Since moving to California 5 years ago my sf bay area rhythm section became THE rhythm section. With Aaron Germain (bass) and Jordan Glenn (drums) at Benicia Sk8 ruins in the ditch at Lake Herman – today we rehearsed fir our Piping Live gig this coming August and squeezed in some promo pics!
“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.
“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
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!
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
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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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
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
509 Atlantic Avenue (at 3rd ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Most trains going near the big Atlantic Terminal will get you there
Dear Friends, at the end of the summer I’ll be moving up to New Haven to study at Yale. I’m very excited to dive right in and compose a bunch of new music (time for which has been scarce for me these days). It has been an amazing ten years in New York, I can’t ever see how it won’t be a major part of my life in retrospect and continue to be so in the future. I’d love to see many faces this summer despite my reclusive disposition these days (don’t worry I’m not going far).
I have 2 performances coming up that I’d love for you to check out, so there’s a start!
During the first hour at the Bang on a Can Marathon (some where around 11ish-ish in the morning) my Double Concerto for Bagpipe, Piano and Percussion Ensemble – The Self and the Other will be performed by 8 percussionists from the Queens College Percussion Ensemble, Amanda Accardi on piano, myself of bagpipes and Michael Lipsey conducting. This piece is a doozey to assemble and it still feels in some kind of premiere mode even though it’s from 2004 (you can find a recording on my Tzadik CD Dream Tigers). The Queens College group performed this a month ago with me as part of their Spring program, and are now gearing up for the marathon. This work was written during an intense time of gamelan study and an intense time of reading Borges (“The Self and the Other” is a poetry collection of Borges). The magical yet erudite world of Borges motivated a similar fictional musical situation in myself, and many Borges inspired works have followed this one. At the Marathon we’ll present 2 out of the three movements. So come catch the many acts at the marathon, and come early to see this one!!!
June 19 – Bang on a Can Marathon – World Financial Center – Winter Garden 11am-12mid
June 29 – REDSHIFT Ensemble will premiere at Galapagos my newest composition (for violin, clarinet, cello and piano + tape) called The Favrile Opalescence. This piece is a year of ideas all wrapped up into one little package. As some of you know I have been subjecting myself to two years of intense counterpoint and harmony in private studies (which almost completely takes over the writing part of your life), and for a while have been getting addicted to Early music. This piece may perhaps be a sign of a new or further evolved compositional language for me – or this poor piece had to suffer some extreme multi-faceting on my part as I slowly wrote it and imagined the shapes of the lines along side many metaphorical streams of thought (the creative nebula of the idea really grew like an organism over the year). It is dedicated to my nieces Sophie and Camden in the spirit of new growth, but along with that are visits to chicago, Frank Lloyd Wright, stained glass, Tiffany glass’s opalescence, iridescence, the iridescence of blackbirds, bird sounds and songs in Alaska, wildlife land- and soundscapes, Kathy Turco’s “Birds of the North”, being cold (the part of this piece that made through this winter), the chromaticism of Gesualdo’s late madrigals, contrapuntal extension of Balinese kotekan (interlocking techniques), the shattering of a sound object (shards of which overgrown with ivy) and somewhere buried in there an original Welch bagpipe tune that is very asymmetrical with respect to convention . . . . . I thought if my ingredient mixing strategy to composing were to burst at the seams, this is it – I’m really curious to hear it, it’s gonna be totally weird in a way that is . . .
June 29 – REDSHIFT presents Arctic Sounds + Mivos Quartet @ Galapagos 7pm
and July, I’ll be around for hangs (no gigs, and we at Welch Industries like that idea for July)
also I’ll be publishing a number of chamber pieces over the rest of the year with the American Composer’s Alliance starting with my string quartet Siubhal Turnlar (also on my Dream Tigers CD)
hope to see you!
Bagpiper Matthew Welch released his striking debut Ceol Nua just past the age of 25, and followed it up three years later with Dream Tigers, one of 2005’s best. The multi-talented New Yorker’s work is marked by the exploration of intersections between incongruous ethnic musical traditions. As always, his cross-cultural collisions on Blarvuster sound both excitingly novel and uncannily natural. On the first six tracks, Welch’s bagpipes lead his sextet through verdant Celtic terrain, buttressed by a rock rhythm section and peppered with Indonesian flourishes. It’s Welch at his most straightforwardly melodic, the joyous arrangements fluidly serpentine, their beauty intricately woven like a Celtic knot. Welch’s debut as a vocalist, though, may provide the bumps in the road for some listeners. He sings wordless canntaireachd (a system developed to aid bagpipers in the communication of music without pipes at the ready), whose high pitch and nasal quality doesn’t mesh as well with the music as his bagpipes, though they add a nice bit of gristle to the smoother tracks. Blarvuster ends with Canntaireachd Masolah, a 30-minute Eastern-influenced opera in four movements. Welch’s canntaireachd meshes more organically this time around, and the music has a moody and mysterious air that communicates emotion with nary an understandable word. Welch’s music is equally appealing intellectually and aesthetically, and Blarvuster is another strong entry in an already impressive oeuvre.
– Adam Strohm