Robert Sirota's Immigrant Songs with Libretto by Victoria Sirota to Premiere At the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
On Monday, April 9, 2018 at 7:30pm, composer Robert Sirota's new work Immigrant Songs, with libretto by Victoria Sirota, will be premiered at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine (1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St). Immigrant Songs is commissioned by the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the family of Marina Friedenberg Stern. Instrumental ensemble Rose of the Compass, led by Friedenberg Stern's daughter Nina Stern, will perform the work along with the Cathedral Choir of St. John the Divine and Kent Tritle, Music Director. This diverse program, Immigrants - A Celebration of What Makes New York Great, pays homage to New York's identity as a melting pot of humanity.
Immigrant Songs is dedicated to Marina Friedenberg Stern, who immigrated to New York City along with her family in 1941. Scored for choir, soloists, organ, recorder, chalumeau, oud, kanun, harp and frame drum, the libretto of Immigrant Songs, by Victoria Sirota, celebrates the lives and work of three immigrants to New York:
Spanish builder and engineer Rafael Guastavino, whose distinctive method of tiling produced over 1000 vaults and ceilings in 40 states, including the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Grand Central Station and the New York Subway System.
Internationally renowned painter Marina Friedenberg Stern, born in Venice of Jewish heritage, immigrating to New York in 1941 via England and Brazil. Her paintings are in the permanent collections of dozens of museums and galleries, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery.
Trinidadian native Ravi Ragbir, Executive Director of the faith-based New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, a hero for immigrants' rights who works courageously as an advocate for immigrants while himself under threat of deportation.
In addition to Immigrant Songs, instrumental ensemble Rose of the Compass will perform music from the cultures represented by the cathedral's seven Chapels, while the Cathedral Choir will answer with pieces by immigrants who composed in America, sharing their culture and their art. Composers will include Vincent Persichetti, whose parents came from Italy and Germany; F. Melius Christiansen, the great founder of the St. Olaf Choir; Rebecca Clarke and Tarik O'Regan,who both emigrated from the British Isles; Jean Berger from Germany; and Igor Stravinksy from Russia.
Over four decades, composer Robert Sirota has developed a distinctive voice, clearly discernible in all of his work - whether symphonic, choral, stage, or chamber music. Writing in the Portland Press Herald, Allan Kozinn asserts: "Sirota's musical language is personal and undogmatic, in the sense that instead of aligning himself with any of the competing contemporary styles, he follows his own internal musical compass."
Robert Sirota's works have been performed by orchestras across the US and Europe; ensembles such as Alarm Will Sound, Sequitur, yMusic, Chameleon Arts, and Dinosaur Annex; the Chiara, American, Ethel, Elmyr, and Blair String Quartets; the Peabody, Concord, and Webster Trios; and at festivals including Tanglewood, Aspen, Yellow Barn, and Cooperstown music festivals; Bowdoin Gamper and Bowdoin International Music Festival; and Mizzou International Composers Festival. Recent and upcoming commissions include the American Guild of Organists, the American String Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, the Naumburg Foundation, Concert Artists of Baltimore, and yMusic.
Recipient of grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, United States Information Agency, National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer, and the American Music Center, Sirota's works are recorded on the Capstone, Albany, New Voice, Gasparo and Crystal labels. His music is published by Muzzy Ridge Music, Schott, Music Associates of New York, MorningStar, Theodore Presser, and To the Fore.
A native New Yorker, Sirota studied at Juilliard, Oberlin, and Harvard and divides his time between New York and Searsmont, Maine with his wife, Episcopal priest and organist Victoria Sirota. They frequently collaborate on new works, with Victoria as librettist and performer, at times also working with their children, Jonah and Nadia, both world-class violists.
Victoria R. Sirota, Episcopal priest, lecturer, author and organist, 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. 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. Former National Chaplain for the American Guild of Organists, Chair of the Professional Concerns Committee for the Association of Anglican Musicians, and Coordinator of the 1990 National AGO Convention in Boston, she is the author of articles, reviews and texts for hymns, cantatas and song cycles. She is recorded on Northeastern, Gasparo and Albany Records and her bookPreaching to the Choir: Claiming the Role of Sacred Musician is available from Church Publishing. Previous positions include Vicar of the Church of the Holy Nativity in Baltimore, MD, and Canon Pastor and Vicar at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. She has given recitals in Paris, Germany and the United States, and has preached and given workshops at AGO, AAM, UCCMA and ALCM conventions. Recent collaborations with her husband composer Robert Sirota include "Prelude and Spiritual for Mother Emanuel" for soprano, chorus, piano and strings (2015), and "A Call for the Battle to Cease" (2017) for piano, orchestra and choir. The Reverend Canon Sirota is currently Priest-in-Charge at Saint John's Episcopal Church in Getty Square, Yonkers, NY.
The 16-voice Cathedral Choir of St. John the Divine sets the standard for music-making at the Cathedral. Its members include some of New York City's finest choral performers, who are also accomplished soloists in their own right. The Cathedral Choir provides music for the Sunday 11am Eucharist and 4pm Evensong services throughout the year and also sings for other major feast days of the Christian calendar, such as Christmas, Holy Week, and Easter. In addition, the choir serves as the core ensemble for the Cathedral's Great Music in a Great Space concert series.
Rose of the Compass was founded in 2010 by recorder virtuoso and early music specialist Nina Stern in collaboration with luminaries of New York's world scene. The ensemble, which released its first CD in 2011, explores repertory from diverse traditions, and creates a musical space unifying East and West. For the past several years, the ensemble has collaborated with Kent Tritle and the Cathedral Choir of St. John the Divine, presenting innovative programs such as "The Ornament of the World: Music of multicultural Spain," "The Wingèd Lion: Venice and the Orient", "The Glory of Constantinople" and "The Four Quarters of Jerusalem" which was also released as an album on the Pro Organo label in 2015.