The Branch Will Not Break

June 3, 2017 - 7:00 pm

Bethesda, MD, USA

Great Noise Ensemble partners with the Westmoreland Festival Chorus for a performance on Saturday June 3rd to raise funds for the local charity Bethesda Cares, Inc. The program will feature music of living composers, including the premiere of a new work, and will feature mezzo-soprano Lena Seikaly. Join both Armando Bayolo (GNE) and Alec Davis (WFC) on the podium as we explore aspects of human perspective, society, and time.

Westmoreland’s Alec Davis says, “A choir member recently approached me after a rehearsal and said, ‘this music we are learning is very pretty, but I don’t leave rehearsals with a melody running through my head like I usually do, I just end up asking questions and pondering ideas.’ My response was immediate, ‘Excellent! That’s exactly what this concert is for.’ Many of us attend performances of beloved standards, such as the Brahms Requiem or a Bach Cantata, and we know what to expect. While choirs and orchestras are constantly seeking ways to make older music relevant to today’s audiences, it is the music of living composers in which we most acutely hear the echoes of the world we live in now.”

The concert will open with a performance of the song cycle Ayre by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov, whose music has been championed by performers like the Kronos Quartet and Dawn Upshaw. Renowned jazz singer Lena Seikaly joins members of Great Noise Ensemble in what the New Yorker described as “an ecstatically beautiful piece but also a radical and disorienting one. Many people, on first encountering its rasping sonorities, hurtling rhythms, and welters of lament, will be unsure whether they are listening to pop music or to classical music or to some folk ritual of indeterminate origin. However they answer, they will be right.” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker) The work itself mixes music of Christian, Arab, and Sephardic Jewish traditions to depict a kaleidoscope of culture and sounds.

We will continue with the premier of a newly written work entitled Ruminations on words by Charles Bernstein, which includes texts by American poet Charles Bernstein juxtaposed with Buddhist mantra sung in Sanskrit and Tibetan by the choir. The musicians will perform beneath a 1977 recording of Charles Bernstein himself, pulled from a NYC Public Access television program, and will remark on that familiar feeling of constantly striving towards something, only for the light at the end of the tunnel to push further away.

To close the performance, the Festival Chorus and Great Noise instrumentalists will perform Christopher Cerrone’s The Branch Will Not Break, after which this performance is named. This setting of texts by American poet James Arlington Wright paints vivid and serene images of the American mid-west, only to stumble upon epiphanies that changes the whole meaning and tone. The composer remarked that Rilke’s famous adage, “You must change your life,” served as inspiration to both author and composer. So, too, we include this work to complete the philosophical journey this concert seeks to inspire.

Regarding the concert, Davis says, “At the end of the day, the journey is meant to leave you with questions, or at least to be an impetus to think differently about questions you are already asking. What is the real nature of differences between cultures? What does common humanity amidst stark differences feel like? What does it look like when you examine how you spend your own time? What would it take to really change that? We support the work of Bethesda Cares because it seeks to make change for people who need it, and ultimately we hope that you will too. New Music is not all scary, and if you make yourself vulnerable to the experience, you may just find it to be incredibly rewarding.”