La Jolla Symphony & Chorus (LJS&C) presents the final concert of its 63rd season, “A Line Broken,” June 9-10. Music director Steven Schick leads orchestra, chorus and soloists in Rand Steiger’s “Template for Improvising Trumpeter & Orchestra,” with trumpet genius Peter Evans; Courtney Bryan’s “Yet Unheard,” featuring soprano Helga Davis; a symphonic arrangement of Ornette Coleman’s bebop classic “Lonely Woman; and Gabriel Fauré's “Requiem,” with soprano Priti Gandhi and baritone Jonathan Nussman.
“Courtney Bryan’s poignant ‘Yet Unheard,’ a memorial to Sandra Bland and African-American victims of violence, is the spiritual crux of the program,” says Schick. “There are moments that sound like jazz, that sound like gospel, and what soprano Helga Davis does with this piece is extraordinary.”
The concert opens with Rand Steiger’s “Template for Improvising Trumpeter and Orchestra,” featuring experimental trumpeter Peter Evans. This collaborative work relies on the soloist and individual performers within the orchestra to make significant creative contributions. Almost the entire solo trumpet part is improvised, with only a few brief notated phrases appearing at key moments in the score. Originally composed for trumpet soloist, electronics and 12-instrument ensemble in 2013, a new orchestra version will be performed at this concert.
Courtney Bryan cites collaboration as a key element in the creation of “Yet Unheard,” composed for orchestra, chorus and soloist Helga Davis. Commissioned and premiered in 2016 by The Dream Unfinished orchestra in The Great Hall at Cooper Union, New York City, the work features a setting of Sharan Strange’s searing poem in memory of Sandra Bland, an African-American activist, who died while in police custody.
In the words of the composer, “Through music, my aim was to mourn the tragedy of what happened to Sandra Bland and her unfinished contributions to the world, and yet to celebrate the strength of her spirit, and to recognize her humanity.” Bryan will bring the audience close to this tragedy through Davis’s voice. The combined voices of the chorus prods the audience further by asking: “How do we imagine something different?”
Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” was part of his groundbreaking 1959 album, “The Shape of Jazz to Come.” With its haunting and inscrutable melody, “Lonely Woman” soon became a jazz standard. Audiences will hear a new symphonic version at this concert arranged by Asher Tobin Chodos. Chodos creates a musical space in which orchestra and four soloists — trumpeter Peter Evans, vocalist Helga Davis, contrabassist Kyle Motl and drummer Kjell Nordeson — reimagine the beauty and power of Coleman’s original.
Setting the Requiem Mass for the Dead to music is one of those challenges that make some composers reveal their deepest nature — from the pageantry of Berlioz’s “Requiem” to the lyric drama of Verdi. What most distinguishes the “Requiem” of Gabriel Fauré is its calm. Most of the serenity comes from his alteration of the text, for he omits the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) that traditionally evokes the horror of damnation. Fauré's vision of the afterlife was not one of damnation but one of salvation, and his gentle “Requiem” has become one of the best-loved of all liturgical works. Soprano Priti Gandhi and baritone Jonathan Nussman are soloists.
La Jolla Symphony & Chorus is San Diego’s oldest and largest community orchestra and chorus. Its 100-person orchestra and 120-person chorus perform groundbreaking orchestral and choral music along with traditional favorites from the classical repertoire.
• IF YOU GO: Performances take place June 9-10, 2018 in Mandeville Auditorium on the UC San Diego campus in La Jolla. Concert times are 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Conductor Steven Schick gives a pre-concert lecture one hour prior to concert times.
Individual tickets are $35 general, $30 senior, and $15 student. Group discounts are available. Parking is free. For directions to the Mandeville Auditorium, visit mandeville.ucsd.edu/pages.php?i=6109
To purchase tickets, call the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus office at (858) 534-4637 or visit lajollasymphony.com