NYC Premiere of New Sacred Music for Epiphany

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Kile Smith’s Vespers, a new work combining the sumptuous beauty of church music with the charm and delight of Renaissance court music, will receive its New York City premiere on January 9 in the acclaimed Gothic hall of Manhattan’s Park Avenue Christian Church.

Kile Smith’s Vespers, a new work combining the sumptuous beauty of church music with the charm and delight of Renaissance court music, will receive its New York City premiere on January 9 in the acclaimed Gothic hall of Manhattan’s Park Avenue Christian Church.

This Vespers, at times joyous, other times haunting, is a profound musical experience into our personal, internal, and very modern relationship with God. Philadelphia composer Kile Smith wrote this concert piece for early wind instruments and choir, creating forms and sounds that are both ancient and new.

The work was commissioned by Piffaro, the nation’s finest Renaissance wind band, and will be performed by Piffaro and The Crossing, a critically-acclaimed chamber choir and winner of two ASCAP awards. The two groups premiered Vespers in Philadelphia in 2008 and released a commercial recording in 2009.

Smith describes his collaboration with Piffaro and The Crossing, “During the weeks of Epiphany, the Lectionary suggests Psalms emphasizing light, kingship, deliverance, and the appearance of a Savior. My intention was not to compose a liturgy, but to create a concert work infused with the spirit of this liturgical tradition. It exhilarated and challenged me to have the players of Piffaro at my disposal, each of whom can play any one of a variety of instruments at a world-class level. The possibilities for using these seven players and the twenty-four instruments we’ve chosen were endless.

“The high standards and artistry of the professional singers of The Crossing greatly influenced the vocal writing. Textures often shift among solo, tutti, and small ensemble singing. Modal harmonies are quite elaborate at times in the hymn settings, while there is much chant-inspired rhythmic flexibility in the Psalms, especially 27 and 113. The voice-leading in general is fairly independent, and there are large swaths of a cappella writing.”

The Chestnut Hill Local raved, “A sterling performance… before an audience that rewarded the musicians with an ecstatic standing ovation. Piffaro played with consummate skill and engaging vibrancy. The Crossing sang with the technical immaculacy and interpretive intensity that has becomes its hallmark.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer found it “breathtaking,” The Buffalo News called it “altogether gorgeous and haunting,” and Audiophile Audition said, “a masterpiece of the deepest kind… Seldom do I come across a piece with such profoundly direct emotional appeal… easily one of the best releases of the year.”

The performance will take place in the Park Avenue Christian Church’s intimate 300-seat Gothic sanctuary, noted for its excellent acoustics. The church’s Arts at The Park concert series presents some of the region’s finest performers and chamber ensembles in programs of choral music, chamber music, opera, and the performing arts.

The New York City premiere of Kile Smith’s Vespers is Monday, January 9, at 7:30 pm at Park Avenue Christian Church, 1010 Park Avenue at 85th Street in Manhattan. Tickets are $35 and $50, and are available at http://www.parkavenuearts.info and at the door.

BIOGRAPHIES

THE CROSSING. Winner of the 2009 and 2011 ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, THE CROSSING is a professional chamber choir focusing entirely on new music. The ensemble frequently commissions works and has presented recent world premieres by William Brooks, Ēriks Ešenvalds, Paul Fowler Kamran Ince, Gabriel Jackson, David Lang, Lansing McLoskey, David Shapiro, and Kile Smith. Frequently invited to collaborate, they have presented innovative partnerships with Lyric Fest, Piffaro, and Tempesta di Mare.

This season sees them collaborating with ICE and red fish blue fish at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre as well as Network for New Music on a concert-length world premiere of Lewis Spratlan; they will appear on Haverford College’s Great Artists Series (in a world premiere of Curt Cacioppo), Arts at The Park (Park Avenue Christian Church), and will open the National Conference of the Association of Anglican Musicians in June 2012 with organist Scott Dettra in a world premiere of Francis Pott.

Philadelphia's Classical and Jazz radio station WRTI will broadcast all of The Crossing’s concerts in the coming season. Future projects will include collaborations with Ensemble N_JP, Sun Spits Cherries, as well as commissions from poet Pierre Joris and composers Gene Coleman, Chris Jonas, and Joby Talbot.

Since its debut concert in 2005, The Philadelphia Inquirer has at various times referred to The Crossing as “business-as-usual, mind-blowing,” “like an answered prayer,” and “Philadelphia’s best chorus.” The Crossing has been among that newspaper's “Best Classical Events of the Year” two of the last three seasons.

They can be heard on two recordings on the Navona Records label: Kile Smith’s Vespers with Piffaro, and It Is Time, which features five works commissioned by the group. A new recording of contemporary music for women’s choir is due out this winter. The Crossing is conducted by Donald Nally.

PIFFARO. The nation’s finest Renaissance wind band, PIFFARO performs both in the US and globally in a variety of public and private venues. World-renowned for its highly polished performances as the pied-pipers of Early Music, Piffaro is also active in education and workshops, as collaborators in the research and making of historically based instruments and programs, and as experts in reed-making and Renaissance performance practice.

Founded in 1980, Piffaro recreates the rustic music of the peasantry, as well as the elegant sounds of the official, professional wind bands of the late Medieval and Renaissance periods.

Under the direction of Artistic Co-Directors Joan Kimball and Robert Wiemken, Piffaro appears globally, having debuted at Tage Alter Musik in Regensburg, Germany in 1993. They have performed in such countries as Austria, Germany, France, Belgium Italy, the Czech Republic, Spain, England, Bolivia, and Colombia, South America. Piffaro has a significant discography, with recordings under the labels: Newport Classics, Deutsche Grammophon/Archiv Produktion, Archiv, Dorian Recordings, and most recently, Navona Records.

KILE SMITH. The music of Kile Smith is hailed for its “sparkling beauty” by Gramophone, which called Vespers “spectacular.” His works are praised for their emotional power, direct appeal, and strong voice.    

His many commissions include orchestral, choral, chamber, and liturgical works. He’s composed for The Crossing; Piffaro; Mélomanie; the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival; Jennifer Montone, Principal Horn of the Philadelphia Orchestra; David Kim, Concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra; and Anne Martindale Williams, Principal Cello of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Smith hosts Now is the Time and co-hosts Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection on Philadelphia’s WRTI-FM, and is a regular contributor to the Broad Street Review. For 18 years he was Curator of the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music, the largest lending library of orchestral performance material in the world.

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