The New Amsterdam Singers, led by music director Clara Longstreth, will present the final concert of the season, titled Songs of Birds and Angels on Thursday, May 31 at 8 p.m at Saint Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church at 552 West End Avenue at 87th Street. The work that inspired the program's focus on birds is Steven Stucky's cycle, Skylarks, (2001), which is receiving its New York City premiere on this concert. Also receiving its New York City premiere is Matthew Harris' Shakespeare Songs, Book VI (2006).
Other works on this all-a cappella program include Einojuhani Rautavaara's Die erste Elegie; three songs from Brahms' Lieder und Romanzen, Op. 93a; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings from Kirke Mechem's Winging Wildly; an Irish folk song, The Lark in the Clear Air, arranged by Paul Crabtree; and Aaron Copland's Lark (1938).
Steven Stucky, recipient of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for his Second Concerto, is widely recognized as one of the leading American composers of his generation. His music is recorded on seven labels. In recent years, he has received commissions from the BBC Proms, Chanticleer, the Pennsylvania Wind Quintet, Boston Musica Viva, and the Minnesota, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore and St. Louis symphony orchestras. In addition to composing, he is active as a conductor, writer, lecturer, and teacher. For Skylarks, Mr. Stucky chose poems by Shelley, Dickinson, Edward Lear, John McCrae, Shakespeare, and a haiku by Kobayashi Issa.
Matthew Harris' highly popular choral works have been commissioned or premiered by leading choruses such as the Dale Warland Singers, Phoenix Bach Choir, Western Wind, and Cantori New York. His A Child's Christmas in Wales, a cantata for chorus and orchestra commissioned by Harmonium, is performed throughout the US and the UK. New Amsterdam Singers has previously sung and recorded many of Harris' earlier Shakespeare sets. Mr. Harris' Shakespeare choices come from Love's Labor's Lost, Cymbeline, and The Tempest.
The Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara composed Die erste Elegie to Rainer Maria Rilke's seminal poem The First Elegy in 1993. He has also written several orchestral works based on the angel figure of Rilke's elegies. Born in Helsinki in 1928, Mr. Rautavaara studied with Vincent Persichetti in New York City and Roger Sessions and Aaron Copland at Tanglewood. He is a prolific composer, with compositions that include eight symphonies, several concertos, choral works and a number of biographical operas. A new orchestral work, A Tapestry of Life, was premiered by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in 2008. He is currently working on a large-scale opera based on texts by Lorca.
This New Amsterdam Singers concert is included in the Sing New York! Festival (www.SingNewYork.org), a project of the New York Choral Consortium.
The New Amsterdam Singers was founded in 1968 by Clara Longstreth. A recent issue of The New Yorker called Ms. Longstreth "one of the more imaginative choral programmers around" and the New Amsterdam Singers "a superb amateur group." The chorus has performed with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein; American Russian Youth Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and at Tanglewood's Ozawa Hall under Leon Botstein; Concordia Orchestra and Anonymous Four in Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light with Marin Alsop at Avery Fisher Hall; and with the Limón Dance Company in Kodály's Missa Brevis. In 2010 the chorus sang concerts in Cuba and at a Holiday Open House at the White House.
For further information call (212)568-5948 or go online at www.nasingers.org. Tickets are available at the door for $25, $15 for seniors, and $10 for students. Tickets are available in advance for $20 online, by phone (212)568-5948, or by mail (New Amsterdam Singers, P. O. Box 373, Cathedral Station, New York, NY 10025).