Under the rubric AOP25: Celebrating Composers & the Voice, The Phoenix Concerts recently joined forces with American Opera Projects to provide an exhilarating display of sparkling, innovative vocal music. It was a pleasing encounter with fresh, inventive writing for voice, from the pen of no less than a dozen composers, most of whom were present.
Given its distinctive architecture and sanctuary design, The Church of St. Matthew & St. Timothy, located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, provided a natural setting for the October 11th concert. The program itself included a wide variety of concert and theatrical styles, with texts utilized from not only such nineteenth century icons as Walt Whitman and Christina Rosetti, but in fact a larger number of composers decided upon more contemporary fare. Among the evening’s delights were musical settings of texts by contemporary poets such as Philip Larkin (Daniel Felsenfeld), Elinor Wylie (Ray Lustig), Daniel Neer (Sidney Boquiren), Vikram Seth (Conrad Cummings) and Samori Covington (Gilda Lyons). Also noteworthy was Rachel Peters’ original word and text contribution “A Commuter’s Request,” capturing a commuter’s rage in an overcrowded subway situation.
Artistic Director of The Phoenix Concerts Gilda Lyons kept the evening on the “right track,” with her own original text and music contribution, “Rapid Transit,” a witty send up of dysfunctional transit service announcements. Aside from this witty depiction of subway chaos on the program, she also set a smooth evening’s pacing with her cordial audience greeting at the concert’s outset.
With a simple formula of three superb vocalists bolstered by some very capable support at the piano, a careful mix of vocal tapestries melded together. It was an attractive overall dramatic arch effectively sustained throughout the evening. And just as well indeed, for the underlying celebratory impetus for this musical convocation was proudly and honorably confirmed by the distinctive applause at evening’s end:
Hearty congratulations to AOP upon its 25th anniversary!
All of the composers, performers and support staff from AOP and The Phoenix Concerts present at the post-concert reception are captioned in the picture above.