Kronos Quartet, Rinde Eckert & Van-Ánh Vo In 'My Lai,' Come to Royce Hall

Kronos Quartet, Rinde Eckert & Van-Ánh Vo In 'My Lai,' Come to Royce Hall

UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance (CAP UCLA) presents the Kronos Quartet, tenor Rinde Eckert and Vietnamese instrumental virtuoso Vân-Ánh Võ inMy Lai, composed by Jonathan Berger with libretto by Harriet Scott Chessman, at8 p.m. on Friday, March 9 at Royce Hall. Tickets for $29-$59 are now available online at, via Ticketmaster, by phone 310-825-2101 and at the UCLA Central Ticket Office.

Ahead of the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre on March 16, 2018, My Laiapproaches the infamous massacre through the memory of Hugh C. Thompson Jr., the American Army helicopter pilot who courageously intervened in the atrocities, in which American G.I.'s killed over 500 innocent Vietnamese villagers, including many women and children. Now facing cancer in the last month of his life, Thompson is haunted by this massacre, and by his own inability to save more lives. In Berger and Chessman's fevered character study of Thompson, it is not his heroism that day that takes center stage, but the tragedy of how those implicated in war are haunted by the trauma of its violence - regardless of how they acted.

"Feeling neither heroic, nor particularly proud of what he did, the consequences of Hugh Thompson's naïve, idealistic attempt to stop the carnage are pieced together in an effort to seek closure and resolution," said Jonathan Berger, whose previous chamber operas include Theotokia and The War Reporter, with librettos by Dan O'Brien. "The My Lai massacre is but one of many painful and ugly scars for which our country bears responsibility. The government's attempt to hide and distort the story of the My Lai massacre should serve a stark reminder of the moral and ethical dangers of governmental abuse of power."

"Hugh Thompson increasingly emerged for me as a compelling, extraordinary figure. I sought first to listen for his voice, and somehow this voice - open, plainspoken, humble, yearning and furious, forthright, baffled, pained and sorrowful - came to me powerfully," said Harriet Scott Chessman. "Once Jonathan started to compose the music, the libretto changed, gradually gaining the shape it has now, and yet the voice I imagined for Hugh Thompson has held and deepened."

Warrant Officer Thompson was a member of the 123rd Aviation Battalion of the 23rd Infantry Division. Flying his observation helicopter on the morning of March 16, 1968 on a reconnaissance mission, the 24-year-old officer, together with his young crew Lawrence Colburn and Glenn Andreotta, could find no Viet Cong activity in Son My Village. As Thompson and his crew started to realize that American soldiers were engaged in a large-scale massacre, he made three heroic and unauthorized landings, in addition to sending anguished radio reports. Upon his return to base, Thompson reported the massacre in person, which led to the order to cease fire that effectively stopped the My Lai atrocities. My Lai, however, was the site of only one of many massacres of South Vietnamese civilians to occur during the course of the war.

For more than 40 years, the Kronos Quartet has pursued a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually reimagining the string quartet experience. Kronos' adventurous approach dates back to the ensemble's origins. In 1973, David Harrington was inspired to form Kronos after hearing George Crumb's Black Angels, a highly unorthodox, Vietnam War-inspired work featuring bowed water glasses, spoken word passages and electronic effects. The antiwar spirit that helped spark the quartet's founding continues to burn bright, with the Kronos organization commissioning such recent works as My Lai and Alexandra Vrebalov and Bill Morrison's Beyond Zero: 1914-1918, which CAP UCLA presented last season.

"My Lai allows the listener to reflect upon the horror of that day through the eyes and memories of someone whose bravery, presence of mind, and moral courage compelled action in the face of evil," says David Harrington, artistic director, founder, and violinist of Kronos Quartet. "I think My Lai distills some of the most positive aspects of humanity, at the same time as it recognizes a senselessly destructive event that caused immense suffering. The music alternates between being at times internal and reflective and at other times evoking the harsh confusion and disorientation of modern warfare. It alternates between some very violent sounds we can make on our instruments with moments of incredible beauty."

The program opens with the sardonically titled My Lai Lullaby for string quartet, ?àn b?u and ?àn tranh, composed by Jonathan Berger for Kronos in collaboration with David Harrington and Vân-Ánh Võ.

This project is funded in part by Susan & Leonard Nimoy and the Good Works Foundation in support of the CAP UCLA Artists' Fellowship program.

My Lai (music by Jonathan Berger, libretto by Harriet Scott Chessman) was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet, Rinde Eckert, and Vân-Ánh Võ by the Harris Theater for Music and Dance with support from the Laura and Ricardo Rosenkranz Artistic Innovation Fund and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Gerbode-Hewlett Foundations 2013 Music Commissioning Awards initiative, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

CAP UCLA's upcoming music programs include Taylor Mac: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (March 15-24, The Theatre at Ace Hotel), Eighth Blackbird featuring Will Oldham (Bonnie "Prince" Billy) (April 21, The Theatre at Ace Hotel) and Angélique Kidjo's Remain In Light (May 5, The Theatre at Ace Hotel).


CAP UCLA presents

Kronos Quartet, Rinde Eckert and Vân-Ánh Võ

My Lai

Jonathan Berger, composer

Harriet Scott Chessman, libretto

Friday, March 9 at 8 p.m.

Royce Hall, UCLA

Program: For more than 40 years, the Kronos Quartet has pursued a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually reimagining the string quartet experience. Kronos' adventurous approach dates back to the ensemble's origins. In 1973, David Harrington was inspired to form Kronos after hearing George Crumb's Black Angels, a highly unorthodox, Vietnam War-inspired work featuring bowed water glasses, spoken word passages and electronic effects. Kronos revisits the inspiration for the founding of the group withMy Lai. The infamous 1968 massacre of unarmed Vietnamese villagers by American soldiers provides the context for this gripping new work written by composer Jonathan Berger and librettist Harriet Scott Chessman for the Kronos Quartet, tenor Rinde Eckert and Vietnamese multi-instrumentalist Vân-Ánh Võ. My Lai, which features traditional Vietnamese instruments and digitally processed sounds, is told from the perspective of the heroic helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson who tried to stop the slaughter and was vilified for reporting it.


Single tickets: $29-$59


UCLA Central Ticket Office: 310-825-2101, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Royce Hall box office: open 90 minutes prior to the event start time.

Concert program:

My Lai Lullaby *

for string quartet, ?àn b?u and ?àn tranh

Jonathan Berger, composer in collaboration with David Harrington and Vân-Ánh Võ

My Lai *

A monodrama for tenor, string quartet and Vietnamese instruments

I. First Landing



The Ditch

II. Second Landing


The Bunker

III. Third Landing



* Written for Kronos.


David Harrington, violin

John Sherba, violin

Hank Dutt, viola

Sunny Yang, cello

Rinde Eckert, vocalist

Vân-Ánh Võ, t'r?ng, ?àn b?u, ?àn tranh

Artist websites: Kronos Quartet | Rinde Eckert | Vân-Ánh Võ


Kronos Quartet

For more than 40 years, San Francisco's Kronos Quartet-David Harrington (violin), John Sherba

(violin), Hank Dutt (viola), and Sunny Yang (cello)-has combined a spirit of fearless exploration

with a commitment to continually reimagine the string quartet experience. In the process, Kronos has become one of the world's most celebrated and influential ensembles, performing thousands of concerts, releasing more than 60 recordings, collaborating with many of the world's most intriguing and accomplished composers and performers, and commissioning over 900 works and arrangements for string quartet. Kronos has received over 40 awards, including the Polar Music and Avery Fisher Prizes, two of the most prestigious awards given to musicians.

The nonprofit Kronos Performing Arts Association manages all aspects of Kronos' work, including the commissioning of new works, concert tours and home season performances, education programs, and a self-produced Kronos Festival. In 2015, Kronos launched Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, an education and legacy project that is commissioning - and distributing for free - the first learning library of contemporary repertoire for string quartet. UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance is a commissioning partner of Kronos Quartet's Fifty for the Future.

Jonathan Berger (composer)

Described as "gripping" by both The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, "poignant", "richly evocative" (San Francisco Chronicle), "taut, and hauntingly beautiful" (The New York Times), Jonathan Berger's recent works deal with both consciousness and conscience. His chamber operas Theotokia and The War Reporter explore hallucination and haunting memories, while his monodrama My Lai portrays the ethical dilemmas of an individual placed in an impossible situation. Berger's "dissonant but supple" (NY Times) compositions are often inspired by science and the human condition, including the adaptation of satellite imaging data to turn the dispersal of an oil spill into music (Jiyeh), spatial representation of brain activations of a schizophrenic hallucination (Theotokia), and sonic expression of the chemical spectroscopy of cancer (Diameters). His symphonic, chamber, vocal, and electroacoustic works are performed throughout the world. He is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow and the Elliot Carter Fellow at the American Academy in Rome.

Harriet Scott Chessman (librettist)

Harriet Scott Chessman is a fiction writer, the author of the acclaimed novels The Lost Sketchbook of Edgar Degas, Someone Not Really Her Mother, The Beauty of Ordinary Things,Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, and Ohio Angels. Her fiction has been on the San Francisco Chronicle's Best Books list and featured on Good Morning, America and in The New York Times, in addition to being translated into seven languages. She has taught creative writing and literature at Yale University (where she gained her PhD in English), Bread Loaf School of English, and Stanford University. My Lai is her first libretto, and she has been thrilled to contribute to this beautiful piece.

Rinde Eckert (vocalist)

The multi-talented Rinde Eckert is an acclaimed writer, composer, librettist, musician, performer and director. His virtuosic command of gesture, language and song takes the total theatre artist beyond the boundaries of what a 'play,' a 'dance piece,' an 'opera' or 'musical' might be, in the service of grappling with complex issues. Sometimes tragic and austere, sometimes broadly comedic, entirely grounded by presence, his work is alchemical: moving from rumination and distillation to hard-won illumination, or its lack. Eckert creates solo work, chamber pieces, and through-composed operas with larger casts, and has long collaborated with other art makers including choreographers, composers, directors, and new music ensembles. His Opera/ New Music Theatre productions tour throughout the U.S. and to major European and Asian festivals.

Vân-Ánh Võ (t'r?ng, ?àn b?u, ?àn tranh)

Vân-Ánh Võ is one of the finest performers of Vietnamese traditional instruments in the world and a rapidly emerging composer. She dedicates her life to creating music by blending the sounds of Vietnamese instruments with other music genres, and fusing deeply rooted Vietnamese musical traditions with new structures and compositions. In 1995, Võ won the championship title in the Vietnamese National ?àn Tranh (Zither) Competition. Since settling in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2001, Võ has focused on collaborating with musicians across different genres to create new works, bringing Vietnamese traditional music to a wider audience and preserving her cultural legacy through teaching. She has released three CDs: Twelve Months, Four Seasons(2002), She's Not She (2009) with award-winning composer B?o ??, and Three-Mountain Pass(2013), with the Kronos Quartet as her guest artist. Recently, in collaboration with Asian American for Community Involvement, a NGO which has served refugees in Santa Clara County for 40 years, Võ received an award from Creative Work Fund for The Odyssey - from Vietnam to America, which premiered during the 40th anniversary of the end of Vietnam War, highlighting the incredible power of the human spirit, the value of freedom and the will to survive of the Vietnamese Boat People.

UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance (CAP UCLA) is dedicated to the advancement of the contemporary performing arts in all disciplines - dance, music, spoken word and theater as well as emerging digital and collaborative platforms - by leading artists from around the globe. Part of UCLA's School of the Arts and Architecture, CAP UCLA curates and facilitates exposure to artists who are creating extraordinary works of art and fosters a vibrant learning community both on and off the UCLA campus. The organization invests in the creative process by providing artists with financial backing and time to experiment and expand their practices through strategic partnerships and collaborations. As an influential voice within the local, national and global arts communities, CAP UCLA connects this generation to the next in order to preserve a living archive of our culture. CAP UCLA is also a safe harbor for cultural expression and artistic exploration, giving audiences the opportunity to experience real life through characters and stories on stage, and giving artists an avenue to challenge assumptions and advance new ways of seeing and understanding the world in which we live.

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