The Oratorio Society of New York was slated to perform its program, "American Voices" featuring the New York premiere of Paul Moravec's oratorio The Blizzard Voices at Carnegie Hall on November 5, 2012, as the first program of its 140th anniversary season. But Hurricane Sandy blew into the city the week before, and the concert was one of several that had to be postponed. The OSNY milestone season opened instead with its annual performance of Handel's Messiah at Christmastime.
"American Voices" will now take place-barring another major weather event-at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday, March 5, 2013. OSNY Music Director Kent Tritle has created an all-American program about "American aesthetics, history, and experience" that presents music by Charles Ives and Aaron Copland and the New York premiere of a 2008 oratorio about an 1888 American tragedy. The concert features arrangements for chorus and orchestra of selections from Copland's Old American Songs and "The Promise of Living" from The Tender Land and two songs by Charles Ives as well as the New York premiere of Paul Moravec's The Blizzard Voices, a work based on poetry by former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser about the Great Plains Blizzard of 1888.
The program's soloists are sopranos Susanna Phillips and Maeve Höglund, mezzo-soprano Malena Dayen, tenor John Tiranno, baritone Jonathan Estabrooks, and bass Kevin Deas-all six are featured in the Moravec work and in "The Promise of Living." Kevin Deas is also the soloist in Ives's "General William Booth Enters into Heaven." Estabrooks is a past winner of the OSNY's Oratorio-Solo Competition. Kent Tritle conducts "The Promise of Living" and The Blizzard Voices; OSNY Associate Conductor David Rosenmeyer leads the Copland and Ives songs.
The Oratorio Society of New York made its debut on December 3, 1873 and performed at the opening festival of Carnegie Hall, conducted by Tchaikovsky, in May 1891. In the years since it has become the city's standard for grand choral performance. Led by Kent Tritle, in his eighth season as music director, the OSNY 140th anniversary season at Carnegie Hall concludes on April 22 with a performance of Britten's monumental War Requiem, in Britten's centennial year-Kent Tritle's first time leading the work.
The Blizzard Voices
Premiered by Opera Omaha in 2008, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec's The Blizzard Voices is an oratorio based on poetry by former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser. It tells the story of the Great Plains blizzard of 1888-often called the "Children's Blizzard" because so many schoolchildren were killed when the storm struck at mid-day on January 12, 1888. Each of Kooser's poems set to music is based on eyewitness accounts of the tragedy. The chorus takes on a number of roles- participants, narrator, and commentator.
"There's something biblical about the extent and the tragedy of the blizzard," says Moravec, which is why he chose to frame it "in the context of an Old Testament oratorio. The Blizzard Voices is essentially an American Requiem." Musically, the composer describes it as suggesting the world of 19th century music from the perspective of today.
The work's subject has a personal resonance for Kent Tritle. He grew up in northwest Iowa, not far from where the blizzard struck. "My uncle's uncle was caught in the blizzard and lost a friend, so I've heard stories about it since boyhood."