Resonance Works Announces Return To Live Performances

Programming will feature Pittsburgh premieres of works by Missy Mazzoli, Gabriela Lena Frank, Jessie Montgomery, and Chen Yi.

By: Nov. 04, 2021
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Resonance Works Announces Return To Live Performances

Resonance Works will make its return to the stage with "Back to the Future," live at The Greer Cabaret at Theater Square, Saturday and Sunday, November 13 & 14, 2021 at 7:30pm. The Resonance Chamber Orchestra, led by Artistic Director and conductor, Maria Sensi Sellner, performs the Pittsburgh premieres of works by Missy Mazzoli, Gabriela Lena Frank, Jessie Montgomery, and Chen Yi. Jeffrey Turner, former principal bassist of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, headlines the program as guest soloist in Mazzoli's concerto for double bass and string orchestra, Dark with Excessive Bright. The program highlights past musical traditions from around the world in a colorful array of compositional styles and themes that represent the breadth of new music being created by today's living composers.

"Missy Mazzoli is one of the most exciting composers working today, and when I saw that she had written a bass concerto in 2018, I immediately thought of building a program around the piece with the hope of collaborating with Jeffrey Turner," says Artistic Director and conductor Maria Sensi Sellner. Dark with Excessive Bright treats the double bass like an historian, looking back on musical traditions from the Renaissance and Baroque eras and capitalizing on the instrument's rich spectrum of sounds. "It is a piece that celebrates extremes-of color, of sound quality, of register, and of dynamic-all in service of what Missy calls 'effects of dark and bright'," says Turner, who will perform the piece with the Resonance Chamber Orchestra. "One of the major challenges of this work is the highly unusual re-tuning of the bass so that there are different intervals between the strings," Turner explains. "It is a great honor to have the opportunity to play a role in the introduction of pieces that have a significant impact on the development and history of our instrument." Turner joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1987 and became principal of the double bass section in 1992. He served many years as the Director of Orchestra Studies at Duquesne University and now teaches at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

Composer and violinist Jessie Montgomery was recently appointed Mead Composer in Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a role that she sees as being critical to "centralizing new music" as part of the ensemble's programming. Source Code exemplifies Montgomery's style, which weaves together elements of linguistic and musical vernacular with improvisation and themes of social justice. "The first sketches of Source Code began as transcriptions of various sources from African American artists prominent during the peak of the Civil Rights era," the composer describes in her program note for the piece. "I experimented by re-interpreting gestures, sentences, and musical syntax (the bare bones of rhythm and inflection) by choreographer Alvin Ailey, poets Langston Hughes and Rita Dove, and the great jazz songstress Ella Fitzgerald into musical sentences and tone paintings." This process led her back to the spiritual, which inspires the melodic and structural material of the piece.

The program's second half features composer Gabriela Lena Frank's large-scale work, Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout. The piece embodies Frank's musical language, a colorful blend of her Peruvian, Lithuanian, Jewish, and Chinese ancestries, spun together in a way that is uniquely her own: folkloric, punchy, and full of instrumental mimicry and lyricism. "Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout draws inspiration from the idea of mestizaje as envisioned by Peruvian writer José María Arguedas, where cultures can coexist without the subjugation of one by the other," the composer describes in her forward to the work. Frank's work has won her a Latin Grammy and a nomination for Best Small Ensemble Performance at the 2011 Grammy Awards. A dedicated educator, Frank founded the Gabriela Lena Frank Academy of Music in 2016, an initiative that invites emerging music-makers to better understand their role as stewards of the arts within their communities.

Composer Chen Yi's music draws on her Chinese heritage and blends Eastern and Western traditions. A Lorena Cravens/Millsap/Missouri Distinguished Professor of Composition at the University of Missouri - Kansas City since 1998, Chen Yi has been awarded some of new music's highest honors, including awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, Koussevitzky Music Foundation at the Library of Congress, and National Endowment for the Arts. Shuo, for string orchestra, imitates an expressive style of Chinese folk singing with a melody that passes seamlessly through the ensemble in lyrical canon and evolves into a bright, dance-like theme in the middle of the work. The title translates in English to "initiate" and represents the first day of each month in the lunar new year. Shuo opens the "Back to the Future" program, initiating Resonance Works' much-awaited return to the concert stage and a new beginning for the organization as it returns to in-person events.

Ticket Information

Tickets for "Back to the Future" are currently on sale through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust website, Resonance Works will offer virtual ticket options for digital encores of all live season performances, which will go on sale following the in-person events.

Resonance Works' On Demand Library continues to include its acclaimed opera-film collaborations with the Decameron Opera Coalition, "Tales from a Safe Distance" and "HEROES," as well as last season's "Verdi by Vegetables" and "March of the Women: Four Centuries of Song."