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2016 | SEASON 23 | The voice of the poet


RUMI: Within each timeless droplet

The first program of The Esoterics’ 23rd season is based on settings of the poetry of the 13th-century Sufi mystic, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, more simply known as RUMI. These pieces of this program include: the five Canticles of Rumi by the San Francisco composer Mark Winges, There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground by Twin-Cities composer J David Moore, Walk to the well by Washington composer David Asplin, Song of the night by Philippine composer Nilo Alcala, All day and night music by Yale composer Christopher Theofanidis, and Jāvdāni [Eternity] by The Esoterics’ own Eric Banks.

Friday | 11 Mar 2016 | 800pm | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th Street | Seattle
Saturday | 12 Mar 2016 | 800pm | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4142 42nd Avenue SW | West Seattle
Sunday | 13 Mar 2016 | 300pm | St John’s Episcopal Church | 114 20th Ave SE | Olympia


BABBITT: Milton Babbitt centennial

Over the seven decades of his compositional career, Babbitt wrote both tonal and non-tonal music, and expanded the controversial serialist method (also known as “12-tone music”) by manipulating every musical dimension – such as rhythm, timbre, and dynamics – to create what was known as “integral serialism.” The consummate “maximalist,” Babbitt’s works are highly contextual, always variable and never repetitive, often at the edge of the performers’ ability, abstract yet narrative, polyphonic yet playful. With every composition, Babbitt seemed to invent his own new musical grammar. In this unprecedented concert, The Esoterics will celebrate Babbitt’s centenary by singing his entire catalog of a cappella choruses, several of which have never been performed live in concert. This program will include: An Elizabethan sextette, Four canons, Glosses, Music for the mass, More phonemena, Round, and Three cultivated choruses.

Friday | 6 May 2016 | 800 pm | Seattle | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th St
Saturday | 7 May 2016 | 800 pm | West Seattle | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4210 SW Genesee St
Sunday | 8 May 2016 | 700 pm | Tacoma | Christ Episcopal Church| 310 N K St


PARNOK: In that infinite moment

Unless you are familiar with obscure Russian literature, you have probably never heard of Sophia Parnok. Born in 1885 in Taganrog, on the shores of the Black Sea, Parnok was the daughter of a Jewish pharmacist. Her lifelong frailty resulted from the neurological disorder known as Graves’ disease. She also survived a horrific train crash, owned a pet monkey, and was (most notably) Russia’s first openly-lesbian poet. After establishing her reputation in the early 1920s, Russia’s “Silver Age,” Sophia chose to live openly and write about her relationships with eight women – to each of whom she dedicated several poems. Parnok’s decision to “come out” rendered her “lawless,” and as a result, publishers refused to print her work after 1928. After being silenced, Sophia was barely able to scrape together a living as a translator. For several years she was homeless – too proud to rely on anyone else. When Parnok finally succumbed to her illness in 1933, three of her lovers were at her bedside, and her funeral procession of friends and fans that extended 75 kilometers outside of Moscow was nothing short of legendary. In 2012, Eric Banks was commissioned to compose a “lyric biography” based Parnok’s verse for Kitka, the Bay Area Balkan women’s octet. Banks’ concert-length work, I will remember everything, recounts Parnok’s life story through a series of her poems, fragments, and letters. This work will enjoy its Seattle premiere by eight women of The Esoterics. In addition to this work, Banks has composed a “song cycle” for 32-voice chorus and soloists that sets another nine of Parnok’s poems. This piece, On this disappearing day, will be performed in the same concert. In both pieces, which will be woven together without interruption, Parnok’s Russian verses will be sung in tandem with Banks’ translations, to create a 96-minute choral odyssey: one that celebrates Parnok’s forbidden love, her extraordinary lyric, and her imperturbable courage.

Friday | 8 Jul 2016 | 800 pm | Seattle | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th St
Saturday | 9 Jul 2016 | 800 pm | West Seattle | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4210 SW Genesee St
Sunday | 10 Jul 2016 | 700 pm | Tacoma | Christ Episcopal Church | 310 N K St


WILDE: Like silhouettes against the sky

This autumn, The Esoterics will continue its “voice of the poet” season with a concert of choral works setting verses by the legendary literary iconoclast, Oscar Wilde. Celebrated for his witty retorts, pointed plays, and a homosexual scandal that shattered his reputation, Wilde is not known for his verse. In response to this oversight, The Esoterics has curated a program of pieces that honor Wilde’s contribution to the poetic genre. In this concert, The Esoterics will reprise Dominick DiOrio’s The visible world, which sets verses from Wilde’s De profundis, the epic poem he penned while in prison, in which he envisioned a more open and accepting world. The group will also perform Eric Barnum’s Requiescat, an elegy that Wilde composed after the death of his sister, Isola. The ensemble will also present Australian composer Malcolm Williamson’s setting of Wilde’s Sonnet on hearing the Dies irae in the Sistine Chapel.  In addition, the group will present a quadruple-chorus world premiere by founding director Eric Banks that sets seven of Wilde’s poems about the birds of the air, Silhouettes against the sky. The centerpiece of this program will include three additional world premieres, by the winners of The Esoterics’ annual POLYPHONOS competition: In the gold room: A harmony, a mysterious setting by Canadian-German composer Gordon Williamson; In the forest, an ethereal piece by the Japanese-American composer Kenji Oh; and Endymion, Casey Rule’s rousing setting of Wilde’s poem about the lover of Selene, the ancient Greek moon goddess. All three composers — Gordon, Kenji, and Casey — will be joining us to present their pieces and meet our audience for the entire concert weekend!

Friday | 7 Oct 2016 | 800 pm | Seattle | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th St
Saturday | 8 Oct 2016 | 800 pm | West Seattle | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4210 SW Genesee St
Sunday | 9 Oct 2016 | 700 pm | Tacoma | Christ Episcopal Church| 310 N K St


TEASDALE: Across the endless spaces

Over the course of 2016, The Esoterics have presented several choral concerts inspired by the works of individual poets. In early December, the final concert of this “voice of the poet” season, The Esoterics will celebrate our long and rewarding relationship with resident composer emeritus, Donald Skirvin, as well as his choral “love affair” with the American poet, Sara Teasdale. The verses of Teasdale (1884-1933) are synonymous with a new Romanticism in American poetry, and are known for their delicate simplicity, lyrical cadence, and wistful joy. In her more mature work, as Teasdale’s health became more frail and WWI approached, a play between darkness and light is overtaken by a somber shade throughout. This shadow, often attributed to fear or foreboding, also brings with it quiet contemplation, profundity, and a sky full of stars. In the words of her biographer, Margaret Haley Carpenter, Teasdale’s “later poems increasingly reveal her courageous outlook upon the mysteries of life and death; in them she asserts her faith in the inviolateness of the human soul amid perishable things and fugitive emotions.” The repertoire of this exquisite concert will include three of Skirvin’s choral cycles that were commissioned by and composed for The Esoterics over the last 17 years: Alchemy, …stars to hold, and Stars forever, while we sleep. In addition, the ensemble is excited to premiere three brand-new works: There will come soft rains, The fountain, and Places, like music. We are so happy to be celebrating our relationship with Don, and to be sharing this music with you.

Friday | 2 Dec 2016 | 800 pm | Seattle | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th St
Saturday | 3 Dec 2016 | 800 pm | West Seattle | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4210 SW Genesee St
Sunday | 4 Dec 2016 | 700 pm | Tacoma | Christ Episcopal Church| 310 N K St