Saturday, May 18, 2024 @ 8:00pm – 10:00pm (PDT)
Plymouth Congregational Church, Seattle, WA, United States
Online and in-person
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In person: $15-$20 advance, $20-$25 at door
Stream: $10
Discounts available to students/seniors/etc.

In this very special concert series, The Esoterics will present a concert of works that explore the intersection of the communal and the divine—the pleasure and power that we experience when we gather together, as well the comfort and beauty that we find in the natural world. This program will feature four recent compositions by our founding director, Eric Banks, each written for choruses outside of Seattle. These works set texts in French, Italian, Tlingit, and English.

We will welcome you to the concert with Cul sec!—a piece originally commissioned by Choeur Mikrokosmos, one of the most accomplished choral ensembles in France, directed by Loïc Pierre. Cul sec! sets Six banquets, a set of six poems in completely different meters composed by Jean-François Pierre, the Choeur Mikrokosmos director's brother. In Pierre's poems, we are invited to partake in a lavish, raucous, delicious, and slightly ridiculous French party. The 24 singers of The Esoterics are divided into 3 choirs of 8 singers each that take on the musical roles of harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic ensembles, and are accompanied by a pitched percussion battery of marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, glockenspiel, and crotales. Cul sec! celebrates human connection, the euphoria one experiences when partaking in delicious food, copious wine, and lively conversation with beautiful people, as well as the subsequent repercussions and regrets one has after waking up with a hangover the next morning.

The Esoterics will emerge from this hangover with the sobering Try to understand – a piece that was originally composed in 2018 for St Jakob's Chamber Choir, directed by Gary Graden. in Stockholm, Sweden. This work sets a text from Umberto Eco's novel, Baudolino, and was premiered at a festival in Eco's hometown near Milan, Italy. In Eco's tale, Baudolino encounters Hypatia, the ancient Alexandrian philosopher and mythical queen of the Amazons, in a remote Georgian forest. As the two fall in love and share their views on the various mysteries of life, Hypatia (who is contrasted with the Catholicism of Baudolino), describes God, "the unique one," through phrases that express what God is not, claiming that the human mind is not capable of understanding God: "…God embraces all but is nothing; because whatever you say about it, you will never fully convey God: …a lamp without flame, a flame without fire, a fire without heat, a somber light." Try to understand will be sung by a double chorus in Eco's Italian as well as William Weaver's English translation, accompanied by a 12-part string orchestra, including the members of the Skyros String Quartet.

Commissioned by Jeffrey Douma for the 155th anniversary of the Yale Glee Club and the Yale Alumni Chorus in New Haven, Hold sets a poem about singing through the various stages of life by the Twin Cities poet Anna George Meek. Hold is not only a celebration of the healing properties of gathering to sing together, it is a meditation on the chorus as a symbol of a utopian society, in which the members support each other. The central idea of Meek's poem focuses on choral or "staggered" breathing, a choral technique during which one singer breathes while others carry the music forward. Banks and Meek sang together in the Yale Glee Club as undergraduates and crafted this poem and piece together to honor their college choir, as well as to honor communities all over the world that hold space for each other to carry out a shared purpose and bring beauty forth. This triple chorus work will be accompanied by pianist Kevin Johnson.

The final and largest work of this program, To have been there before, was commissioned by the Anchorage Concert Chorus and its director Grant Cochran. This work recites texts found in Travels in Alaska by the American naturalist John Muir. This piece was composed for antiphonal triple-chorus, string orchestra, pitched percussion, and piano. In eleven movements and 40 minutes, this work recounts Muir's four trips to the Alexander Archipelago and Glacier Bay region of Southeastern Alaska, and include images of glaciers, islands, lakes, old-growth forests, moraines, fields of wildflowers, ice floes, the never-darkening sky in summer, as well as the unforgettable aurora borealis. As one section of the chorus intones Muir's description of the Alaskan wilderness, the other sections sing of the same natural phenomena in Tlingit, the language of the indigenous people that guided and protected Muir, making it possible for him to chronicle his journeys for us to enjoy today. These Tlingit words and singers create an "environment" within which we can gather together, commune with nature, revere its pristine state as well as its ability to renew itself, and find healing across time, culture, and language. The premiere of To have been there before will be accompanied by a new film featuring the nature of this region by Kevin Mayes. Kevin is a San Francisco filmmaker and college friend of Eric's, with whom Eric traveled through the Alexander Archipelago and Southeastern Alaska last spring.

We hope that you can join us for for this very special concert, "Splendor & Solace"!

Performances on May 18 & 19. The May 18 performance will also be livestreamed.

About Skyros Quartet

Sarah Pizzichemi, violin |
Brandon Vance, violin |
Justin Kurys, viola |
Willie Braun, cello

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.

About Brandon Vance, violin

Internationally acclaimed Scottish fiddler and violinist Brandon Vance is the recipient of Scotland's 2017 Royal National Mòd "Sutherland Cup" in Scottish Fiddle, as well as being the youngest to win the U.S. National Open Scottish Fiddling Championship in both 1999 and 2001.

Vance has performed and taught internationally, serving as a guest lecturer at the University of Limerick's Irish World Academy, appearing as guest artist for the 50th Anniversary of the Armagh Piper's Club at the William Kennedy Piping Festival, and being selected as a featured soloist at the 2017 Scottish Royal National Mòd in Fort William.

Vance holds a B.M. and M.M. in Violin Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music. Vance is the second violinist of the Skyros Quartet, and fiddler for folk ensembles Keltoi, as well as being a founding member of Celtic ensemble Dréos, and crossover ensemble Crossing the North Sea. He is a member of the chamber orchestra Northwest Sinfonietta and baroque ensemble Pacific MusicWorks, as well as having a vibrant career as a recording artist and composer. Vance had the honor of performing his own composition, Gael Storm, with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra at Severence Hall and premiering his Shetland Fantasia for String Quartet as part of the Auburn Symphony Orchestra Chamber Series.

Plymouth Congregational Church

1217 Sixth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
United States