Earlier this summer, I reviewed all the music Melodia has sung during our past 14 seasons in preparation for our 15th Anniversary Season. I was astonished to find more than 230 works performed by our ensemble under the direction of Cynthia Powell, Artistic Director. Among them were 12 world premieres and 9 original commissions.
As Cynthia and I look at the list of works we’ve performed, some works and composers rise to the top of our memories for their great artistry and the joy and sense of accomplishment in learning and singing them. Some of the many favorites include Holst’s Seven Part-Songs For Female Voices And Strings, Randall Thompson’s Place of the Blest for treble voices, strings and winds; and Messiaen’s Trois petites liturgies de la presence divine – an epic work performed with a 24-piece all-female orchestra.
Our challenge now is to keep digging to find works that continue to inspire us, our singers, and our audience. Looking for women’s choral gems that have rarely seen the light of day is one of our goals.
In our usual planning process, Cynthia and I bring to the table works that have caught our attention. The next step is for Cynthia to apply her special magic to the collection to create a cohesive program. For our 15th anniversary, we completed that process but still wanted to dig further to find some additional fine works.
While pondering the next steps, Cynthia pulled out a collection of scores donated to us by the estate of the late Peter Flanders, a choral conductor who worked extensively with college women’s choirs. The collection contains many works by major composers – works that are out of print and no longer available. Even the endless resources of YouTube did not yield performances for us to listen to.
Cynthia had the idea of inviting Melodia’s pianist Taisiya Pushkar to share in the process by helping us read through and listen to a collection of the works. On a sweltering afternoon in August, the three of us reviewed yellowing scores from the 1940s, and 50s, finding among them many extraordinary pieces. A signed copy of a two-part mass by Virgil Thomson and a beautiful piece by Henry Cowell titled The Coming of Light were among the many works by American composers.
Now we have a wealth of music to choose from for our 15th Anniversary Season and beyond. The final selections for our next two concerts will be announced soon.