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2018  |  SEASON 25  |  Secular versions of sacred forms


DĒLECTŌ | The reimagined canticle | The dialogue around love

DĒLECTŌ, the first concert series in The Esoterics’ 25th season, will reimagine the canticle – or the conversation between lovers – a choral form originally inspired by the Song of songs. Rather than recounting the Biblical courtship between a young bride and her groom, the music of this concert will focus on seasoned love – or the love that is able to withstand the test of time.

This concert will open with Love, a miniature choral gem by the Vancouver composer Rodney Sharman. In Sharman’s setting of this verse by the 17th-century poet George Sandys, the power of love is able to unite the forces of the ancient elements – fire, air, earth, and water – to create harmony.

The remainder of this program will include two large commissioned works, both enjoying world premieres. Thanks in part to funding from The National Endowment for the Arts, The Esoterics was able to commission the Minnesota-based composers Timothy Takach and Jocelyn Hagen (who are also husband and wife) to collaborate on a piece for the first time. The result of their creation, This is how you love, is a 13-movement dialogue about many aspects of marriage – from remembrances of first love, through all kinds of obstacles and conflict. The texts that Jocelyn and Tim have thoughtfully curated include several contemporary poems, as well as excerpted transcripts from couples counseling sessions. We are thrilled to present this new work to you!

The second world premiere in this program will be The river of love, Eric Banks’ most recent composition. This piece was commissioned as a wedding gift from Robert Alexander to his wife Ali, a long-standing, enthusiastic friend of the ensemble. Over the course of Banks’ trilingual River, he sets 15 couplets (or doha) in ancient Hindi and Farsi (with English translations) by the 14th-century Sufi poet, musician, and mystic, Amir Khusro. Khusro’s poems explore different images of love as a river – as a vehicle for a journey, as a distance to be crossed, as a timeless source of renewal, as a depth into which we are immersed, and by which we are ultimately transformed.

The Esoterics will present three performances of DĒLECTŌ. Please join us and celebrate love!

9 February 2018 | 800pm | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4210 SW Genesee Street | West Seattle
10 February 2018 | 800pm | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th Street | Seattle 
11 February 2018 | 700pm | Christ Episcopal Church | 310 North K Street | Tacoma


CŌNFIDŌ | The reimagined mass | The certainty from ritual

In the second concert series of its 25th season, CŌNFIDŌ, The Esoterics will reimagine the mass – the ancient rite of the Christian liturgy, in which believers gather in sacred community and are then “dismissed” (the origin of the word missa) into the secular world. Rather than offer a concert of masses without comment, The Esoterics will present four settings of mass texts that express crises of faith, criticize organized religion, and prioritize the health of our planet over any individual belief.

The program for CŌNFIDŌ will include Missa Charles Darwin by the Massachusetts composer Gregory Brown. Brown’s work is based on the architecture of the Latin rite, but replaces texts with excerpts from Darwin’s On the origin of species and The descent of man. This performance will be the world premiere of the mixed chorus version of this work. Gregory Brown will join us for the concert weekend, to discuss his compositions and chat with the audience.

In addition to Brown’s Missa, The Esoterics will perform two masses by British composer Giles Swayne, Missa Tiburtina and Petite messe solitaire. Swayne’s Tiburtina is inspired by Chief Seattle’s 1854 speech: “the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth.” Swayne tells us that he composed the Petite messe solitaire (“lonely little mass”) for two choirs, to represent the clash between traditional Christian certainties and current thinking – which is more complex, and full of doubt.

To conclude the program, The Esoterics will perform Island in space, Kirke Mechem’s brilliant setting of “dona nobis pacem,” the final phrase of the Latin mass. In Mechem’s piece, this phrase is sung in tandem with verses by Archibald MacLeish, as well as a 1969 description of the Earth by Russell Schweickart, the first astronaut to view our planet from space.

The Esoterics will present three performances of CŌNFIDŌ.
Please join us for this choral conversation around belief and unbelief, ritual, and community.

13 April 2018 | 800pm | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th Street | Seattle
14 April 2018 | 800pm | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4210 SW Genesee Street | West Seattle
15 April 2018 | 700pm | Christ Episcopal Church | 310 North K Street | Tacoma


DĒSIGNŌ | The reimagined motet | The expression of invention

This June, The Esoterics will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a program of modern motets, in keeping with the theme of this year: saecula sacrorum, or “secular versions of sacred forms.” This program will explore the motet, not only as the most virtuosic and architectural form of ancient choral music, but also for the “play on words” so common in its construction.

This program will feature two “choral cathedrals” composed by Eric Banks: Etternalmente vive [Eternally alive] and Förklaring [Elucidation], setting poems in Italian and Swedish by Michelangelo Buonarroti and Karin Boye. It will also include two new cycles by the Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi: Hommage à Edith (setting three verses by the Finland-Swedish poet Edith Södergran), and Seven last words, a hilarious rendering of the last seven entries in the Century Dictionary (1910), sung as if in a spelling bee, with several intermittent limericks.

The ensemble is also excited to perform the world premiere of the choral version of Lisa Bielawa’s Machina mundi, a work for digitally processed voices and live chorus that traces various philosophical texts that grapple with the origin of the universe. The group is also honored to perform the world premiere of Joshua Fishbein’s Of the ages, a triptych on the various stages of life, setting texts of Elizabeth Pennell, Laurence Alma-Tadema, and William Butler Yeats. Both Lisa and Josh will be joining us for our anniversary concert weekend!

Finally, The Esoterics will reprise one of its favorite works, Richard Strauss’ inimitable Deutsche Motette. One of the most virtuosic, cathartic, and joyful pieces in the choral repertory, Strauss’ pyrotechnic setting of Friedrich Rückert’s poem was written on a dare from the Vienna Opera Chorus in 1913. It is so rarely performed, and truly not to be missed!

The Esoterics will be offering three performances of DĒSIGNŌ.
Please join us as we celebrate 25 years of choral community!

8 June 2018 | 800pm | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th Street | Seattle
9 June 2018 | 800pm | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4210 SW Genesee Street | West Seattle
10 June 2018 | 700pm | Christ Episcopal Church | 310 North K Street | Tacoma


BERNSTEIN | Leonard Bernstein centennial

On 25 August 1918, Jennie and Samuel Bernstein, immigrants to the US from Tsarist Russia, welcomed a son, Louis, who would grow up to become a celebrated American conductor, composer, pianist, and educator. Louis was named by his grandmother, but was always known as Leonard, or Lenny, and changed his name legally at the age of 15.

After a half-century of accomplishments (and a turbulent personal life), Bernstein referred to himself simply as a musician. This is an understated description of a man whose broad achievements are unique in musical history. Bernstein was a brilliant conductor, a fine concert pianist, a pioneering educator, and a humanitarian, as well as a prolific composer. His compositions varied from Broadway classics, to ballet, opera, orchestral and chamber music, and even a film score. And of course, he composed choral pieces, many of which are among his greatest and most moving works.

To celebrate the life and work of this remarkable American composer on the evening of his 100th birthday, The Esoterics will be joined by cathedral organist Joseph Adam, harpist John Carrington, and percussionist Matthew Kocmieroski, and will present Bernstein’s entire sacred choral oeuvre (in English, Latin, French, and Hebrew), including: Chichester Psalms, his choruses from The lark, Missa brevis, selections from Mass and Kaddish, Hashkiveinu, Simchu na, and Yigdal.

25 August 2018 | 800pm | St James Cathedral | 804 9th Avenue | Seattle


CŌNSŌLŌ | The reimagined requiem | The balm for sorrow

In October, The Esoterics continues its 25th season with a program of contemporary requiems, in keeping with the theme of this year: saecula sacrorum, or “secular versions of sacred forms.”

The word requiem comes from the Latin requies, meaning ‘rest’, and it is among the opening words of the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead. In a secular context, the word refers to an act of remembrance after loss. In CŌNSŌLŌ, The Esoterics will feature new choral works that explore the comfort and healing that are found in this musical act of remembrance.

As the centerpiece of this autumn concert, The Esoterics will recognize the winners of last year’s POLYPHONOS competition. The ensemble will perform the following world premieres:  Forever hurts (setting two poems of loss by Karin Boye and Paul Laurence Dunbar) by Anna-Karin Klockar from Falun, Sweden; Uprooted (setting texts from interviews with two local Japanese-American women who were sent to internment camps during WWII) by Sarah Rimkus of Aberdeen, Scotland (via Bainbridge Island); and Sa pampang [Along the shore] (recounting a mother’s loss of her entire family in the catastrophic typhoon Haiyan in 2013) by Ily Matthew Maniano from Manila. The ensemble is pleased that Anna-Karin, Sarah, and Ily will all be joining us for the concert weekend: to meet our audience and discuss their works.

Oscar Wilde’s Requiescat was written in remembrance of his sister Isola, who died at the tender age of ten. The Esoterics will perform two different settings of this poem, by Eric Barnum (2007) and Rodney Sharman (2015). The ensemble will also reprise Kevin Puts’ devastatingly beautiful setting of Emily Brontë’s poem, At castle wood, a movement from his 2011 choral cycle, To touch the sky. Finally, The Esoterics will present the Pacific Northwest premiere of Dale Trumbore’s own secular requiem, How to go on, a 2017 work for chorus and solo voices that “finds beauty, catharsis, and solace in the words of three living poets: Barbara Crooker, Amy Fleury, and Laura Foley.” Dale, who won our POLYPHONOS competition in 2014, will be joining us from Los Angeles for the concert weekend as well.

The Esoterics will offer three performances of CŌNSŌLŌ.
Please join is for this magnificent concert of remembrance and healing.

5 October 2018 | 800pm | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th Street | Seattle
6 October 2018 | 800pm | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4142 42nd Avenue SW | West Seattle
7 October 2018 | 700pm | Christ Episcopal Church | 310 North K Street | Tacoma


ADŌRŌ | The reimagined prayer | The wish within silence

This December, The Esoterics will conclude its 25th season with a program of contemporary prayers, in keeping with the theme of this year: saecula sacrorum, or “secular versions of sacred forms.” Since humans first appealed to higher powers, each prayer has included three aspects: an earnest wish, a willing benefactor, and a quiet utterance. In their secular form, prayers are often made to the divine that we find in nature, in ourselves, and in our communities.

In ADŌRŌ, The Esoterics will perform a concert of new choral works that explore the solace, focus, and strength inspired by the natural world. The program will include two settings of Sara Teasdale’s poetry by The Esoterics’ composer emeritus, Donald Skirvin – There will come soft rains and Places, like music – as well as two pieces by former POLYPHONOS winner Christina Whitten Thomas – My cathedral (setting Longfellow) and Discovery (setting verses by poet-oceanographer Deirdre Lockwood). In addition, the ensemble will sing When I close my eyes I dream of peace by Swedish composer Karin Rehnqvist, a piece that sets this single phrase (uttered by an anonymous Croatian boy during the Yugoslav Wars) in twelve languages. The group will also sing Mason Bates’ “far-out” Observer in the Magellanic Cloud, which sets an ancient Maori entreaty to the night sky for a fruitful harvest. Director Eric Banks will also contribute a short piece to this program, At all times, setting verses on light by the XIV Dalai Lama.

The centerpiece of concert is the eleven-movement cycle of Prayers by John Gould Fletcher, composed by Joseph Gregorio. Joe set three of Fletcher’s “secular humanist” prayers in 2013 when he won our POLYPHONOS competition, and they were so beautiful that we commissioned him to write a cycle that included all of them! We are especially grateful to the Ann Stookey Fund for New Music for helping to fund this commission.

The Esoterics will offer three performances of ADŌRŌ.
Please join us for this concert of care and contemplation.

7 December 2018 | 800pm | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th Street | Seattle
8 December 2018 | 800pm | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4142 42nd Avenue SW | West Seattle
9 December 2018 | 300pm | St. John’s Episcopal Church | 114 20th Avenue SE | Olympia