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SHCS to Present The Pacifica Quartet And Karen Slack In Baltimore Premiere Of James Lee III's A DOUBLE STANDARD

A Double Standard is a setting of a poem of the same name by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911).

SHCS to Present The Pacifica Quartet And Karen Slack In Baltimore Premiere Of James Lee III's A DOUBLE STANDARD

On Sunday, May 15, 2022 at 5:30pm, Shriver Hall Concert Series (SHCS) - Baltimore's premier presenter of chamber music ensembles and solo recitalists - will present the two-time Grammy Award-winning Pacifica Quartet and soprano Karen Slack in the Baltimore premiere of A Double Standard, a new SHCS co-commission by Baltimore-based composer James Lee III. The program also includes Prokofiev's String Quartet in F Major, Op. 92 and Beethoven's String Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3, "Razumovsky." This performance marks Karen Slack's Baltimore debut. Shriver Hall's in-person season offers a livestream option to all ticket holders.

Co-commissioned with Carnegie Hall, Chamber Music Detroit, and Chamber Music Cincinnati, A Double Standard is a setting of a poem of the same name by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911), an African-American poet, abolitionist, suffragist, teacher, and public speaker who was born free in Baltimore. In 1845, Frances Harper was one of the first African-American women to be published in the United States. Read the poem, A Double Standard.

Of the new piece, Lee says, "A Double Standard is a musical journey that displays her pain and frustration of the biases against women and the 19th century mindset of sex, gender, and societal roles. The work begins with an extended introduction in the strings that is highly agitated. Once the introduction is completed, the soprano sings a four-note motive on the words, 'Do you blame me...' and is frequently utilized when the word 'blame' is uttered. One can really sense the righteous indignation in the voice of Ms. Harper as she penned these words. Throughout A Double Standard, various emotions are evoked at contrasting dynamic levels and then comes the dramatic climax."

The climax of both the poem and the music arrives when the string quartet vigorously and angrily ascends and is followed by the highest note that the soprano sings at a fortissimo dynamic. The words she sings are:

"Crime has no sex and yet to-day
I wear the brand of shame;
Whilst he amid the gay and proud
Still bears an honored name.
Can you blame me if I've learned to think
Your hate of vice a sham,
When you so coldly crushed me down
And then excused the man?"

A professor at Baltimore's Morgan State University, James Lee III is confirmed to meet with the Baltimore School for the Arts music students at the end of April and soprano Karen Slack will conduct a master class at Morgan State in May.

Concert Information


Pacifica Quartet
Karen Slack, soprano (Baltimore Debut)
Sunday, May 15, 2022 at 5:30pm
Shriver Hall | 3400 N. Charles Street | Baltimore, MD 21218
Tickets: $44 for seated ticket or home livestream.
Link: https://shriverconcerts.org/pacifica

PROKOFIEV: String Quartet in F Major, Op. 92
JAMES LEE III: A Double Standard for string quartet and soprano (Baltimore Premiere)
BEETHOVEN: String Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3, "Razumovsky"

About Pacifica Quartet
Recognized for its virtuosity, exuberant performance style, and often-daring repertory choices, the Pacifica Quartet has achieved international recognition over the past twenty-six years as one of the finest chamber ensembles performing today. Formed in 1994, the Quartet quickly won chamber music's top competitions, including the 1998 Naumburg Chamber Music Award. They have been honored with Chamber Music America's Cleveland Quartet Award, an appointment to Lincoln Center's The Bowers Program (formerly CMS Two), a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, and multiple Grammy Awards for Best Chamber Music Performance with their most recent being in 2021 for their album Contemporary Voices.

The Pacifica Quartet has proven itself the preeminent interpreter of string quartet cycles, performing them often over the course of just a few days. They have given highly acclaimed performances of the Carter cycle, the Mendelssohn cycle, the Beethoven cycle, and the Shostakovich cycle. The Quartet has been widely praised for these cycles, with critics calling the concerts "brilliant," "astonishing," "gripping," and "breathtaking." An ardent advocate of contemporary music, the Pacifica Quartet commissions and performs many new works including those by Keeril Makan, Julia Wolfe, and Shulamit Ran, the latter in partnership with the Music Accord consortium, London's Wigmore Hall, and Tokyo's Suntory Hall. The work - entitled Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory - had its New York debut as part of the Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center series. The Quartet also regularly collaborates with some of the world's most prestigious artists including clarinetist Anthony McGill, Menahem Pressler, and March-André Hamelin.

The members of the Pacifica Quartet live in Bloomington, IN, where they have served as quartet-in-residence and full-time faculty members at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music since March of 2012. In 2017, the Pacifica Quartet was appointed to lead the Center for Advanced Quartet Studies at the Aspen Music Festival and School. For more information, visit www.pacificaquartet.com.

About Karen Slack


Hailed for possessing a voice of extraordinary beauty, a seamless legato and great dramatic depth, American soprano Karen Slack has appeared with the Metropolitan Opera where she made her debut in the title role of Verdi's Luisa Miller, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, and San Francisco Opera. In recent seasons, she has appeared as Alice Ford in Falstaff, Leonora in Il Trovatore and Tosca with Arizona Opera, as Aïda at Austin Opera, Emelda Griffith in Champion with New Orleans Opera, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Nashville Opera, Violetta in La Traviata with Sacramento Opera and Sister Rose in Dead Man Walking with both Minnesota Opera and Vancouver Opera and her Scottish Opera debut as Anna in Puccini's Le villi. Additionally, Ms. Slack portrayed a featured role as the Opera Diva in Tyler Perry's movie and soundtrack For Colored Girls.

A graduate of the Adler Fellowship and Merola Opera Program at the San Francisco Opera, the native Philadelphian is also a graduate of the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music. She is a winner of numerous competitions and awards: most notably the Montserrat Caballe International Competition, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, George London Foundation Award, Marian Anderson ICON Award, Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, Rosa Ponselle International Vocal Competition, Portland Opera Lieber Award, Liederkranz Foundation Award and the Jose Iturbi International Competition for Voice. For further information see www.sopranokarenslack.com.

About James Lee III


Accessible and fundamentally tonal, the music of James Lee III combines the textural richness of Tōru Takemitsu and Kaija Saariaho with the rhythmic vitality of Alberto Ginastera and John Adams. Lee's large and rapidly growing catalog reveals an abiding interest in biblical themes and subject matter relating to African-American history and culture. His career got off to an auspicious start in 2006 when the piece he had written for his doctoral dissertation at the University of Michigan a year earlier, Beyond Rivers of Vision, inspired by the Book of Revelation, was premiered by the Detroit Symphony. Some of Lee's storylines are more explicit and even topical, as with the orchestral works Chuphshah! and Thurgood's Rhapsody, celebrating Harriet Tubman and Thurgood Marshall, and the cello solo Abraham's Sons, a memorial for Trayvon Martin. A Double Standard, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall and Shriver Hall Concert Series in Baltimore (where Lee teaches at Morgan State University), is among several of the composer's works slated to receive premieres this spring, including his Second Violin Concerto, subtitled "Teshuah," and Hold On, America, Hold On! for orchestra and five speakers who bear witness to the continuing oppression and resilience of Black Americans. Learn more at www.jameslee3music.com.

About Shriver Hall Concert Series


For more than 50 years, Shriver Hall Concert Series (SHCS) has been "Baltimore's finest importer of classical music talent" (The Baltimore Sun) and the area's premier presenter of chamber music ensembles and solo recitalists with a mission to craft performances and educational programs at the highest level of excellence. A 5-time recipient of Baltimore Magazine's distinction "Best Classical Music" in its annual "Best of Baltimore" issue, the coveted subscription series features many of the world's most renowned soloists and ensembles, presented in The Johns Hopkins University's Shriver Hall.

Founded in 1966 by Dr. Ernest Bueding, a pharmacologist at The Johns Hopkins University, and a group of similarly dedicated music enthusiasts, SHCS set out to make an important contribution to the vitality of an already vibrant city. When flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal walked onto the stage of Shriver Hall for the first concert, more than 1,100 people witnessed the launch of what is now recognized as a remarkable success story: Shriver Hall Concert Series. In the succeeding years SHCS has presented hundreds of acclaimed and emerging international artists in classical chamber music and recitals and a legacy of important debuts and premieres. In addition, SHCS collaborates with local schools and subsidizes hundreds of student tickets each season.

The list of artists presented by SHCS is remarkable-Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia, Ewa Podlés, Maurizio Pollini, Jacqueline du Pré, Mstislav Rostropovich, Jordi Savall, András Schiff, Rudolf Serkin, Janos Starker, Daniil Trifonov, Lynn Harrell, Emmanuel Ax, Alban Berg Quartet, Guarneri Quartet, Kronos Quartet, Cleveland Quartet, and Quartetto Italiano, among many others. SHCS also has a history of championing important musicians early in their careers, including Richard Goode, Hilary Hahn, Hélène Grimaud, Dawn Upshaw, Lang Lang, and the Emerson String Quartet. Commissioned composers include Timo Andres, Sebastian Currier, Jonathan Leshnoff, James Lee III, Hannah Lash, and Nina C. Young.

Designed specifically for the community, SHCS offers the Discovery Series, a series of free concerts presented in venues throughout the region focused on artists emerging on the national and international scene. Artists featured include Narek Hakhnazaryan, Colin Currie, Xavier Foley, and the Dover Quartet. SHCS also offers the annual Spring Lecture Series, a series of free talks focused on annual topics related to the intersection of music and society, and a variety of student programs.

For more information, visit www.shriverconcerts.org.

Photo credit: Pacifica Quartet by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco. Photo of Karen Slack by Kia Caldwell.



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