Holy Women: Lives of the Women Saints... Plays Corpus Christi Church


Tonight at 7:30pm, Holy Women: Lives of the Women Saints in the StaiNed Glass Windows of St. Bede's Chapel will have its New York premiere at Corpus Christi Church (529 West 121st Street, NYC). Holy Women is a new Cantata for nine singers and chamber ensemble composed by Robert Sirota, with a libretto by Victoria Sirota. It was commissioned by Palladium Musicum and premiered last November at St. Bede's Chapel in Greenwich, CT.

The performers, conducted by Robert Sirota, include sopranos Maeve Hoglund, Amy Justman, Michelle Repella, and Jessica Klein; mezzo sopranos Abigail Fischer, Laurel Masse, Margaret Peterson, Amy Baumann; contralto Lisa Chavez; Christopher James, flute; Lauren Blackerby, oboe; Jordan Dodson, guitar; Victoria Sirota, organ; Nicholas Mann, violin; and David Geber, cello.

Holy Women tells the stories of the nine women saints - whose lives spanned 16 centuries - represented in St. Bede's Chapel's magnificent staiNed Glass windows. Each window tells the story of a different saint, depicted with specific images and symbols emblematic of her life. In Holy Women, the saints are arranged in three groups: the Mystics (Saints Walburga, Catherine of Sienna, and Theresa), the Martyrs (Saints Ursula, Barbara, and Agnes), and the Mothers (Saints Anne, Elizabeth, and Mary). The Cantata is a conversation with and among these women.

The staiNed Glass windows in St. Bede's Chapel were designed by two prominent London firms. The north window, installed in 1915, was designed by influential London artist Christopher Whall and his daughter, Veronica, and reflects the influence of the arts and crafts movement in England at the time. The south window was designed by the highly regarded London firm of James Powell & Sons and installed in 1921.

The music of Robert Sirota, composer and conductor of Holy Women, has been performed throughout the United States and Europe, at venues including Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, Merkin Hall in New York, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Tanglewood Music Center, the Aspen Music Festival, the Yellow Barn Music Festival, Benaroya Hall in Seattle, and at The Juilliard School, the Shepherd School of Music, Peabody, Oberlin Conservatory, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory in Singapore, Royal Conservatory in Toronto, and the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. His commissions include works for the Empire Brass, American Guild of Organists, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, the Fischer Duo, the Peabody Trio, the Webster Trio, and the Chiara String Quartet. Of his music, The New York Times has reported, "Sirota's compositional voice has a distinctive tartness and rhythmic bite. Thick, astringent chromatic harmonies come in tightly bound chords to create nervous sonorities. Yet the textures are always lucid; details come through."

Robert Sirota has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the United States Information Agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet The Composer, and the American Music Center. Among his awards are a First Prize in the Long Island Composers Alliance Competition and the Andrew White Medal from Loyola College in Baltimore. A native New Yorker, Sirota received his earliest compositional training at The Juilliard School, and received his bachelor's degree in piano and composition from Oberlin Conservatory where he studied with Joseph Wood and Richard Hoffman. A Thomas J. Watson Fellowship allowed him to study and concertize in Paris, where his principal teacher was Nadia Boulanger. Returning to America, Sirota earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University, studying with Earl Kim and Leon Kirchner. In 2005, Sirota was appointed president of the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where he is also a member of the School's composition faculty. For more information visit www.RobertSirota.com.

Victoria Sirota, librettist and organist of Holy Women, Episcopal priest, musician, lecturer and author, is Canon Pastor and Vicar of the Congregation at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City. She holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Boston University and Harvard Divinity School, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College. Former Vicar of Church of the Holy Nativity in Baltimore, she has taught at Yale Divinity School, Yale Institute of Sacred Music, The Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary's Seminary and University, and Boston University. Awards include the Bishop's Award for Outstanding Ordained Ministry, the Ecumenical Service Award from the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council, and the Newington-Cropsey Foundation Award for Excellence in the Arts. The author of hymn texts, articles and reviews, she is recorded on Northeastern and Gasparo Records. Her book Preaching to the Choir: Claiming the Role of Sacred Musician is available from Church Publishing. The Rev. Canon Sirota has been an Associate of the Society of Saint Margaret since 1996.

Tickets: $20 General Admission; $10 Students and Seniors; $50 Patrons, incl. champagne reception.
Available at 646.536.7864 or www.robertsirota.com

Robert Sirota: www.robertsirota.com

Corpus Christi Church: www.corpus-christi-nyc.org