Schimmel Center With The Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra Presents 'The Struggle To Forgive'

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Schimmel Center With The Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra Presents 'The Struggle To Forgive'

Schimmel Center with the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra presents the world premiere of The Struggle to Forgive: Confronting Gun Violence in America on Friday, May 4, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. Led by Music Director and Conductor Gary S. Fagin, the new cantata-which has a libretto by Fagin and features soprano Mikaela Bennett, mezzo-soprano Sarah Heltzel, and baritone Jorell Williams-gives voice to those whose lives have been impacted by gun violence in the United States, including victims and their families.

The program also includes Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question; and a new orchestral version of Prayer for Mary, written by Fagin in remembrance of the life of a KCO member whose life was lost due to gun violence in 2014.

A post-show discussion will be held following the performance with Gary S. Fagin and the three soloists, focusing on the creation and inspiration of the piece, in addition to recounting the artists' personal experiences with gun violence, and how communities, cultural groups, and the nation as a whole can seek healing from the impact of gun violence through music and art.

"The Struggle To Forgive is personal for the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra, as we lost one of our own musicians to gun violence in 2014," said Mr. Fagin. "This world premiere is part of the KCO's 10th Anniversary Season, and reflects our commitment over the last decade to programming that is challenging yet accessible, as well as ambitious and innovative. We are thrilled to return to the Schimmel Center for to present this music, and to be part of an important community conversation about gun violence."

Event Information

Schimmel Center with The Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra
The Struggle to Forgive
Music and Libretto by Gary S. Fagin

Friday, May 4, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.

Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra
Gary S. Fagin, Founder and Music Director
Mikaela Bennett, soprano
Sarah Heltzel, mezzo-soprano
Jorell Williams, baritoneTickets are available at, by calling 212-346-1715 or by visiting the box office located at 3 Spruce Street. The Schimmel Center box office is open Tuesdays through Saturday from Noon to 5:00 p.m. and three hours prior to performances.

About Schimmel Center
Schimmel Center, located in the heart of downtown Manhattan at Pace University, presents a unique and diverse array of internationally acclaimed artists, encompassing genres including dance, cabaret, music, comedy, world music, and family programming, in an intimate setting with affordable ticket prices. For more information, visit

About the Artists

About the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra
Since its first concert in 2009, the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra (KCO) has performed in Lower Manhattan's most inspiring performing spaces, from the soaring atrium of the World Financial Center Winter Garden, the inspiring vaulted space of Trinity Church, and the Schimmel Center, and at smaller venues around Lower Manhattan, including numerous schools featuring world-renowned soloists.

Founded by downtown resident Gary S. Fagin-an accomplished conductor, composer and educator-the KCO is the only professional chamber orchestra based in Lower Manhattan. The KCO is a meshing of the old and the new-classical music played by top contemporary musicians, performed in the fast-growing neighborhoods of old New York, in venues that are steps away from cobblestone streets and wireless skyscrapers. Until the KCO was founded, there were few programs in Lower Manhattan devoted to the great classical music repertoire.

Highlights of the KCO's presentations include the January 2010 world premiere at the World Financial Center Winter Garden of Mr. Fagin's composition "And Bold To Fall Withal (Henry Hudson In The New World)," featuring Broadway star Jason Danieley singing the story of Henry Hudson's arrival in New York Harbor 400 years ago; the January 2011 world premiere of Mr. Fagin's music theater work "Robert Moses Astride New York," also at the Winter Garden, which featured visionary performer Rinde Eckert portraying controversial New York City builder Robert Moses; and an additional Moses performance in October 14 at the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York, featuring Mr. Eckert.

Notably, the KCO has performed twice before at the Schimmel Center. On March 18, 2016, the the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra presented the world premiere of "Supreme Justice: The Battle for Gay Rights," a work by Gary S. Fagin for soprano, tenor, vocal ensemble and orchestra that tackled the struggle to expand the definition of equal rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation. On March 8, 2013, the KCO presented "Music for a Changing World," featuring the music of Kurt Weill, Maurice Ravel, Akira Nishimura and Charles Ives, with pianist Harumi Hanafusa.

About Gary Fagin
Gary S. Fagin has conducted, composed, orchestrated and arranged music for symphony orchestras across the country, as well as for ballet, Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, public radio, regional and repertory theaters, opera companies, universities, and conservatory and youth orchestras. He is Founder and Music Director of New York City's Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra; Music Director of the Bucks County Symphony Orchestra in Pennsylvania; and conducts the New Jersey Ballet's production of The Nutcracker with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. He served as Musical Director and Conductor for seven years at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven and for three seasons at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge. Mr. Fagin was the first person to receive a Doctorate Degree in Conducting from Yale University. He studied composition with George Crumb and George Rochberg at The University of Pennsylvania; participated in Conducting Master Classes with Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa at Tanglewood; conducted the American premieres of two of Frank Zappa's orchestral compositions; and arranged music for four years for Garrison Keillor and The Prairie Home Companion. Mr. Fagin is Founder and Director of The New York Conducting Studio. The Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra annually presents world premieres of his major compositions.

About Mikaela Bennett
A recent graduate of The Juilliard School, Mikaela Bennett made her professional stage debut starring as Penelope in The Golden Apple with City Center Encores! Mikaela made her solo debut with the New York Philharmonic singing excerpts from West Side Story for their Young Peoples Concert series, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and also made her debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra with conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin in a concert version of West Side Story. Ms. Bennett performed as a featured soloist in a concert celebration of Bernstein's centennial at the Kennedy Center called Bernstein on Broadway, directed by Kathleen Marshall and conducted by Rob Fisher. She has appeared with the San Francisco Symphony and New World Symphony, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, for the world premiere of his work, Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind. At the Prototype Festival this season, Ms. Bennett originated the title role of Acquanetta in a new opera composed by Michael Gordon and directed by Daniel Fish. Mikaela has appeared in New York City's prestigious cabaret venues including solo concerts at Feinstein's 54 Below, and has appeared with MasterVoices conducted by Ted Sperling. Mikaela is a native of Ottawa, Canada.

About Sarah Heltzel
Sarah Heltzel has portrayed roles such as Eboli in Don Carlo and Maddalena in Rigoletto (Wichita Grand Opera), Siegrune in Die Walküre (Seattle Opera), Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana (String Orchestra of Brooklyn), Azucena in Il Trovatore (Opera in the Heights), der Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos (Winter Opera St Louis), Jo in Little Women, Musetta in La Bohème and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (Opera on the James), and Suzuki in Madama Butterfly (Indianapolis, Amarillo, Syracuse, Nevada Opera, and Opera on the James). Recently, Heltzel joined New York City Opera for Angels in America, Seattle Opera for Flora in La Traviata and for Wagner's Ring cycle, Tacoma Opera and Skagit Opera for Carmen, Opera in the Heights for Romeo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Syracuse Opera and the Phoenicia Festival for Desirée and Charlotte in A Little Night Music, and Minnesota Concert Opera for Fricka in the Mini-Ring. Concert works include Verdi's Requiem (Wichita Symphony, Symphony Syracuse, Back Bay Chorale, Carnegie Hall), Handel's Messiah and Janacek's Glagolitic Mass (Seattle Symphony), Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder (Gordon College Symphony Orchestra), and Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (Boston Chamber Music Society). Upcoming roles include Carmen for Wichita Grand Opera, Saleswoman in Brokeback Mountain for New York City Opera, and Desirée in A Little Night Music for Opera Roanoke.

About Jorell Williams
Jorell Williams is an American operatic baritone with a wide variety of experience from standard repertoire to premiere pieces. In the 2017-2018 season, Mr. Williams returns to the Caramoor International Music Festival as Nardo in a remount of On-Site Opera's production of Mozart's La finta giardiniera, and appears as Dr. Falke in Finger Lakes Opera's production of Die Fledermaus, and in the New York Premiere of Matt Aucoin's Crossing at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. He will make his role and company debut as Le Genie Oroès in the American premiere of Rameau's Sympathie (or Acante et Céphise) with Victory Hall Opera. Having completed his residency in the American Opera Projects Composers and the Voice Series from 2011-2014, Jorell is a much in demand interpreter of contemporary opera, and has created roles in several world premieres, notably, Hilliard and Boresi's Blue Viola with Urban Arias, Matt Aucoin's Crossing with the American Repertory Theater, Anthony Davis' Lear in the Second Floor at the University of San Diego, John Musto's Bastianello with Rochester Lyric Opera, and workshops of Nico Muhly's Two Boys and Michael Torke's Senna with the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Festival. Jorell is a recipient of the 2016 Marc and Eva Stern Fellowship at Songfest, and has garnered top awards from the Gerda Lissner International Competition, Schuyler Foundation for Career Bridges, Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation, The American Prize, Serge Koussevitzky Foundation, David Adams Art Song Competition, The American Traditions Competition, Civic Morning Musicals Foundation, Harlem Opera Theater, the National Association of Negro Musicians, the Liberace Foundation, in addition to being a finalist in the NAACP Act-So Competition in the Actor's Division.

Location Information
Schimmel Center is accessible via the A, C, 2, 3, 4, 5, J, or Z to Fulton Street (William Street Exit), 4, 5, 6 to Brooklyn Bridge (Brooklyn Bridge Exit), and R to City Hall (Broadway Exit); via the Path Train to the World Trade Center stop; and via bus by the M1, M9, M15, M22, M102, B51 to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall Stop or the M6 to City Hall/Broadway.

Image by Kevin Yatarola

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