Welch on SF Girls Chorus CD on Glass’s OMM

“The bagpipes that catapult Matthew Welch’s Salute on the Birth of Rory Mor are played by the composer in a work of bountiful and heartfelt creativity.”


Most of the works on the newest release from the San Francisco Girls Chorus are receiving their first recordings, which brings up a pertinent question: will this music ever sound any more vital or affecting? The ensemble, led by artistic director Lisa Bielawa and conducted here by music director Valérie Sainte-Agathe, is a remarkable tapestry of teenage voices. They appear to be capable of handling any vocal challenge set before them. Beauty of tone, exceptional agility and keen attention to words mark everything the choristers touch.

On this new disc, Bielawa and Sainte-Agathe test the chorus in a rich array of styles as conjured by nine composers. The group are impressive in everything, but especially in the a cappella scores, including John Zorn’s lyrical, lilting Columbina, set to pointed and extended syllables, and Gabriel Kahane’s Back of the Choir, which chatters away to an Anne Carson poem while also embracing the verses’ poignant implications. Philip Glass’s Father Death Blues, touching Americana set to a poem by Allen Ginsberg, benefits from the chorus’s pure intensity, a quality used to different, equally vivid effect in Carla Kihlstedt’s radiant Herring Run.

The ensemble teams seamlessly with the Kronos Quaret in Bielawa’s haunting ‘Opening: Forest’ and Aleksandra Vrebelov’s Bubbles, which is as exuberant as its title (and contains important colouristic contributions from vibraphonist Andy Meyerson). Sahba Aminikia transforms the three Iranian lullabies in his Music of Spheres into enchanting narratives. The bagpipes that catapult Matthew Welch’s Salute on the Birth of Rory Mor are played by the composer in a work of bountiful and heartfelt creativity. And in the disc’s titular piece, Final Answer, the chorus applies its special magic to Theo Bleckmann’s probing paean to rationality and hope.

Donald Rosenberg

“And Here We Are” in New York Classical Review

“Welch’s And Here We Are followed, a more overtly sentimental path based on the memoirs of the composer’s great uncle, an opera singer imprisoned in the wartime Philippines. The piece circled with a jazzy flair provided by the small ensemble (trumpet, piano, vibraphone, bass guitar and drums, conducted by the composer). Baritone and librettist Daniel Neer intoned reminiscences of Welch’s elder in a half-spoken vibrato. Reflections of a life’s hardships, joys and yearning were pushed by an ever-modulating piano and round-robin repetitions moving across the band. The music ascended and descended, always moving while refusing to mold to the emotional impulses of the fragmented story.” – Kurt Gottschalk, New York Classical Review

full article here

And Here We Are in Story Binge

Dear Friends

I am excited to invite you to Experiments in Opera’s presentation of seven new operas in our newest event: Story Binge. The event spans two different evenings featuring works by Roddy Bottum, Sam Hillmer, Gelsey Bell, Jason Cady, Nick Hallett Aaron Siegel and myself. It runs April 1st and April 2nd at Roulette in Brooklyn. My piece, And Here We Are, will be performed on April 1st. Tickets here

And Here We Are, is the beginnings of a larger opera in progress. The story encompasses my maternal family and their time in the Philippines (ca 1905-1945) and especially their accounts of their three years in the Santa Tomas concentration camp in Manila (1942-1945).

Librettist and baritone Daniel Neer has reworked the memoir of my Great-Uncle Edgar, who was an aspiring opera singer trapped by the war. April 1 will focus on the character and songs of Edgar, based on his stories of camp atrocities, the progress of the disease beriberi and psychological numbness. Edgar’s songs also talk about the routine camp organizational duties and reveling in the small pleasures that kept him sane in such an environment. Neer not only has shaped the words, but will sing the role of Edgar as well.

Blarvuster will be the ensemble, and features Ben Holmes on trumpet, Joe Bergen on vibraphone, Emily Manzo on piano, Ian Riggs on bass guitar and Mike Pride on drums. The music is somewhat new for me, investigating a nexus of harmony between Duke Ellington and Frenchmen Debussy and Ravel. This is of course further filtered and mixed with my years of research in world music sonorities, to give birth to a sound world of many layers and places, but evocative of the time-period and representative of the complex interaction of cultures so central to this story.

Hope to see you there!

SISYPHUS and New Music Gathering!

Dear Friends – it’s been a little while since writing here vs my more recent Facebook littering. Feels much more intimate and quiet. I’ll grab my smoking jacket and sit by the fire and tell you very softly about what’s going on lately.

In January, Blarvuster performed in San Francisco at the New Music Gathering with a nice write up following

But mostly, I am here to urge any late decision makers to come out to SISYPHUS, a genre-bending opera I co-composed in collaboration with Jason Cady and Aaron Siegel – a wallop –packed event striking at the quintessence of how Experiments in Opera operates. Here are some reviews from New YorkClassical Review and StageBuddy.

Those that made it to SISYPHUS last weekend loved it, you will too!


Only 2 more chances to catch SISYPHUS
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SISYPHUS continues this Friday and Saturday

“What makes EiO’s Sisyphus notable is how entertaining it is.”
– NY Classical Review

Kate Maroney, Vince B. Vincent and Lucy Dhegrae. Photo by Reuben Radding.
After an exciting opening weekend, Sisyphus continues this Friday with two final performances. Come see this collaboratively-composed opera in its premiere run before it is too late!
Buy tickets for performances this Friday and Saturday.
Join us in HELL!
There’s more to the myth of Sisyphus than a man pushing a boulder up a hill. In this new, collaboratively-composed evening-length opera, the famous story is twisted, pulled apart, and reassembled in a collage of characters, genres and questions. Sisyphus features texts and music by the three founders of Experiments in Opera: Jason Cady, Aaron Siegel, and Matthew Welch.

February 13, 14, 20 & 21, 2015
8:00 PM
Underground Theater at Abrons Arts Center
Lucy Dhegrae, soprano
Kate Maroney, mezzo-soprano
Vince B. Vincent, tenor
Joe Bergen, vibraphone
Meaghan Burke, cello
Shawn Lovato, contrabass
Jason Cady, modular synthesizer
Matthew Welch, Conductor

Ethan Heard, director
Kristen Robinson, stage design
Masha Tsimring, lighting designer
Nick Hussong, projection designer
Maria Hooper, costume designer
Esti Bernstein, production stage manager

For more information visit: experimentsinopera.com

Experiments in Opera’s 2014-15 season is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the Support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Copyright © 2015 Experiments In Opera, All rights reserved.
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Borges and the Other – in its entirety! – Roulette May 11

Dear Friends!

It is a great pleasure to send you an invitation to come see and hear my opera, Borges and the Other, performed in its new entirety May 11th! I have been working on this in steps over the last few years and very proud to finish it and have it performed by my ensemble Blarvuster, stellar vocal soloists and choir. I am proud to premiere the entire work at Roulette’s new proscenium space in Brooklyn. Roulette has been instrumental in the process of this piece, and hosted the first airing of this material as it was in progress.


The opera is about Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges and his books, labyrinths and mirrors, but moreover, is really about the “self.” In this opera, Borges meets himself in a series of dreams, and self-addressed wit and deprecation tease out an idea of who Borges was/is and how they can both be in the same place at the same time or be the same person, yet two (or more).

This opera is also about how the self grapples with a mix of change and stasis and how this opens up deeper questions about the nature of time, the constructs of imagination and perception, and ambiguity of archetypal universality vs. personal identity, all in ways contemplated by Borges throughout his writings. It is also about the faith in fiction – how one can immerse or see oneself in the imagination of the writer or the identity of the character.


This will mark Blarvuster’s 10th year of operation! I have been so proud to work with this community of incredible musicians that have brought life to my music for the past decade! Thank you!


This also is part of a 2 night presentation of new works by Experiments in Opera, the first night, May 10, will feature a full production of Happiness is the Problem by Jason Cady, choral sections from Aaron Siegel’s Brother Brother, and Cough Button’s To Scale.


Borges and the Other will be the May 11 portion.

Borges and the Other

An opera by Matthew Welwords adapted from and inspired by

Jorge Luis Borges.


Lisa Komara, Amirtha Kidambi, Jeff Gavett and James Rogers – all as Borges!

The Borges Choir: Anne Rhodes, Hannah Collins, Robert Yaman and Dashon Burton

And Blarvuster

Leah Paul (flutes), Karen Waltuch (viola), Emily Manzo (piano), Taylor Levine and Matthew Hough (electric guitars), Ian Riggs (bass guitar), Joe Bergen (vibraphone), and Mike Pride (drum kit).

May 11, 2012 – 8pm

at Roulette

509 Atlantic Avenue (at 3rd ave)

Brooklyn, NY 11217

Most trains going near the big Atlantic Terminal will get you there