HARTFORD, CT: Today, the Hartford Chorale announces a new work for chorus and orchestra, Alive Poems: Stories of Our American Heritage, to be premiered at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, May 20, 2022 at 8:00 p.m. In celebration of its 50th anniversary in 2022, the Chorale, a major symphonic chorus of the region, commissioned this exciting new composition from Connecticut native Scott Perkins.
Some two years in the making, Alive Poems: Stories of Our American Heritage is inspired by and celebrates the experiences of several groups of Americans as reflected in the poetry of six women, including Maya Angelou and current U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. The composition is a five-movement work for eight-part vocal ensemble and orchestra. The Hartford Symphony Orchestra, the Chorale’s principal performance partner for these 50 years, will perform with the 130-voice Chorale. Richard Coffey, Hartford Chorale’s Music Director since 2005, will conduct the performance.
“The Chorale is very proud and pleased that we’re helping to give birth to this extraordinary creation, one that will soon become a mainstay in the world of great symphonic choral music,” says Maestro Coffey.
In addition to Perkins’ new work, the 50th Anniversary concert will also include music by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Franz Biebl, as well as spirituals arranged by Robert Shaw/Alice Parker, Brazeal Dennard, Carol Barnett, and Connecticut composer Edward Tyler. Further, Jack Anthony Pott, the Chorale’s Assistant Music Director, will take the podium to conduct selections from Vier Gesänge (Four Songs) by Johannes Brahms. Tickets for the 50th Anniversary concert may be purchased online at https://hartfordchorale.org or by calling (860) 547-1982.
Scott Perkins grew up in Bristol and attended Bristol Central High School. He enjoys a multifaceted career as an international prize-winning composer of vocal music, an award-winning scholar, and an educator. His “beautifully crafted” compositions (American Record Guide) have been called “dramatic” and “colorful” (The Washington Post), and “perfectly orchestrated” and “haunting” (The Washington Times). In addition to the Hartford Chorale, he has been commissioned by organizations ranging from the Washington National Opera to the American Guild of Organists, and his work has been performed throughout North America, Europe, and Australia. He has released three discs on the Gothic and Navona labels, and is published by E. C. Schirmer, Augsburg Fortress, and Paraclete Press. In 2017 he joined the faculty at California State University, Sacramento, where he is Head of Music Theory and Composition and co-directs its Festival of New American Music. Perkins holds a PhD (composition) and two MA degrees (music theory and theory pedagogy) from the Eastman School of Music.
Mr. Perkins will attend the premiere in Hartford and will also take part, virtually, in two educational and outreach events at the University of Hartford this spring:
- On March 20, he will be a guest lecturer to a class of students majoring in Composition. Perkins will unpack the process of creating this new composition, from sourcing texts to putting final notes to page.
- On May 5 and 12, he will participate in the University’s President’s College course entitled “Alive Poems: Commissioning a Symphonic Choral Work around Stories of our American Heritage.” This series of two classes is open to the public. The series begins on May 5, when Aimee Pozorski, Professor of English at Central Connecticut State University, will explore the central texts of Alive Poems. On May 12, Maestro Rick Coffey will walk participants through the exciting, intricate process of selecting Mr. Perkins from among a field of 40 potential composers. He will also introduce music from the new work. Mr. Perkins will appear virtually during both classes. Area residents may register at the University of Hartford website, https://www.alumni.hartford.edu/s/1878/19/interior-wide.aspx?sid=1878&gid=2&pgid=1218. All registrants will receive a special invitation to attend a Chorale rehearsal of Alive Poems, and will also receive a discount on tickets for the May 20th concert.
In further outreach to the community, the Chorale has invited young artists from Trinity Academy, Covenant Academy, and Grace Academy, three private not-for-profit grade schools in Hartford, to create artwork reflecting or illustrating the poets and the poetry which inspired Alive Poems. The children’s art will be on display in the lobby of Mortensen Hall the evening of the concert.
Mr. Coffey notes that the 50th Anniversary concert will include some works from the past; however, he is quick to add, “What is in store is not a trip down memory lane but an embrace of who the Chorale is today, almost twenty-five years into the 21st century. The concert is a celebration of this very moment in time, which, to be sure, reaches into the past but also is firmly grounded in the present, most clearly and dramatically displayed through Scott Perkins’ astonishingly beautiful composition.”
The program’s “curtain-raiser” on May 20 is a work for voices alone, and about singing itself, a
sprightly spiritual arranged by the inimitable team of Alice Parker and Robert Shaw, “I’m Goin’ to Sing When the Spirit Says Sing.” Next comes Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music,
some of the most rapturous music of all time, a fifteen-minute setting of words from
Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. The women of the Chorale, under the direction of Assistant Music Director Jack Anthony Pott, offer three of Johannes Brahms’ stunning Four Songs for women’s choir, harp, and two horns. There follow four pieces for unaccompanied choir, including two sacred works, Robert Lowry’s tender “How Can I Keep from Singing?” text and melody arranged by Connecticut composer Edward Tyler, and Austrian composer Franz Biebl’s ravishing “Ave Maria” for double-chorus male voices. Next come two spirituals, one by Carol Barnett, whose setting of the spiritual “Steal Away” is richly conceived and marked by very unusual and compelling modulations and harmonic juxtapositions. Brazeal Dennard is an epic hero in the word of composers of spirituals, and his “Fare Ye Well” offers great evidence of that, with its simple yet dramatic design and its never-faltering rhythmic drive.
The anniversary concert will be one of the highlights of a joyous season that also includes three performances with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra of Beethoven’s grand Symphony No. 9 on June 10 and 11 at 8:00 p.m. and June 12 at 3:00 p.m., all concerts to be held in the Bushnell’s Belding Theater. An Alumni Reunion, an opportunity for current and former members of the Chorale (some 1,400+) to join for a morning of singing and an evening of celebrating, is planned for the fall.
The Hartford Chorale was established in 1972 by a group of choral musicians who wished to form a new, independent, and self-supporting organization. The Chorale’s approximately 130 singers range in age from 16 to 80. Most Chorale members reside in the Greater Hartford area, but several travel from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York.
Under the musical direction of Maestro Richard Coffey, the Chorale reaches out to and inspires the widest possible audience with exceptional performances of a broad range of choral literature, including renowned choral masterpieces. The goal of the Chorale is to enrich the Arts and Music Community in Greater Hartford by performing choral music that might not otherwise be heard at a truly symphonic, distinctive level.
While the Chorale performs most often in the Greater Hartford area, the ensemble has also been heard at Carnegie Hall and in several performance halls in the Northeast United States. The Chorale has toured internationally throughout Europe and Asia. In June 2008, members of the Chorale and the New York Choral Society performed by special invitation in Beijing and Qingdao, China, at the Cultural Olympiad, a featured showcase of the arts preceding the Olympic Games. During the summer of 2014, the Chorale performed in magnificent churches in Paris and Chartres, France, highlighted by a performance of Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem in the “Duruflé Church” – the beautiful Église Saint-Étienne-du-Mont – and a concert in the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres. In July 2017 the Chorale realized a decades-long dream with its ten-day “Jewels of Europe” tour, performing in Prague (Church of the Holy Saviour), Vienna (Stephansdom), and Budapest (Mátyás Templom). A concert tour in the United Kingdom with stops in Stratford-upon-Avon, York, and Edinburgh in the summer of 2020 was derailed by the pandemic, but plans are underway to reschedule this tour, entitled United We Sing!
For more information about the Hartford Chorale and its 50th Anniversary season, please contact https://hartfordchorale.org. Contact Richard Coffey at [email protected] or Scott Perkins at [email protected] to arrange interviews. For tickets to the May 20 Anniversary Concert, visit www.hartfordchorale.org or call (860) 547-1982.