Choral Artists Of Sarasota Celebrates Women’s History Month With A Program Of Works By Female Composers
The Sarasota Choral Artists’ 43rd season, “Carried Away,” continues with “She Is The Music,” Sunday, March 20 at 2:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 2050 Oak Street, Sarasota.
The concert commemorates Women’s History Month with an uplifting program featuring works by female composers, including Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Alma Mahler, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach and many more. Thea Lobo, mezzo-soprano, violinist Francisca Mendoza and pianists Susan Versage and Joseph Holt will join 25 Choral Artists Singers in this concert conducted by Holt and Kevin Trapasso, the Choral Artists’ new assistant conductor.
Tickets are $35; $5 for students. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.ChoralArtistsSarasota.org or call 941-387-4900. For more information on the Covid health and safety protocol, visit https://choralartistssarasota.org/schedule/health-safety-protocol/.
According to Joseph Holt, artistic director of Choral Artists, the concert is a long-awaited celebration of brilliant female composers.
“We’re celebrating Women’s History Month by exploring the stories of great female composers,” he says. “These women have made extraordinary contributions to the world of music – usually through thick and thin. Classical music has long been a male-dominated genre. Despite this inequality, female composers have created incredible music throughout history. ” Holt adds that several of the program’s female composers were related to acclaimed male composers. These include Fanny Mendelssohn, Alma Mahler and Clara Schumann – the wife of Robert Schumann and one of the greatest concert pianists of the 19th century. According to Holt, she doubted her own songwriting abilities. “She once wrote that ‘a woman must not want to compose – there has never been one capable of doing it,'” he says. “She proved her wrong with her own compositions.” Holt adds that Schumann’s contemporary, Fanny Mendelssohn, composed over 460 pieces of music, yet her identity as a composer has been nearly lost to history.
Holt explains that the concert’s theme evolved from the Choral Artists’ 2021 Season LGBTQ-themed concert. “During the program selection process, I discovered a wealth of great music composed by female artists,” he says. “Thea Lobo then drew my attention to other composers. She also introduced me to ‘Meditation for mezzo-soprano, violin and piano’ – a beautiful piece by German pianist and composer Clara Faisst. We were delighted that the great Chilean violinist Francisca Mendoza can perform this piece with Thea for this concert.”
Compositions by Amy Marcy Cheney Beach will also be performed during this concert. Holt describes her as “a pioneering American composer whose works are rarely performed today”. He adds that Beach was a piano prodigy who stopped performing after her marriage and turned to composing instead. “She delayed her return to the stage until her husband died,” Holt said. “When Beach died in 1944, her works almost disappeared from the concert scene.”
Also on the program are two works by French composers (and sisters) Nadia Boulanger (“Soleils Couchants”) and Lili Boulanger (“Hymn to the Sun”). Lobo is the soloist of “Soleils” then joins the Choral Artists Singers for “Hymn”. Holt points out that Nadia Boulanger, in addition to being the first woman to conduct many major orchestras in America and Europe, was also the teacher of dozens of acclaimed male musicians and composers, including Daniel Barenboim, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Philip Glass, Quincy Jones, and Virgil Thomson.
The concert also includes “The Clown” composed by Ethel Smyth. Holt notes that Smyth also wrote “The March of the Women” in 1910 – the official anthem of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). “It was important to include a work by Smyth,” says Holt, adding that Lobo will perform the piece as a soloist.
Holt points out that another notable composer whose music will be featured at the concert is Florence Price, a mid-20th-century African-American pianist and composer. Although she was recognized as a prominent black composer and one of her works was premiered by a large orchestra, many of her works remained in obscurity after her death in 1953 until dozens of her sheet music being discovered in his abandoned summer house in 2009.
Hailed as “impeccable”, “clearly beautiful”, “awe-inspiring”, “breathtaking” and “Boston’s finest”, Grammy-nominated mezzo-soprano Thea Lobo recently performed as a soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra , Bucknell Bach Festival, Halcyon Chamber Series, Guerilla Opera, Sunshine City Opera, Callithumpian Consort and The Shakespeare Concerts. Other solo appearances include Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Schubert’s Mass No. 3 with the Andover Choral Society, Falla’s El amor brujo with the Brookline Symphony Orchestra, Händel Arias with the Boston Early Music Festival, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra. Lobo has also been a featured soloist with Handel and Haydn Society, Boston Baroque, Opera Boston, Northwest Bach Festival, Tucson Chamber Artists, Spire Chamber Concerts in Kansas City, and New Vintage Baroque, among others.
Chilean violinist Francisca Mendoza has performed around the world since being selected by Musical America as Young Artist of the Year in 1990. She has received outstanding accolades for her performances in Europe, the United States, Canada , Latin America, Israel and the Far East. . His album of sonatas by Debussy and Prokofiev has been called “superb” and “enchanting”. In New York, Mendoza graced the stages of Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Steinway Hall and Lincoln Center. Radio appearances have included guest starring with Robert Sherman at WQXR, New York. In addition, his concerts have been broadcast on radio and television in the United States, Latin America, Poland and Spain. Winner of numerous competitions and awards during her studies, Mendoza earned a degree in performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a master’s degree in performance and literature from the Eastman School of Music.
Kevin Trapasso is the new assistant conductor of Choral Artists. Trapasso holds a bachelor’s degree in choral music education from Arizona State and a master’s degree in choral conducting from the University of South Florida. He has conducted numerous vocal ensembles in various genres, including middle/high school choirs, show choirs and jazz ensembles, collegiate pop a cappella, and was associate conductor of the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay. Trapasso also works as a regional vocal clinician and judge for Varsity Vocals’ International Collegiate and Secondary A Cappella Singing Competition.
The Choral Artists of Sarasota includes 32 of the region’s most notable professional singers. Eight young singers, aged 16 to 22, are also invited to join the group each year, as part of the organization’s educational action. One of these talented singers will receive the Dr. Ann Stephenson-Moe Apprentice Scholarship, a funding program to support private lessons or vocal training at an institution of higher education.
“Securing the future of choral music means investing in the next generation of music lovers,” says Susan Burke, executive director of Choral Artists of Sarasota. “Bringing young singers into the professional ensemble encourages them to further develop their musical talents and appreciation of singing in an ensemble.”
For more information, visit www.ChoralArtistsSarasota.org.