2017 | SEASON 24 | Forces of nature
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.
Friday | 6 Jan 2017 | 800pm | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th Street | Seattle
Saturday | 7 Jan 2017 | 800pm | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4142 42nd Avenue SW | West Seattle
Sunday | 8 Jan 2017 | 700pm | Christ Episcopal Church | 310 North K Street | Tacoma
INTIMAS: Cultivating intimacy
In its spring program, The Esoterics will present three works that reflect upon intimacy, whether inspired by our innermost dreams, our delight of nature, or the great beyond. The group is excited to present the West Coast premiere of Messages to myself, a four-movement meditation by composer Christopher Theofanidis, who has chosen to set verses by Rumi, Walt Whitman (from Leaves of grass), Amy Kirsten, and William Butler Yeats (When you are old). The ensemble will also reprise The wheel of time, the dance by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, Aaron Jay Kernis, who set four poems by the American novelist and environmental activist, Wendell Berry. This program will conclude with Eric Banks’ a cappella choral symphony, This delicate universe. Banks’ 32-minute “universe” sets five poems by the Greek-Egyptian poet Constantine Cavafy that explore the themes of artistic solitude, the familiarity of home, the inner distraction of memory, the most intimate of interaction of lovers, and “the sacred silence of creation.”
Sunday | 2 Apr 2017 | 300pm | St John’s Episcopal Church | 114 20th Ave SE | Olympia*
*There are no tickets for this concert. There will be a free-willing offering at the door.
Friday | 7 Apr 2017 | 800pm | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4142 42nd Avenue SW | West Seattle
Saturday | 8 Apr 2017 | 800pm | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th Street | Seattle
Sunday | 9 Apr 2017 | 700pm | Christ Episcopal Church | 310 North K Street | Tacoma
ECSTASIS: Approaching ecstasy (with Whim W’Him)
In this highly-anticipated reprisal with Whim W’Him, The Esoterics is excited to present Approaching ecstasy, a concert-length dance collaboration based on the life and poetry of the Alexandrian poet Constantine Cavafy. This “tryst ballet,” which was composed and will be conducted by Founding Director Eric Banks, will be sung by The Esoterics, accompanied by the Skyros String Quartet and harpist Melissa Achten. Approaching ecstasy will be choreographed by Whim W’Him’s founding director Olivier Wevers, and will feature 7 dancers from his company, as well as Casey Curran’s set design on the stage of the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center. The seeds for this collaboration were planted in the summer of 2008, when Banks traveled to Egypt, and while in Alexandria, visited the home of his favorite poet, Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933). Upon his return to Seattle, Eric met Olivier (who was then still dancing at Pacific Northwest Ballet, before he founded Whim W’Him), and shared a number of Cavafy’s poems with him. Cavafy’s work immediately appealed to both, and inspired them to create this collaborative piece around the life and work of the poet. In Approaching ecstasy, Banks has set eighteen of Cavafy’s poems – in both the original Greek, and in his own English translation. These poems describe Cavafy’s secret life as a gay man living in Egypt a century ago. The poems that Banks chose are vivid portraits of Cavafy’s lovers as well as his friends, “expressions of fear, hope, remembered love, and excruciating beauty.” Cavafy’s verses are clandestine, courageous, intensely intimate, and inspire hope for the openness of a future society. Wevers’ choreography will interpret the sensuality and sincerity of the poet’s desire, as well as express the frustration, danger, and oppression that Cavafy must have experienced in his daily life. The Esoterics will be singing in alternating Greek and English, with both instruments and a cappella, in ensembles that range from a quartet of singers to the entire choral complement. Banks’ score incorporates North African musical influences (including Egyptian maqamat and muwashahat – scales and rhythmic patterns) in juxtaposition with Western musical elements – to represent the cultural confluences of Alexandria at the turn of the last century.
This event, which is produced by Whim W’Him, is not to be missed!
Tickets will be available at Whim W’Him’s website later in the spring.
Friday | 2 Jun 2017 | 800pm | Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center | 201 Mercer Street | Seattle
Saturday | 3 Jun 2017 | 800pm | Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center | 201 Mercer Street | Seattle
Friday | 9 Jun 2017 | 800pm | Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center | 201 Mercer Street | Seattle
Saturday | 10 Jun 2017 | 800pm | Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center | 201 Mercer Street | Seattle
GRAVITAS: Investigating gravity
The Esoterics’ autumn concert will explore poetry and music that is drawn downward, including Gravity’s dream by Steven Stucky, From ivory depths by Tonia Ko, as well as two cycles by Robert Paterson — Eternal reflections and The essence of gravity — setting poems by Czeslaw Milosz, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Mary Elizabeth Frye. The centerpiece of this program will be three world premieres by the winners this year’s POLYPHONOS competition: Daniel Reza Sabzghabaei (Baltimore MD), Vahram Sarkissian (Montreal, Quebec), and Conrad Asman (Cape Town, South Africa). We’re excited to meet our winners and hear what they will create for us!
Friday | 6 Oct 2017 | 800pm | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th Street | Seattle
Saturday | 7 Oct 2017 | 800pm | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4142 42nd Avenue SW | West Seattle
Sunday | 8 Oct 2017 | 700pm | Christ Episcopal Church | 310 North K Street | Tacoma
EXTREMIS: Contemplating extremity
In our final concert of season 24, The Esoterics will cast our choral gaze upward, to perform To touch the sky by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Putz. This ten-movement exploration of the celestial feminine include texts by Marie Howe, Mirabai, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Amy Lowell, Emily Bronte, Edna St Vincent Millay, Christina Rossetti, Sappho, and Hildegard of Bingen. In addition, the group will perform Putz’ setting of Fleda Brown’s poem, If I were a swan, and Paul John Rudoi’s diptych Spheres of influence — setting poems about comets and galaxies by im Togeas and Sara Dailey. Finally, to conclude this program, The Esoterics will premiere a new arrangement by Founding Director Eric Banks: an a cappella version of Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), based on a poem by Richard Dehmel, to mark the centenary of the premiere of the string orchestra version of this piece in 1917.
Friday | 1 Dec 2017 | 800pm | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th Street | Seattle
Saturday | 2 Dec 2017 | 800pm | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4142 42nd Avenue SW | West Seattle
Sunday | 3 Dec 2017 | 700pm | Christ Episcopal Church | 310 North K Street | Tacoma