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National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorale Present THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC


National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorale Present THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC

The National Philharmonic's 2019-2020 season continues with Richard Einhorn's Oratorio for the Silent Film Masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc on Saturday, Nov. 23, at 8 p.m. at The Music Center at Strathmore.The production merges Carol Theodor Dreyer's legendary 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc, widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, with a live performance of the ravishing 1994 score, Voices of Light, by award-winning composer Richard Einhorn. Chorale Artistic Director Stan Engebretson will lead The National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorale, as well as guest vocalists Suzanne Karpov, soprano; Katherine Pracht, mezzo-soprano; Matthew Smith, tenor; and Kerry Wilkerson, baritone. Dreyer's film - a haunting and powerful depiction of the trial of Joan of Arc - is enhanced with a live performance of Einhorn's superb score for orchestra, chorus and soloists, and is at once deeply moving and unforgettable. The visual intensity of the performances - actress Renée Falconetti's role as Joan is by itself extraordinary - is brilliantly supported by Einhorn's skillful use of vocal parts inspired by Medieval song and instrumental writing based on layered minimalist note patterns. It is considered to be one of the most affecting and emotionally charged soundtracks in the history of film music. The musical composition has been labeled "a triumph" by the Los Angeles Times, and "lush," "brilliantly effective," and "moving" by The New York Times. Ticket prices are $29-$79, and young people 7-17 are free. College students are $10. Strathmore is located at 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 301.581.5100.

A Q&A with composer Einhorn and WTOP Entertainment Editor and movie critic Jason Fraley will be held before the concert at 6:45 p.m.

Washington has its own ties to Joan of Arc: In 1922, France gifted the United States with a statue of the young heroine, which now sits in Meridian Hill Park in the city. Created by French sculptor Paul Dubois, the piece was donated by Le Lyceum Société des Femmes de France to the Women of the United States of America. Both the film and the sculpture are more than 90 years old.

Einhorn's Voices of Lighthas been hailed as "a great masterpiece of contemporary music" and "a work of meticulous genius." The piece has been performed more than 230 times, selling out such venues as the Brooklyn Academy Of Music's Next Wave Festival; Kennedy Center; Disney Hall in Los Angeles; the Esplanade in Singapore; the Barbican (with the London Symphony and Marin Alsop); and the Sydney Opera House in Australia. The Sony Classical CD of Voices of Light, featuring the vocal group Anonymous 4, was a Billboard classical bestseller, earning Einhorn the distinction of being one of only a few living composers to have made "the charts." Voices of Lighthas attracted national media attention, including articles in the Wall Street Journal, segments on All Things Consideredand Performance Today, and an extended profile on CBS television network's magazine show, CBS Sunday Morning. Performances draw a wide audience ranging from film buffs and choral enthusiasts, to contemporary music lovers and those who continue to find the story of Joan of Arc inspirational even 600 years after her birth.

Einhorn (born 1952) has written opera, orchestral and chamber music, song cycles, multimedia events, film music, and dance scores, including the popular Red Angelsfor the New York City Ballet and Shooting Gallery, a multimedia collaboration with filmmaker Bill Morrison. Other notable works include The Origin, The Spires,The City, The Field, and a 9/11 memorial piece premiered by the Albany Symphony, among others. Einhorn's extensive film music catalog includes scores for the Academy Award-winning documentary short Educating Peter(HBO); Arthur Penn's thriller Dead of Winterstarring Mary Steenburgen (MGM); and Fire-Eater, directed by Pirjo Honkasalo, for which Einhorn won the Jussi (Finnish Academy Award) for Best Musical Score. Before turning to composition, Einhorn worked as a record producer for such artists as Meredith Monk, the New York Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. His production of the Bach Cello Suites with Yo-Yo Ma won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Performance. Einhorn has received numerous awards and grants from Meet the Composer, NYSCA, NEA, the New York State Music Fund, and many others.

Danish director Dryer (1889-1968) created the film The Passion of Joan of Arcas a historically accurate retelling of the trial and execution of Saint Joan of Arc in 1431. Played by Renée Falconetti, the film dramatizes the life and trial of the 15th-century French teenage warrior, Joan of Arc, who was subjected to inhumane treatment during the Inquisition for claiming that she heard the voice of God urging her to fight for her country in the face of English oppression. She was tortured, excommunicated, and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431, in Rouen. Nearly 500 years after her death, she was declared a saint. In Dreyer's film, the plight of Joan of Arc is presented through an ingenious combination of closeups that are incredibly charged with the spectrum of human emotions: anger, doubt, scorn, fear, pity, cruelty, revenge, spite and indifference.


Suzanne Karpov, soprano
Karpov recently made her Carnegie Hall debut as the soprano soloist in Poulenc's Gloriawith Distinguished Concerts International New York. Past season oratorio highlights as soprano soloist include performances of Handel's Messiahand Haydn's The Creation. Operatic highlights include performances with Washington National Opera and Boston Early Music Festival. Karpov has won numerous awards, including first place at the national NATS Competition in Chicago, first place in the 2018 Handel Aria Competition, and an Encouragement Award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Katherine Pracht, mezzo-soprano

In 2016, Pracht made her Kennedy Center debut as soloist in Philip Glass' Symphony No. 5with the Washington Chorus. Since that time, she has performed at Carnegie Hall, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Philadelphia, and the York Symphony, among others, and has performed at festivals around the world. Previously, Pracht's roles included Sharon Falconer in Elmer Gantrywith the Florentine Opera, Ariel in the world premiere of Joseph Summer's The Tempest for the Shakespeare Concerts, and Flora Bervoix in Opera Philadelphia's La Traviata, among dozens of other performances. Pracht has been a Metropolitan Opera Competition Regional finalist in San Antonio, Memphis, and twice in Minneapolis, where, in 2006, she also won the Outstanding Mezzo Award.

Matthew Smith, tenor
Smith has performed with ensembles including the Washington Bach Consort, the Cathedral Choral Society, and the Washington Concert Opera. He received the Carmel Bach Festival's Adams Fellowship in 2008, and was a finalist in the 2002 San Francisco Opera Center auditions and a semifinalist in the 2005 Montreal International Musical Competition. Smith currently serves with the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants in Washington, DC, where they perform at the White House, with the National Symphony Orchestra, for nationally televised events including the funeral of former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, and on tours across the United States.

Kerry Wilkerson, baritone
Wilkerson has performed with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, Carnegie Hall Choral Workshops, and the critically acclaimed Robert Shaw Festival Singers. He currently serves as assistant director of Music Ministries at Vienna Presbyterian Church, where he oversees a program for teenage musicians that includes a chorus, orchestra, handbells, and worship teams. As a military musician, Wilkerson has performed extensively throughout the United States and Canada. Washington-area audiences also know him as a local recitalist and frequent guest soloist with community-based orchestras and choruses.

Stan Engebretson, conductor

Engebretson has served as the Artistic Director of The National Philharmonic Chorale since its inception. In addition to the Chorale at Strathmore, Engebretson has appeared on concert stages throughout the United States and in Europe, Asia, and Australia. He has studied with great masters of choral music including Robert Shaw, Gregg Smith, Roger Wagner and Eric Ericson, Conductor Emeritus of the world-renowned Swedish Radio Choir in Stockholm, Sweden.

A Midwest native, Engebretson began his early training singing in the Scandinavian choral tradition. He earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Piano and Voice from the University of North Dakota, and then went on for his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Conducting from Stanford University. He held faculty positions within the University of Texas system and at the University of Minnesota. In addition, he served as the Artistic Director of the Midland-Odessa Symphony Chorale and was the Associate Conductor of the Minnesota Chorale.

In Washington, DC since 1990, Dr. Engebretson is a professor of music at George Mason University and is the Director of Music at the historic New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Beginning in 1992, Engebretson lectured for the Smithsonian Institution including the Bach Festival in Carmel, CA; the Aspen Music Festival in Aspen, CO; and the Spoleto-USA Festival in Charleston, SC. In 2009, he served as a Fulbright Senior Scholar to Iceland. Abroad in recent seasons he performed in Europa Cantat and AMJ (Arbeitskreis Musik in der Jugend) events plus others in Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Russia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ireland, Iceland, Switzerland, China, South Korea, and Australia. In 2018, he co-edited a new book for Carus publishers, "Hallelujah! Spirituals and Gospels for European Choirs." And this year he received the J. Reilly Lewis Ovation award for Outstanding Contributions to Choral Music. Presented by Choralis, this prestigious honor marks his almost three decades of choral leadership in the Metropolitan Washington, DC area.

The National Philharmonic under Maestro Piotr Gajewski is known for performances that are "powerful," "impeccable" and "thrilling" (The Washington Post). In July 2003, the National Chamber Orchestra and Masterworks Chorus merged to create The National Philharmonic, an ensemble with more than 50 years of combined history, bringing high-caliber musical performances to the Washington area. The National Philharmonic took up residence at the state-of-the-art Music Center at Strathmore upon its opening in February 2005. Now, more than 250 performances later, and with far-reaching educational programming, The National Philharmonic is the largest and most active professional orchestra based in Montgomery County. It is also the only classical music organization in the Washington-Metro area that offers free tickets for children ages 7-17. The National Philharmonic recognizes this young audience as the classical music lovers of the future, and hopes to encourage future generations of concertgoers through this free-ticket program.

A February 24, 2019, review in The Washington Postby Patrick Rucker notes The National Philharmonic's "distinctive personality," adding, "The vibe in the audience is that everybody onstage is happy, and maybe a little proud to be there, and the music sounds that way." In fact, National Philharmonic's "distinctive personality" is part and parcel of the world-class acoustics of the Music Center at Strathmore. The concert hall, orchestra and chorale together create this world-class sound. The National Philharmonic's Strathmore Concert Hall home is an integral component of its artistic success. In fact, it is because of this success that the Philharmonic was recently recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts.

As the Music Center at Strathmore's orchestra-in-residence, The National Philharmonic showcases world-renowned guest artists in time-honored symphonic masterpieces conducted by Maestro Gajewski, and monumental choral masterworks under National Philharmonic Chorale Artistic Director Stan Engebretson.

To purchase tickets for the performances and for information about the Philharmonic's upcoming season, please visit or call the Strathmore Ticket Office at 301.581.5100.

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