OSSCS Launches 44th Season with New Music Director Clinton Smith Tonight

OSSCS Launches 44th Season with New Music Director Clinton Smith Tonight

Orchestra Seattle and the Seattle Chamber Singers (OSSCS) launch a stunning 44th season with a dynamic new music director, Clinton Smith and a compelling roster of seven concerts inspired by different facets of the human spirit. Smith's inaugural OSSCS concert, titled Love and Adoration, is at 7:30 p.m. tonight, September 28th at the First Free Methodist Church on Queen Anne.

Smith also conducts the return of OSSCS' beloved Messiah on December 5th as well as the final three concerts of the season in March, April and May of 2014. Smith chose to open and close this season with a Bach motet "to honor the history of OSSCS's championing of Bach's music." And for the first concert of the season the theme of love and adoration rings especially loud with the world premiere of a new work by Carol Sams, a longtime friend of OSSCS and its beloved founder George Shangrow. Sams' Rhapsody for Viola and Orchestra was commissioned by the family members of OSSCS violinist and violist Jim Lurie as a birthday gift to him.

Guest conductors Stephen Rogers Radcliffe, music director of the Seattle Youth Symphony and Stilian Kirov, associate conductor of the Seattle Symphony will lead the November and February concerts (respectively). The seven concerts for this milestone 44th season are all inspired by the human spirit and include:

Love and Adoration
Saturday, September 28, 2013, 7:30 p.m.
Clinton Smith, conductor / Roxanna Patterson, viola

Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
Duruflé: Ubi caritas, Op. 10, No. 1
J.S. Bach: O Jesu Christ meins lebens Licht, BWV 118
R. Strauss: Serenade in E-flat, Op. 7
Monteverdi: Toccata from L'Orfeo
Sams: Rhapsody for Viola and Orchestra [WORLD PREMIERE]
Mealor: She Walks in Beauty
Ravel: Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloé

Clinton Smith's inaugural concert as OSSCS music director explores "love and adoration" in music spanning the centuries. The opening and closing pages of Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde are, Clinton notes, "full of longing, rapture, anxious sighs, hopes and fears, laments and wishes, all things we experience when we fall in love." Maurice Duruflé's setting of Ubi caritas begins with the timeless words "where charity and love are, God is there." Bach's funeral motet "fits beautifully with our concert theme: in death, we offer up our greatest admiration and adoring thoughts about our loved ones." The wind serenade by 17-year-old Richard Strauss pays homage to his father, a virtuoso horn player, while demonstrating the young composer's love for the music of Mozart. Ravel's virtuoso showpiece for orchestra and chorus comes from the finale of his ballet Daphnis et Chloé, which "depicts the two young lovers reuniting after Pan rescues Chloé from a band of pirates." Welsh composer Paul Mealor set a poem of Lord Byron that "speaks of a woman's stunning beauty."

Passion and Enchantment
Saturday, November 9, 2013, 7:30 p.m.
Stephen Rogers Radcliffe, conductor

Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Brahms: Liebeslieder Waltzes
Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Haydn

Radcliffe leads OSSCS in Felix Mendelssohn's incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, beginning with the overture-composed at age 17-that George Grove deemed "the greatest marvel of early maturity that the world has ever seen in music." Mendelssohn's celebrated scherzo and familiar wedding march alternate with rarely heard selections for solo vocalists and women's voices. Brahms composed his famed Liebeslieder Waltzes for chorus and piano four-hands, but later orchestrated the accompaniment to several of them himself. He also created two versions of his variations on a theme he believed to be by Haydn-one for two pianos and the other for full orchestra.

Tradition and Faith
Sunday, December 15, 2013, 3:00 p.m.
Clinton Smith, conductor
Angela Mortellaro, soprano
Sarah Larsen, mezzo-soprano
Brad Benoit, tenor
Charles Robert Stephens, baritone

Handel: Messiah

No other piece has become more closely associated with OSSCS than Georg Frideric Handel's most celebrated oratorio, Messiah. For four decades, audiences have delighted in these complete and uncut performances. After a three-year absence, Handel's masterpiece returns, with a new roster of soloists and with our new music director on the podium (and playing one of our two harpsichords).

Friendship and Imagination
Saturday, February 8, 2014, 7:30 p.m.
Stilian Kirov, conductor
Liadov: The Enchanted Lake, Op. 62
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Mussorgsky/Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition

Felix Mendelssohn wrote his beloved violin concerto for Ferdinand David, his friend since childhood, who provided the composer with technical advice throughout the work's six-year gestation. When Russian painter Viktor Hartmann died at the early age of 39, his friend Modest Mussorgsky loaned several paintings from his own collection to an exhibition in the artist's honor. The event inspired Mussorgsky to compose-in a mere six weeks-a suite for solo piano that depicted in music several of Hartmann's drawings and watercolors. During the next 150 years many composers have transcribed Mussorgsky's piano music for various ensembles, but none more famously than Maurice Ravel, whose brilliant orchestral palette proved the perfect match for Hartmann's artistry and Mussorgsky's tone painting.

Death and Remembrance
Saturday, March 15, 2014, 7:30 p.m.
Clinton Smith, conductor
Mark Salman, piano
Lindsay Ohse, soprano
Melissa Plagemann, mezzo-soprano
Wesley Rogers, tenor
Stephen Fish, bass-baritone

Jones: Elegy
Liszt: Totentanz
Mozart: Requiem in D Minor, K. 626

Samuel Jones composed his Elegy for string orchestra over the course of four days in the immediate aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, encapsulating the grief and shock that swept the nation in reaction to a president's death 50 years ago. Liszt's Totentanz ("Dance of the Dead") consists of a set of variations on the Dies Irae melody that has haunted so many composers, including Berlioz and Rachmaninov. For what may be Liszt's most dramatic work for piano and orchestra, we welcome back Mark Salman, a frequent collaborator with Orchestra Seattle over the past two decades and a renowned interpreter of Liszt's music. The circumstances surrounding Mozart's Requiem remain shrouded in mystery: "an unknown, grey stranger" commissioned the work in remembrance of unnamed loved one, but as the composer struggled to complete the work on his deathbed, coming to view the work as his own "funeral song, which I must not leave incomplete." Although Mozart's untimely death at age 35 did prevent him from finishing the Requiem, it has nevertheless become the composer's best-loved choral work.

Reverence and Spirituality
Saturday, April 12, 2014, 7:30 p.m.
Clinton Smith, conductor
Catherine Haight, soprano
Melissa Plagemann, mezzo-soprano
Wesley Rogers, tenor
Stephen Fish, bass-baritone

J.S. Bach: Mass in B Minor, BWV 232

"I chose Bach's Mass in B Minor piece for several reasons," explains Clinton Smith, "one of which is for OSSCS performers to revisit an old favorite. The work represents Bach at his best, and as a devout Christian, his most reverent praise and glory to God can be heard through his music." Bach completed his Mass in B Minor shortly before his death, drawing upon liturgical music he had composed over the preceding 35 years, assembling these diverse sources into a seamless whole. The work was not performed during Bach's lifetime, and its true purpose remains something of a mystery: it is not particularly well suited for performance in either Lutheran or Catholic religious services. Perhaps, as with the Goldberg Variation and the Art of the Fugue, Bach intended this late-in-life composition to be a magnum opus, encompassing all he had learned as a composer of religious music. As Bach biographer Karl Geiringer has noted, this monumental mass "belongs to the immortal documents of man's quest for the eternal truths."

Reflection and Wonder
Saturday, May 10, 2014, 7:30 p.m.
Clinton Smith, conductor
Karin Wolverton, soprano
Sarah Larsen, mezzo-soprano

Ives: The Unanswered Question
Fauré: Après un rêve, Op. 7, No. 1
J.S. Bach: Singet dem Herrn, BWV 225
Barber: Knoxville: Summer of 1915
Elgar: The Music Makers, Op. 69

Clinton Smith notes that in Ives' The Unanswered Question "The strings modulate from harmony to harmony represent the ethos or the continuum of the universe, while solo trumpet (asking the question) repeats a figure seven times and flutes (steadily gaining in frenetic energy in response to the question) represent human beings reacting to the question of existence that cannot be answered." Fauré's Après un rêve, "a gorgeous meditative piece originally for voice, depicts a dreamer's longing for a person encountered in the dream." Bach's motet for double chorus is an old favorite of the Chamber Singers.
Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 sets to music excerpts from an ode to childhood by James Agee, remembering the summer before his father's death. Barber dedicated the work to his own father, casting a solo soprano "as a young child who sometimes acts as an adult, and painting the nostalgia of childhood and reactions to the world around oneself as a child in a familiar place." Elgar's The Music Makers quotes from a number of the composer's previous works, most notably the "Nimrod" movement of the Enigma Variations. In their first entrance, the chorus sings, "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dreams." Indeed, notes Clinton, "the performers of OSSCS are the music makers and this rarely performed masterwork provides the perfect anthem with which to conclude our initial season together."

Clinton Smith is artistic director and principal conductor of the St. Cloud Symphony and currently serves on the music staff of Santa Fe Opera covering and preparing performances of La traviata and Le nozze di Figaro. He will also conduct at the University of Michigan Opera Theater's production of IL Barbiere di Siviglia in the coming season.

Recently Clinton served as cover conductor for Juilliard Opera's production of The Cunning Little Vixen and Portland Opera's Don Giovanni. He was assistant conductor and chorus master for San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program, assistant conductor for Glimmerglass Opera's productions of Tolomeo and The Tender Land, conductor of Madama Butterfly at Hamline University and Mademoiselle Modiste for Skylark Opera, music director of Western Ontario University's Canadian Operatic Arts Academy, and guest coach at the National University of Taiwan. He also served on the music staff for Kentucky Opera's Don Giovanni and Ash Lawn Opera's productions of Gianni Schicchi, Die Zauberflöte and The Music Man.

For four seasons, Minnesota Opera engaged Clinton as cover conductor and chorus master, covering the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Minnesota Opera Orchestra in over 20 productions. In 2011, Clinton conducted a workshop and prepared the world premiere of Kevin Puts' opera Silent Night, which subsequently won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music. For Minnesota Opera's New Works Initiative, and as an avid fan of new music, Clinton prepared workshops of Douglas J. Cuomo's Doubt, Ricky Ian Gordon's The Garden of the Finzi-Continisand the North American premiere of Jonathan Dove's The Adventures of Pinocchio, as well as Dominick Argento's Casanova's Homecoming and Bernard Herrmann's Wuthering Heights. With the St. Cloud Symphony's Young Composer's Competition, Clinton premieres a new work every season.

Previous positions include music director and conductor of the Franco-American Vocal Academy in France; the Austrian-American Mozart Academy in Salzburg; and the University of Michigan Life Sciences Orchestra. Clinton served as assistant conductor for the Austin Symphony, International Institute of Vocal Arts in Chiari, Italy, the University of Michigan Opera Theater, and the University of Michigan Symphony and Philharmonia Orchestras.

A native Texan, Clinton received his D.M.A. ('09) and M.M. ('06) in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Michigan, where he studied with Kenneth Kiesler and Martin Katz, and a B.M. in Piano Performance ('04) from the University of Texas at Austin.

Orchestra Seattle and the Seattle Chamber Singers (OSSCS) is a thriving volunteer based organization with deep roots in the Seattle community. It consists of a 60-member semi-professional orchestra and a 45-voice chorus. Membership in both groups is by audition and includes professional musicians, music teachers, and highly skilled amateurs who came together to work under the direction of OSSCS founder and visionary George Shangrow. During its 44-year history, OSSCS has made an extensive tour of the orchestral and choral literature and has sought to promote new music by Northwest composers using the finest local instrumental and vocal soloists. The ensembles have attained special recognition for their interpretations of the music of Handel and Bach and have introduced rarely-heard choral masterpieces to Seattle audiences, such as Handel's Israel in Egypt, Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers, and Haydn's The Seasons. Praised by critics for their vibrant sound and spirited, disciplined singing, the Seattle Chamber Singers also delight in performing classics such as Handel's Messiah, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and Brahms' German Requiem. After George Shangrow's unexpected and tragic death in 2010, OSSCS presented three seasons of concerts led by guest conductors. In 2013 OSSCS welcomed Clinton Smith as music director to usher in a new era of music by, and for, the Northwest.