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Hendricks Chapel Is Alive With the Sound of New Music
A world-premiere performance is a big deal for a composer.
“It’s the first time you get to hear your piece performed live in front of an audience, which is an exhilarating experience. It’s really the debut of your creative output,” says Natalie Draper, an accomplished composer and assistant professor in the Setnor School of Music in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
Audiences in Syracuse and beyond will be able to witness no less than four world premieres during this semester’s Music and Message series at Hendricks Chapel, as Setnor School faculty and students present new music by Clarice Assad, João Luiz, Ian Shaw and Ivan Božičević. Music and Message programs take place at the chapel on Sundays at 4 p.m., unless otherwise noted, beginning Feb. 13 through May 8.
A world premiere is also a big deal for the performer entrusted to share a new work with an audience for the first time, and it often involves months of devoted practice and regular communication with the composer.
Duo Sonidos, a string duo made up of William Knuth, assistant professor of violin in the Setnor School, and classical guitarist Adam Levin, from the University of Rhode Island and the Kithara Project, are active promoters of new music. The musicians sought out new works by Brazilian composers Clarice Assad and João Luiz after receiving grant funding for the compositions from the Augustine Foundation and a 2021 VPA Research and Creative Grant.
The duo will perform them on March 6, as part of the ongoing Malmgren Concert Series, and will feature music of the Americas from 20th and 21st centuries with Assad and Luiz’s pieces as anchors. The composers, who will be on campus for the premiere performances, plan to introduce their works to the audience and meet with student composers and musicians during their stay.
“Adam and I are extremely excited to premiere these works at Syracuse University,” says Knuth. “As performers, some of the most exciting moments in our careers come from receiving a new piece of music and having the chance to peel away the layers of discovery as we breathe life into the music for the first time.”
Knuth says that, as an artist, he feels a great sense of responsibility to the composer. “I always feel as if we are caring for or adopting someone’s newborn child with all the fragility and unmapped landscape that comes with such an experience.”
Assad and Luiz are both multi-Grammy Award nominees, and Assad’s current release has been nominated for four Grammy Awards.
“They are both virtuosic performers in their own right, as well, and have very unique compositional voices incorporating elements of Brazilian rhythm, music and cultural concepts into the pieces,” says Knuth. “It is an honor to have these artists join our community for this event.”
Prize-winning works from Hendricks Chapel’s first-ever organ commission competition will receive their premiere performances on April 10. This new competition for solo organ works—led by Natalie Draper and University Organist Anne Laver—generated more than 100 submissions in its inaugural year. Ian Shaw’s “Solomon and the Gnat” received first prize and Ivan Božičević’s “Rivers of Eden” received second prize.
Laver, assistant professor of applied music and performance in the Setnor School, and Alex Meszler, instructor in the Setnor School, will perform the works. The program will also include new organ works by student composers.
“Creating space for new music is one way we can diversify the musical experience, both for listeners and performers,” says Laver, also the artistic director of the Music and Message series. “Our students are searching for ways to make music relevant. Engaging composers who create for our current time and place is one of the ways we can do that. We hope the experience of hearing new music and meeting living composers will inspire them to continue this work in their own musical careers.”
The performances mentioned above are only a sampling of the wide range of music that will be presented on the weekly Music and Message series. Other new music highlights include a performance of “Mass of Reconciliation” for choirs and jazz/funk band composed by José “Peppie” Calvar, associate professoe of applied music and performance and assistant director of choral activities in the Setnor School, on Thursday, March 10. Setnor School choirs will present a variety of new music on Sunday, Feb. 27; Tuesday, April 19 and Sunday, May 1. The series will also include many performances of music from earlier centuries.
The Malmgren Concert Series is now woven throughout the Music and Message programs, still featuring the organ, Esther Malmgren’s beloved instrument.
All are welcome to attend programs in-person at Hendricks Chapel or online through Zoom. Visit chapel.syracuse.edu for the Zoom link and additional program information, including a full schedule of performances.