Recent News & Recordings
For the first concert of its 24th season, The Esoterics will celebrate the centennial of African-American composer, conductor, and professor, Ulysses Kay. Born in Tucson, Kay began to play the piano at age six, upon the encouragement of his uncle, Joe “King” Oliver (a jazz cornet player who was also the mentor of Louis Armstrong). Building on the rich musical heritage of his youth, Kay studied at the University of Arizona, Eastman, Yale, and Columbia, served in the Navy Band during World War II, and was awarded prizes from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, a Fulbright Fellowship, and two Rome Prizes. In 1958, Kay participated in the first cultural exchange between the US and the Soviet Union, and between 1965 and his retirement, Kay served on the faculties of Boston University, the University of California, the City University of New York, and Macalester College. Among his nearly 150 compositions for film, television, and the concert hall (for orchestra, chamber ensemble, band, piano, and voice), Kay composed five operas, including one about the legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Kay’s music is as fascinating as his inspirations are varied, yet avoids all obvious references to his ethnicity. His choral oeuvre includes settings of Psalms, revolutionary texts, Christmas carols, wartime poems, verses by William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Sara Teasdale, Paul Laurence Dunbar, as well as folksongs, fiddle-tunes, and sea shanties. Ulysses Kay is one of the most under-sung choral composers of the American Neoclassic era, and this concert will be the first time that many of these works will have ever been performed.
The Esoterics presents SYBILLA, the complete Hildegard motets by American composer Frank Ferko (b 1950). Ferko’s motets, composed between 1993 and 2012, set texts by the 12th-century mystic Hildegard of Bingen. Ferko has had a long relationship with Hildegard and her visions, and has written both instrumental and choral music inspired by her work. The texts of Ferko’s motets come from Hildegard’s Symphonium celestium revolationum, a cycle of more than seventy poems that she composed for use throughout the church year. In his realization of Hildegard’s visionary texts, Ferko employs organ-like textures and harmonies that evoke the music of Messiaen and Poulenc. An accomplished organist and composer for organ, Ferko is a scholar on the music of Messiaen, on whom he has lectured extensively. In his motets, Ferko’s lavish harmonies are juxtaposed with acerbic phrases of Medieval counterpoint. For information, please click the image above.
The Esoterics is proud to be a founding member of The Greater Seattle Choral Consortium, the non-profit organization that sponsors the Seattle Sings! Choral Festival. The GSCC is comprised of over sixty choral ensembles in the Puget Sound region each of whom have a unique mission, but a common love of singing and choral music. Please visit our "neighbor" choirs and see what the GSCC is doing for advocacy and support of choral music in our community at www.seattlesings.org.