Vocal Arts Ensemble Announces 2017-18 Season at Memorial Hall
Cincinnati's Vocal Arts Ensemble (VAE), the city's premier professional choral ensemble, announces the details of its 38th season, the fifth under Grammy Award-winning Music Director Craig Hella Johnson and the first at its new home at the newly renovated Memorial Hall in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.
After spending several seasons performing in various churches and other venues around the region, all four of the ensemble's 2017-18 season programs will take place in the historic and beautifully restored Memorial Hall auditorium.
The first program will include a newly commissioned work by Dominick DiOrio alongside Mozart's Requiem and Bach's Ascension Oratorio. The second program of the season, the traditional "Candlelit Christmas," will be led by former VAE Music Director Earl Rivers and features carols from around the world. The season also sees the return of Kile Smith's Canticle, a work premiered by the VAE in 2016. The season concludes with Rachmaninoff's breathtaking Vespers.
Subscriptions for the VAE season start at $84 and are available now by visiting vaecinci.org or calling (513) 381-3300. Subscriptions purchased by Oct. 6 receive a 15% discount. Single tickets start at $25 in advance ($12 for students week of show) and go on sale Oct. 10.
Season at a Glance:
All performances at Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12
Craig Hella Johnson, conductor
Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra (Eckart Preu, Music Director)
Cincinnati Children's Choir (Robyn Lana, director)
Music Director Craig Hella Johnson conducts the Vocal Arts Ensemble, joined by the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and Cincinnati Children's Choir, in its first concert at its new home at Memorial Hall. The centerpiece of the concert is Mozart's Requiem, a work often considered one of the pinnacles of choral music. Though surrounded in intrigue (rumors speculate that Mozart felt he was writing a requiem for his own funeral), Mozart's masterful final work demonstrates the heights of choral virtuosity. The program also features the world premiere of a new work by composer Dominick DiOrio. The World Aglow features text adapted from Amy Lowell's The Congressional Library, and carries
the message of inclusivity, equality and peace. "I offer this work and its optimism in the hope of a future free of hatred and bigotry," says the composer in his notes on the piece. Rounding out the program is Bach's Ascension Oratorio. The wide variety of repertoire on this program celebrates the high level of talent found within the ranks of the VAE and CCO, nodding to the past while looking forward to the future.
A Candlelit Christmas
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17
Earl Rivers, conductor
VAE Director Emeritus Earl Rivers returns to conduct this program filled with traditional and contemporary carols from around the world, including Carol of the Bells, Le cloche de Noel, Deck the Halls. Joining the VAE for this program is the ensemble, Canterbury Brass, a quintet renowned for its polished sound and virtuosic style.
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11
7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12
Craig Hella Johnson, conductor
VAE is committed to the development and presentation of modern choral chamber music, annually presenting premieres and new works by both internationally-known and emerging composers. In 2016, the VAE commissioned and premiered a full-length oratorio by Philadelphia-based composer Kile Smith entitled Canticle. This project is a significant contribution to the field of contemporary American choral music. The text is drawn from the mystical writings of St. John of the Cross and the work includes instrumental layering. "It abounds with religious symbolism, but like the Song of Solomon from the Torah, it is a poem with universal appeal. Adherents of all spiritual and meditative disciplines will immediately recognize the dangers, delights, side-steps, ecstasy, and peace described in the Spiritual Canticle," says the composer in the program note on the piece.
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20
Craig Hella Johnson, conductor
One of the most breathtaking works in the choral repertoire, Rachmaninoff's Vespers is widely considered the pinnacle of the Russian composer's output. The intricate a cappella harmonies and carries the weight of timeless beauty and sacred power.
Craig Hella Johnson, Music Director
Renowned as one of today's most influential voices in choral conducting, Craig Hella Johnson brings unparalleled depth of knowledge, artistic sensitivity, and rich imagination to his programs. As Grammy-winning founder and Artistic Director of Conspirare, Johnson assembles some of the finest singers in the country to form a world-class, award-winning ensemble committed to creating dynamic choral art. Beloved by audiences, lauded by critics and composers, and revered by singers, Johnson is known for crafting musical journeys that create deep connections between performers and listeners. The Wall Street Journal praised his ability to "find the emotional essence other performers often miss," and Fanfare wrote that "Craig Hella Johnson has assembled and molded a first-rate choir to be respected as highly as the best we have had."
Distinguished composer John Corigliano wrote, "I believe that [Johnson] has understood my music in a way that I have never experienced before. He is a great musician who understands everything about the music he conducts." Composer and collaborator Robert Kyr observed, "Craig's attitude toward creating a community of artists who work together to interpret the score ... goes beyond technical mastery into that emotional depth and spiritual life of the music."
Of Johnson's performance of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, the San Antonio Express-News wrote: "Through all the amazing ebbs and flows of dynamics, the radiant balances, the seamless connection of episodes, the theatrically astute tempo relations, the unified structural arc, the music shone forth with organic naturalness. Nothing sounded fussed over. Everything just sounded right."
Johnson is also Music Director of the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble and conductor emeritus of the Victoria Bach Festival. He was Artistic Director of San Francisco-based Chanticleer (1998-1999) and has served as guest conductor with the Austin Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, and many others in Texas, the U.S., and abroad. As the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Texas at Austin from 1990-2001, Johnson led the graduate program in choral conducting. He remains an active educator, teaching nationally and internationally with professionals and students at conferences and universities. He is also a frequent speaker at regional and national conferences of the American Choral Directors Association. In Fall 2012, he became the first Artist in Residence at the Texas State University School of Music.
A composer and arranger, Johnson works with G. Schirmer Publishing on the Craig Hella Johnson Choral Series, featuring specially selected composers as well as some of his original compositions and arrangements. His works are also published by Alliance Music Publications. A unique aspect of Johnson's programming is his signature "collage" style: through-composed programs that marry music and poetry to blend sacred and secular, classical and contemporary, traditional and popular styles. In 2006 he was engaged to create a special peace-themed collage program for the North Central ACDA convention, and in 2007 by the famed St. Olaf Choir to create and conduct a collage program during a five-week residency. Craig's first concert-length composition, Considering Matthew Shepard, was premiered in 2016 by Conspirare.
Johnson has been honored with numerous awards, including 2008 induction into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame, Chorus America's 2009 Louis Botto Award for Innovative Action and Entrepreneurial Zeal, and the 2011 Citation of Merit from professional music fraternity Mu Phi Epsilon, the organization's highest honor for a non-member. In 2012 he was an invited speaker for TEDxAustin. He was one of seven panelists for the Fetzer Institute and Eranos Foundation's "Love and the Musical Arts" gathering in Switzerland in 2011. In April 2013 Johnson was designated the official Texas State Musician for 2013 by the Texas Legislature. The designation was recommended by the Texas Commission on the Arts after a competitive nomination process, and he is only the second classical musician to receive the honor in its eleven-year history. Johnson was awarded the 2015 Best Choral Performance Grammy for conducting Conspirare on the CD The Sacred Spirit of Russia (Harmonia Mundi label).
In June 2015 Johnson received The Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art, Chorus America's lifetime achievement award.
A Minnesota native, Johnson studied at St. Olaf College, the Juilliard School, and the University of Illinois and earned his doctorate at Yale University. As the recipient of a National Arts Fellowship, Johnson studied with Helmuth Rilling at the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart, Germany. He has been a Texas resident since 1990.
The Vocal Arts Ensemble (VAE) is Greater Cincinnati's premier professional vocal ensemble dedicated to presenting passionate and innovative performances of choral music that raise and nurture the public's appreciation of the life enriching qualities of the choral arts.
VAE fulfills a unique niche in the region as a professional chamber choir with exceptional artistic quality, a creative balance of traditional yet innovative programming, and intimate performances of unparalleled precision and virtuosity. This dynamic artistic activity contributes to the quality of life in Cincinnati for both performers and audience members alike, and VAE plays an integral role in the cultural landscape of Greater Cincinnati.
Founded in 1979, for 38 years VAE has brought the power of spectacular choral chamber music to audiences of all generations in distinguished architectural and acoustic venues throughout the region. VAE has enjoyed artistic leadership by some of the nation's leaders in choral conducting; Grammy winner/six-time nominee Craig Hella Johnson currently leads the talented and dynamic core of 24 (and full roster of 51) members. Praised for his visionary approach, Johnson is considered one of the most influential voices in choral music in the US today. Over the years, creative collaborations have resulted in unique productions and reached diverse audiences.