THE COVID PROJECT

Project Summary

A recording of vocal chamber music works reflecting the world’s experience during pandemic. The recording is planned with Camerata Philadelphia with guest artist Kyle Engler. Scheduled for Spring 2022.

The donation goal for this project is $2,500.00.

Project Description

Back in May 2020, stunned by the NY Times front page headline, An Incalculable Loss, followed by a listing of the then nearly 100,000 Americans killed by the coronavirus, I wanted to do something. Reaching out to the poet Richard Leach, with whom I had collaborated previously, he promptly sent me Missing Voices, which I set to music the following day. Somehow, a duet between voice and cello seemed right for his moving words. These are not statistics but individual humans with all of their connected friends and family – and this must be acknowledged, even as we struggle to fathom the depth of such loss.

Then another poet I had reached out to put me in touch with Norman Fischer, who had posted a series of coronavirus poems on his website. Reaching out to him, I was thrilled when he gave permission for me to use his poems for this cycle of songs.  It is these poems that became An Incalculable Loss for soprano and cello.

As the pandemic continued on its inexorable path of death, I looked for other poetry, and with my thoughts turning back a century to the world’s similar experience in 1918, I came across a poem by Ellen Bryant Voigt that grabbed my attention with its first line: “thought at first grief had brought him down.” Moved by the poem, I soon learned that this was but one poem of many from a volume of poems, published back in 1995, portraying life during those years when so many died, yet which seemed strangely lost to our collective memory, her volume of sonnets entitled “Kyrie.”  With the poet’s kind permission, I set to work setting poems from Kyrie for mezzo soprano and string quartet (although with 2 violas instead of the usual 2 violins), calling the work 1918.

For this recording project, Camerata Philadelphia, a wonderful ensemble with whom I’ve worked for many years, will also record another work, whose theme seemed connected, also for a quartet with 2 violas, my Middle Ground.  The title is about more than the 2 violas – and that gorgeous middle range they sound in. It was composed in the midst of an American Presidential campaign, a time when, even more than usual, politicians speak in extremes, and none attempt to find that “middle ground” where people can accomplish remarkable things if they have the desire and will to do so. The quartet is in 5 movements, so that it also has a center, balanced by the outside movements. With the thought in mind that the Pandolfis Consort is an early music ensemble, the 2nd and 4th movements are based on Baroque themes, by Corelli and Bach, respectively. The opening and final movements are dance-like, built around opening viola duets.  The extraordinary political divisiveness surrounding the fight to control COVID 19 seemed to make this music all the more relevant, years after having composed it.  The music expresses my hope that humanity can behave as raionally as music and find middle ground when necessary to save ourselves from destruction.  If only reality would obey my naïve hopes.

The Artists

Stanley Grill is a classical composer whose passion for medieval and Renaissance music has greatly influenced his writing. Two main themes permeate many of his works – music composed in an attempt to translate something about the nature of the physical world, and music composed to inspire and promote world peace.

Kyle Engler, mezzo-soprano, has been praised for her extreme versatility in both operatic and chamber music. The Baltimore Sun has called her “. . . a virtuoso of a high order” and “dramatic and visceral.”  Engler is a regular performer with the Washington Opera and has participated in the world premieres of several new operas.  In January, 2005 she performed to great reviews when cast by Placido Domingo to premier the role of Lydia Dudley in Washington National Opera’s production of Democracy, An American Comedy by Scott Wheeler.  She was also invited to perform in Augusta Read-Thomas’ opera Ligeia, commissioned and conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich, at the Recontres musicales d’Evian in Evian, France.   Engler has been an Apprentice Artist with the Lake George Opera Festival and the Sarasota Opera Festival, and has toured and performed throughout Europe with the Ravel Trio and The Pennsylvania Academy of Music.  She has also been featured with several orchestras throughout North America.  She has performed with longtime collaborator Daniel for many years and is a member of the Morpheus Trio along with pianist Daniel Lau and hornist Larry Williams.  Ms. Engler graduated from the Peabody Conservatory and is currently the Director of Vocal Studies at McDaniel College.

CAMERATA PHILADELPHIA is an ensemble without musical boundaries. From chamber music to symphonies to opera to choral, CAMERATA continues into its 14th season bringing a fresh and distinct interpretation to the venerated classics, and bridging the styles of classical, jazz, folk and world music – each program an eclectic and richly diverse musical offering.

Stephen Framil, cellist and Camerata Philadelphia’s music director, has performed as concert soloist, chamber musician and conductor around the world: including Carnegie Weill & Avery-Fisher Halls (New York), Verizon Hall (Philadelphia), Hong Kong City Hall, with the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra (Hungary), Volgograd Philharmonic Orchestra (Russia), Latvian Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra (Italy Tour 2007), Manila Philharmonic Orchestra (Philippines), National Philharmonic of Moldova, Oltenia State Filarmonica (Romania), Zaporozhye Symphony Orchestra (Ukraine), Vratza Philharmonic Orchestra (Bulgaria), Viêt Nam National Symphony Orchestra, Bombay and Bangalore Chamber Orchestras (India), Redlands Symphony Orchestra (CA), Nashville Chamber Orchestra (TN), Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series (“Live” Broadcast on WFMT – Chicago), Brunei Music Society, and the Hong Kong Chamber Music Society, among others.  Stephen Framil is the Music Director & Conductor of CAMERATA PHILADELPHIA, Artistic Director of the Port City Music Festival (North Carolina), and Director of Orchestra & Strings at Eastern University (Pennsylvania).

The Poets

With singular force and precision, Ellen Bryant Voigt explores relationships between human character and human destiny in meticulously crafted, quietly potent poems that move through autobiography, pastoral, and history. She is known for an exacting and luminous intelligence, and for poems infused with evocative natural imagery and syntactical genius. Consummate in both the narrative and the lyric modes, Voigt reveals the complexity of our interior lives as she confronts beauty, terror and mortality.

Richard Leach: “I’m an ordained minister and was a pastor from 1978 to 1999. The sacred poetry I’ve been writing since 1987 is widely published, set to music, and sung as hymns and anthems in many denominations. I continue to write for singers in church, but since 2009 most of my work has been secular and self-published. My faith is orthodox but not conservative. American Christian churches far too often play chaplain to militarism and injustice. For me, the poetry of faith should be deeply honest about anything it speaks of, and should be surprising because much received wisdom is false—and because it’s more fun that way. Those ‘shoulds’ shape all my poetry. The hymns and anthems are more biblical, the other work more humorous and surreal.”

A Zen Buddhist priest and teacher, Norman Fischer earned an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an MA from the Graduate Theological Union at the University of California, Berkeley. He spent five years at the Tassajara Zen Monastery in San Francisco, and twenty years in residence at Green Gukch Farm Zen Center. Fischer was co-abbot for the San Francisco Zen Center from 1995 to 2000. He is a founder of and teacher at the Everyday Zen Foundation.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION AND SUPPORT OF THIS PROJECT.

A recording of vocal chamber music works reflecting the world’s experience during pandemic. The recording is planned with Camerata Philadelphia with guest artist Kyle Engler. Scheduled for Spring 2022.

The donation goal for this project is $5,000.00.