The Manhattan Choral Ensemble (MCE) has announced A Century of New York Psalms-an extraordinary event featuring Old Testament verses set to music by eight New York composers. The program will include three new works commissioned by the MCE for this concert from James Bassi, Christian Carey and Martha Sullivan.
Psalm settings in English and Hebrew by Leonard Bernstein, John Corigliano, Virgil Thomson, Bobby McFerrin and Nico Muhly will round out the evening, representing diverse interpretations of these ancient poems over the course of the last 100 years. Muhly's work I Cannot Attain Unto It (Psalm 139) was commissioned by the MCE in 2005 as part of the ensemble's New Music for New York project, which has produced more than 20 new choral works by aspiring and established New York City composers.
As an added visual component, illustrations by New York artist Brett Helquist (best known for the children's book cycle Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events) will be premiered as stage projections during each of the three new commissions, harkening back to a rich history of psalm illustration. Leonard Bernstein's luminous Chichester Psalms (performed with organ, harp and percussion) will close the program, marking the MCE's first performance of the work.
"It is not often that we can present such a range of musical expression with a consistent text source," said MCE Director Thomas Cunningham. "The group of composers that we can include on this program serves as a testament to the enduring power of biblical psalms and the ingenuity of New Yorkers to realize them in new ways. I am proud that the MCE can contribute to this tradition through the works we've commissioned from three extremely talented composers."
The MCE's ambitious 13th season will continue on April 1, 2013 with a premiere performance of Victoria Bond's Cyclops as part of the Cutting Edge Concerts New Music Festival at Symphony Space. With text from the "Cyclops" chapter of James Joyce's Ulysses, this innovative piece will combine chorus, orchestra and actors in reimagining a dramatic episode from one of the most important literary works of the 20th century. The MCE will conclude its season on May 18, 2013 with three newly-commissioned works for its New Music for New York program at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music.