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The Crossing Joins ICE and Quicksilver for Epic 'SEVEN RESPONSES' Project

In its tenth anniversary season, THE CROSSING -- the extraordinary chamber choir from Philadelphia, dedicated to new music and conducted by Donald Nally -- has commissioned seven of the world's foremost composers to compose fifteen-minute musical responses to Dietrich Buxtehude's Membra Jesu Nostri (translated as "The Limbs of our Jesus"), a monumental seven-part cantata cycle composed in 1680 and known as the first Lutheran oratorio.

The Crossing will intersperse the cantatas of Buxtehude's iconic sacred work with the modern-day Responses, collaborating with two equally audacious ensembles: Robert Mealy's Quicksilver Baroque, who are "revered like rock stars within the early music scene" (The New York Times) and Claire Chase's adventurous International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).

The project will premiere in Philadelphia over two evenings at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25, both at 8:00 p.m. Later this summer, on August 21, Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival presents the entire project in one full day at Merkin Concert Hall in New York.

From Donald Nally, conductor of The Crossing: "The idea for Seven Responses began with our observation that early music has enormous influences over contemporary composition-often with direct quotations from the 16th-18th centuries serving as source material. But, it grew quickly, and wonderfully, into a project about content and circumstance-an exploration of suffering and joy, as expressed in art of the 17th century, and art of today. Seven Responses has become a dialogue between those centuries, and those people-a conversation across cultures, lands, and time."

The Crossing's commissions have increasingly addressed issues related to the environment, equality, and the individual's place in community. Human suffering is often a theme in contemporary secular music, similar in character to sacred works of the past. Membra Jesu Nostri examines the suffering of Christ; its seven cantatas address different parts of Christ's crucified body-feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart and head. This serves as a starting point for the secular cantata each composer of Seven Responses is writing.

The composers were chosen for their diverse styles and common interest in works with political or social themes. They include two Pulitzer Prize winners (Spratlan and Shaw) and hail from Denmark, Latvia, Germany, Iceland and the USA: Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Santa Ratniece, Hans Thomalla, Anna Thorsvaldsdottir, David T. Little, Caroline Shaw, and Lewis Spratlan.

Each composer was invited to collaborate with an author of their choice, or to create their own libretto. Among these, Anna Thorsvaldsdottir chose the words of Icelandic poetGudrun Eva Minervudottir; Lewis Spratlan chose American poet Paul Kane; Santa Ratniece chose the words of St. Clare of Assisi; and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen chose Danish poet Ursula Andkjær Olsen. To read more about the composers' respective Seven Responses, see below.

The Crossing has developed its own Seven Responses website which includes an ongoing and fascinating blog by Donald Nally with posts about the libretti and scores coming in.

Seven Responses Program:

Presented over two nights at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 3723 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104.

Friday, June 24, 2016, 8:00 p.m.

Cantatas 1-4 (feet, knees, hands, side) from Dietrich Buxtehude's Membra Jesu Nostri
Responses of David T. Little, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Caroline Shaw, Hans Thomalla

Saturday, June 25, 2016, 8:00 p.m.

Cantatas 5-7 (breast, heart, face) from Dietrich Buxtehude's Membra Jesu Nostri
Responses of Lewis Spratlan, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Santa Ratniece

PERFORMERS
The Crossing; Donald Nally, Conductor
Quicksilver Baroque; Robert Mealy, Co-Director
International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE); Claire Chase, Artistic Director

PRODUCTION TEAM
Steven Gearhart, Managing Director
Janet Neukirchner, Project Manager
Elizabeth Haidle, Project Artist
Jay Sprogell, Videographer
Kerela Johnson Snyder, Buxtehude Scholar
Jiyoun Chang, Lighting Designer
Adrian Peacock, Recording Producer
Paul Vazquez, Recording Engineer
Eric Brannon, WRTI, Broadcast Producer

The Composers & Their Responses:

DAVID T. LITTLE

(USA)

Little has a gift for setting texts in bold, compelling musical strokes that move from modernist atmospheres to heavy-metal-influenced sounds in ways that reach the listener as entirely sensible. His Soldier Songs is at once opera, theatre, rock concert, and multi-media event, and his opera JFK opens at Fort Worth Opera in April 2016. David will respond to Buxtehude's first cantata, TO THE FEET, launching The Crossing's Seven Responses on Friday night June 24. David has prepared his own libretto. [Read More]

ANNA THORVALDSDOTTIR

(Iceland)

A sound colorist who creates emotional spaces for listener and performer to crawl into and live for a while, Thorvaldsdottir's music evokes great landscapes that seem also to capture a kind of longing for their beauty and solitude. Anna will respond to Buxtehude's second cantata, TO THE KNEES, premiering Friday night June 24. She has collaborated with Icelandic poet Gudrun Eva Minervudottir to create a new libretto; the libretto and a video of Anna describing her Response have been posted here.

CAROLINE SHAW

(USA)

With a 2013 Pulitzer and Grammy Award, Caroline has made a mark by creating sound worlds of enormous eclecticism; unafraid to introduce non-classical sounds into that world, she challenges singers to move from style to style in organic ways that strike the ear with extraordinary immediacy. Caroline will respond to Buxtehude's third cantata, TO THE HANDS. A singer and violinist, she has performed Buxtehude's work many times and has composed her own libretto as a response. Her libretto is inspired in part by original Biblical text in the Buxtehude and Emma Lazarus' "The New Colossus," the poem engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty. [Read More]

HANS THOMALLA

(Germany)

A composer of dramatic works with a command of vocal textures and aleatoric techniques involving speech, approximated pitch, and repetitive cells, Thomalla's work in opera includes major choral contributions; his music will present new challenges to The Crossing in a postmodern language influenced by the experimental period. Hans will respond to Buxtehude's fourth cantata, TO THE SIDES, premiering Friday night June 24. Accustomed to opera, Hans's libretto has been arranged by himself after Arnulf of Louvain and Song of Solomon. His libretto is posted here.

LEWIS SPRATLAN

(USA)

The 2000 Pulitzer Prize winner, Spratlan knows The Crossing through his Vespers Cantata, which the choir commissioned in 2011 with Network for New Music. This was a concert-length work on a libretto assembled from physicists, playwrights, poets, and liturgy, finding rich emotional depths and connections in otherwise unrelated texts, and was enormously successful with singers and audience members. Lewis will respond to Buxtehude's fifth cantata, TO THE BREAST, premiering Saturday night June 25. He is collaborating with American poet Paul Kane; click here to read Kane's libretto and to hear Spratlan talk about his Response.

PELLE GUDMUNDSEN-HOLMGREEN

(Denmark)

Gudmundsen-Holmgreen is a master of compositional structure and form; his technique is such that each work has its own musical language. He is a pioneer in minimalism who often immerses himself in topics reflecting contemporary emotional issues. Pelle will respond to Buxtehude's sixth cantata, TO THE HEART, premiering Saturday night June 25. He will draw on poetry of Denmark's Ursula Andkjær and the text of Buxtehude's original work. Click here to read his libretto and see a video of Pelle talking from Copenhagen about his Response.

SANTA RATNIECE

(Latvia)

Ratniece is a composer of extraordinary sound textures and imaginative tonal colors, whose work largely reflects society's relationship with nature and the increasing gap with the natural world. Santa will respond to Buxtehude's seventh and final cantata, TO THE FACE, premiering Saturday night June 25 and bringing Seven Responses to its conclusion. She set texts from St. Clare of Assisi's letters to St. Agnes of Prague, augmented by the Song of Solomon. Click here to read her libretto and watch a video of Santa talking from Riga about her Response.

About The Crossing (www.crossingchoir.com) - The Crossing is a professional chamber choir conducted by Donald Nally and dedicated to new music. Consistently recognized in critical reviews, The Crossing has been hailed as "superb" (The New York Times), "ardently angelic" (The Los Angeles Times), and "something of a miracle" (The Philadelphia Inquirer). Formed by a group of friends in 2005, the ensemble has since grown exponentially and "has made a name for itself in recent years as a champion of new music" (The New York Times).

Highly sought-after for projects, The Crossing's first collaboration was as the resident choir of the Spoleto Festival, Italy, in 2007. Collaborations are now an important aspect of their work; The Crossing has appeared at Miller Theatre of Columbia University in the American premiere of James Dillon's Nine Rivers with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE); joined Bang on a Can's first Philadelphia Marathon; and has sung with the American Composers Orchestra, Network for New Music, Lyric Fest, Piffaro, red fish blue fish, Tempesta di Mare Baroque Chamber Orchestra, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Toshimaru Nakamura, Dolce Suono, and The Rolling Stones. The ensemble has sung at Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They premiered John Luther Adams' Sila: the breath of the world at Lincoln Center in a collaboration with the Mostly Mozart Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival, eighth blackbird, Jack Quartet, and TILT brass. The 2014-15 season featured a major project with The Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Fabric Workshop and Museum, conceived by Allora & Calzadilla, with a new score by David Lang.

The Crossing commissions works regularly and has presented over forty world premieres. The 2015-16 season will feature an additional twenty-five commissioned works, with substantial contributions from Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, David T. Little, Santa Ratniece, Caroline Shaw, Kile Smith, Lewis Spratlan, Hans Thomalla, and Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Major commissioned world premieres have included John Luther Adams' Canticles of the Holy Wind (2013, co-commissioned with Kamer), Gavin Bryars' The Fifth Century (2014, written for The Crossing and PRISM), Kile Smith's The Consolation of Apollo (2014) and Vespers (2008, a commission of Piffaro), David Lang's Statement to the Court (2010), Lewis Spratlan's Hesperus is Phosphorus (2012, co-commissioned with Network for New Music), and Ted Hearne's Sound from the Bench (2014, co-commissioned with Volti).

The Crossing has released six recordings: Lewis Spratlan's Vespers Cantata: Hesperus is Phosphorus (on Innova, 2015, with Network for New Music); Moonstrung Air (choral music of Gregory Brown, on Navona, 2015); Christmas Daybreak (on Innova, 2011, with world premiere recordings of James MacMillan and Gabriel Jackson); I want to live (on Innova, 2011, with the complete to-date choral works for women by David Lang); and It is Time (on Navona, 2008, featuring music commissioned for our first Month of Moderns). Gavin Bryars' The Fifth Century is due to be released on ECM records in the coming year.

The Crossing is the recipient of the 2015 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence, two ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, as well as the Dale Warland Singers Commission Award (with composer Joel Puckett) from Chorus America. Donald Nally was awarded the 2012 Louis Botto Award for Innovative Action and Entrepreneurial Zeal for his work with The Crossing. The Crossing has been named in The Philadelphia Inquirer's Top Classical Events of the Season numerous times; a July 2015 review in that journal led with the headline, "The event of the season."

About Quicksilver (quicksilverbaroque.com) - Led by violinists Robert Mealy and Julie Andrijeski,Quicksilver brings together leading historically-informed performers in America today. Described as "drop dead gorgeous with a wonderful interplay of timbres"(Early Music America) and praised for "impeccable, soulful playing" (The New York Times),Quicksilver vibrantly explores the rich chamber music repertoire from the early modern period to the High Baroque. The ensemble has been featured at music series throughout North America, including Boston Early Music Festival, Early Music Vancouver, Early Music Now-Milwaukee, Music Before 1800, San Francisco Early Music Society, Virginia Arts Festival, Indianapolis Early Music Festival, Early Music Hawaii, Houston Early Music, St Cecilia Music Series, Dumbarton Oaks and more, receiving critical acclaim from coast to coast. The ensemble's debut recording, "Stile Moderno: New Music from the Seventeenth Century" has been lauded as "convincing...terrific"(Early Music - Oxford Journal) and "Breakthrough of the Year...breathtaking"(Huffington Post). Quicksilver's 2014 recording, "Fantasticus: Extravagant and Virtuosic Music from 17th Century Germany" was named one of The New Yorker's "Top Ten Recordings of 2014,"praised as "Fantasticus, indeed" (Gramophone) and described as "irresistible" (Fanfare Magazine).

About International Contemporary Ensemble (iceorg.org) - Described by The New York Times as "one of the most accomplished and adventurous groups in new music," ICE is dedicated to reshaping the way music is created and experienced. With a modular makeup of 35 leading instrumentalists, performing in forces ranging from solos to large ensembles, ICE functions as performer, presenter, and educator, advancing the music of our time by developing innovative new works and new strategies for audience engagement. ICE redefines concert music as it brings together new work and new listeners in the 21st century.

Since its founding in 2001, ICE has premiered over 500 compositions-the majority of these new works by emerging composers-in venues spanning from alternative spaces to concert halls around the world. The ensemble has received the American Music Center's Trailblazer Award for its contributions to the field, the ASCAP/Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming, and was most recently named Musical America Worldwide's Ensemble of the Year in 2013. From 2008 to 2013 ICE was Ensemble-in- Residence at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. In 2014 ICE began a partnership with the Illinois Humanities Council, the Hideout in Chicago, and the Abrons Art Center in New York to support the OpenICE initiative.

ICE has released acclaimed albums on the Nonesuch, Kairos, Bridge, Naxos, Tzadik, New Focus, New Amsterdam and Mode labels. ICE has worked closely with conductors Ludovic Morlot, Matthias Pintscher, John Adams and Susanna Mälkki. Since 2012, conductor and percussion soloist Steven Schick has served as ICE's Artist-in-Residence.

In 2011, with lead support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, ICE created the ICElab program to place teams of ICE musicians in close collaboration with emerging composers to develop works that push the boundaries of musical exploration.

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