August 26, 2011

City of Boston, NEC Present Day of Remembrance Concert to Commemorate Tragedy of September 11, 2001

World Premiere of Interfaith Oratorio Highlights Performance

The world premiere of the interfaith oratorio Illuminessence: prayers for peace will highlight the City of Boston’s commemoration of the tragedy that unfolded in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania 10 years ago on September 11, 2001.  The premiere will be part of a free two-hour concert Sunday, September 11, 2011 at Jordan Hall hosted by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and New England Conservatory (NEC), and sponsored by John Hancock Financial Services, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and BNY Mellon.

Commissioned by the Vatican, the oratorio by composer Silvio Amato touches on the commonality of human aspiration and the universal spiritual impulse as expressed in the prayers of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

The 2 p.m. concert will be broadcast live from NEC’s Jordan Hall by WGBH in the first-ever simulcast of its stations, 99.5 Boston's All-Classical and 89.7 WGBH Radio.  It will be followed by radio programming devoted to the 9/11 commemoration and highlighted by interviews and tributes.
Under the direction of critically acclaimed conductor Benjamin Zander, the performing forces for the concert will all be young people, including the NEC Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, the senior most orchestral ensemble in NEC’s Preparatory School.
Illuminessence will feature three soloists, all associated with Boston and the Conservatory.  They include:

Soprano Kirsten Scott '08 PREP, a native of Dover, Massachusetts and recent Wellesley College graduate, who sang in NEC’s Youth Camerata and Chorale throughout high school.  Currently she is a graduate student in opera at the Mannes School of Music in New York City.

Mezzo-soprano Cristina Bakhoum ‘12 GD, a native of Houston. She received her Bachelor of Music in 2008 from Loyola University in New Orleans and her Master of Music in 2010 from Florida State University. She is currently a student of Luretta Bybee. At NEC, she sang the role of Dido in NEC’s 2011 production of Dido and Aeneas.

Tenor Michael Kuhn, ’12 M.M., a native of Crofton, Maryland. He received his Bachelor of Music in 2010 from Syracuse University. A student of Karen Holvik, he sang the title role in Candide and Tamino in The Magic Flute at NEC in 2010-11.

The chorus is composed of singers from the NEC Youth Chorale (Jonathan Richter, director), and the Handel & Haydn Society’s Young Men’s and Young Women’s Choruses (Joseph Stillitano and Alyson Greer, directors).  All students from the Boston metro area, the H&H performers are participants in the Society’s Vocal Apprenticeship Program, a branch of its Karen S. and George D. Levy Educational Outreach Program. The Vocal Apprenticeship Program is one of NEC's Educational Partnerships.

Silvio Amato is an Italian composer and pianist previously based in Milan but a resident of Boston since his daughter came here for college three years ago. He is widely known and admired in his native country for his theatre, film and television music.  The commission of Illuminessence came about after a performance in Assisi of a ballet score Amato had written. The Monsignor of the Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi suggested the composer write something that would inspire harmony between religions. The project would be a natural for Assisi because it is home to the John Paul II Center for Inter-religious Dialogue—which had its genesis in Pope John Paul II’s World Days of Prayer for Peace in 1986 and 2002.

Amato says that two well known 20th century oratorios served as inspiration for Illuminessence: Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. Bernstein’s work is “permeated by profound spiritual messages while Britten’s meditates on the ethical-religious implications of the tragedy of World War II,” he says. In addition, “the literature in Enzo Bianchi’s The Book of Prayers provided a solid starting point for the writing…” Along the way, Amato consulted with rabbis and imams about a suitable selection of Jewish and Islamic prayers for his setting. He says his style of music is “classical but not difficult classical. I wanted to make something for the people…music more suitable for the common ear.”

The concert program on September 11 will open with The Star-Spangled Banner, followed by Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Massenet’s Meditation from Thais with 14-year old Yuki Beppu as violin soloist. Beppu, an NEC Prep student since 2003, has appeared as soloist with the Lexington and Waltham Symphony Orchestras and performed with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Lynn Chang at the 2007 Inauguration Gala for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. More recently, she played at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston for President Barack Obama and Governor Patrick (2010).

After these works, the musicians will debut Illuminessence, followed by an excerpt from the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony that features the famous Ode to Joy.
Speaking of the event, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said: “I am very proud of all the individuals and organizations that have come together to create a poignant yet inspirational program which commemorates one of the saddest moments in our nation’s history.  As we were ten years ago, today we are all one.”

NEC President Tony Woodcock said: “This day should remind all of us of the worthiness of strengthening ties with our neighbors and developing profound connections to people and cultures we don’t understand well. We are honored that NEC Preparatory and College musicians were chosen to take part in this important event of remembrance, reconciliation, and peaceful coexistence.”

While the concert is free, tickets are required. Patrons wishing to attend should reserve their general admission tickets either by calling the Jordan Hall Box Office at 617-585-1260 or picking up their tickets in person. The Box Office is open 10 am-6 pm Monday-Friday, 12 pm-6 pm Saturday, and 1.5 hours before the performance. Given the expected demand for admission and the hard start time necessitated by the radio broadcast, the audience is requested to obtain tickets early and to be seated in the auditorium by 1:45 p.m. on September 11. After that time, any empty seats will be filled on a first come-first served basis.

For further information, check the NEC Website. Or call the NEC Concert Line at 617-585-1122.  NEC’s Jordan Hall is located at 30 Gainsborough St., between Huntington Ave. and St. Botolph St. It is handicapped accessible.

Photo of World Trade Center Memorial Lights courtesy of Shivam Patel.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Public Relations Manager
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115