Saturday, March 25, 2023 @ 8:00pm – 10:00pm (PDT)
Plymouth Congregational Church, Seattle, WA, United States
Online and in-person
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At door: $25/$20
In advance: $20/$15
Discount: students, seniors, un(der)employed, differently-abled

Rex IsenbergIf we have wisdom (world premiere)
Rex IsenbergMessiahs false and true (PNW premiere)

In the very first concert of its 30th season, The Esoterics will perform two brand-new choral compositions by the Los Angeles-based composer, Rex Isenberg.

For his first piece, If we have wisdom, Isenberg sets the text of a letter written by George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1790. After a flourishing Jewish community in the American colonies fled during British occupation, any left during the British occupation, the Jewish community in Newport had only begun to recover its former prominence at the time of George Washington's visit in August 1790. This letter holds much significance for many American Jews as a testament to their rights to religious freedom and self-determination – right from the founding of this country. This letter is framed in the home of Rex’s husband’s parents, and his family reads it annually on Passover. The Esoterics is honored to be singing this text for the first time in the world premiere of this composition!

In the second, more extensive work of our performance, Messiahs false and true, Isenberg explores the perennial predicament of the "messianic leader" in human history. This work is composed for choir with accompaniment of organ and percussion, as well as a spoken oratorio. During periods of crisis or cultural upheaval, societies tend to gravitate toward those individuals who promise salvation and elevate them to power. We may be seeking hope, guidance, salvation, or a sense of purpose in our lives. Messianic figures have played an important role in shaping human history, and their influence continues to be felt today. Some of these figures become our greatest heroes, others, our most hateful villains.

Rex's Messiahs examines this phenomenon through a tour of messianic figures – heroic and horrific – and the narrative of the piece follows society's common response to such figures: anticipation, jubilation, disappointment, condemnation, and grief. The spoken narration of this piece consists of a collage of texts from various messianic leaders, as well as their admirers and critics. This narration is paired with biblical passages from Handel's Messiah that is sung by the choir, which responds to the narration. At the end of this journey, the final words of the piece ask us to rely less on imperfect saviors, and to have faith in the strength of our collective will to forge a better tomorrow.

Born in Philadelphia, Rex holds a BA in Music from Yale University and Masters and Doctorate degrees in composition from the Manhattan School of Music. Isenberg's artistic works often explore the complexities of human relationships across different times and societal settings. He is also devoted to expanding and enriching the catalog of Jewish liturgical music by creating compositions that remain faithful to the original text but also resonate and renew meaning with modern audiences

To perform Messiahs, The Esoterics will be joined by organist Wyatt Smith; percussionist James Doyle; and our narrator, the Reverend Kelle Brown, senior pastor at Plymouth Church in downtown Seattle. The Esoterics is excited to welcome Rex to the Pacific Northwest for these performances of his works. We hope you can join us for this fantastic concert!

About Wyatt Smith, organ

American concert organist Wyatt Smith, a native of Rapid City, South Dakota, performs with "nuance, polish, and personality" (Michael Barone, APM Pipedreams). He maintains an active concert schedule, performing throughout the United States and Europe, and his performances have been heard on American Public Media's Pipedreams.

Smith received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in organ performance from the University of Washington; his Master of Music degree from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and Bachelor of Music degree from the University of South Dakota. His primary mentors include Dr. Carole Terry, Dr. Martin Jean, and Dr. Larry Schou. Wyatt has served as the Affiliate Artist in Organ & Harpsichord at the University of Puget Sound since 2018. He is also on the faculty of the Epiphany Music Academy, which he founded in 2019. He enjoys teaching students of all ages.

About James W. Doyle, percussion

James W. Doyle is a percussionist, educator, music director, and collaborative artist based in the Pacific Northwest. He's a member of the Seattle-based contemporary percussion and multimedia group, Striking Music and serves as visiting assistant professor of music and director of instrumental studies at Saint Martin's University. He's also on the graduate music education faculty at Adams State University, serves on the musicology faculty at the University of Puget Sound, and teaches percussion in the University of Puget Sound's Community Music program and at South Puget Sound Community College. James is co-owner of Pacific Edge Multimedia and maintains a performance and artist-in-residency schedule throughout the United States and abroad.

Plymouth Congregational Church

1217 Sixth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
United States