York native violinist, composer and music educator.
Jessie has been recognized as an important emerging composer through generous grants and fellowships from the American Composers Orchestra, the Sphinx Organization, the Joyce Foundation and the Sorel Organization.
In the 2015-16 season she was the Composer-Educator for the Albany Symphony, leading youth education initiatives and performances of recent works. Further attention to her music has come with commissions from Orpheus, the Young People's Chorus of New York, and Cygnus Ensemble.
Her music has been featured nationally by Q2 Music and National Public Radio, and is performed regularly by PUBLIQuartet, the Catalyst Quartet and the Sphinx Virtuosi. She was the inaugural Musician Fellow at Lighthouse Works in partnership with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Reviewing her piece Banner in The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini wrote, "Many composers would have been wary of a commission to write a tribute to the 200th anniversary of The Star Spangled Banner...Ms. Montgomery readily accepted the challenge, writing an urgent, inventive piece...She daringly transforms the anthem, folding it into a teeming score...to create a musical melting pot."
Since 1999 Jessie has been affiliated with The Sphinx Organization, which supports the accomplishments of young African-American and Latino string players. Since 2012 Jessie has held a post as Composer-in-Residence with the Sphinx Virtuosi, a conductor-less string orchestra, has been a two-time laureate in the annual Sphinx Competion, and was awarded a generous MPower grant to assist in the development of her debut album, Strum: Music for Strings (October, 2015, Azica Records). In 2016, she will serve as a juror in the annual competition.
An active chamber musician and collaborator, Jessie has performed with the highly acclaimed Catalyst Quartet, praised by The New York Times as "invariably energetic and finely burnished...performing with earthly vigor." She was a co-founder of PUBLIQuartet, an ensemble of composers and arrangers playing their own music as well as that of emerging and established contemporary composers. From 2004-09 Jessie was also a member of the Providence String Quartet, noted pioneers in community-based music education. Along with being a traditionally trained classical musician, Jessie has collaborated as an improviser with avant-garde greats such as Don Byron, Butch Morris and William Parker. In the 2016-17 season she will be a collaborator with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble.
Jessie holds a Bachelor's degree from The Juilliard School in violin performance and a Master's Degree in composition and film scoring from New York University. Her primary violin teachers have been Sally Thomas and Ann Setzer; and her composition teachers and mentors include Ira Newborn, Joan Tower, Derek Bermel and Laura Kaminsky. For further information, visit jessiemontgomery.com.