Melodia’s fall concert, Where Shadow Chases Light, features premiere works by composers Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian and Deanna Witkowski, two composers who are garnering attention, awards, commissions and accolades. Melodia is thrilled to bring to New York audiences choral works by two women composers who will have a long impact on the music of the future in both classical and jazz traditions. (Read the Melodia blog post about Horrocks-Hopayian and Red Bird, the commissioned piece she has composed for Melodia here.)
In the summer of 2017, a panel of music professionals reviewed submission by more than 52 composers who had entered the 2017 Melodia Women’s Composer’s Commission Competition, an event held every other year to bring new composers to Melodia and women’s choral repertoire. The sample work Witkowski’s sent with her submission, Where Shadow Chases Light, caught the attention of the competition panel. Artistic Director Cynthia Powell was compelled to include the piece in Melodia’s fall concert program, using its evocative title to frame the whole concert.
Where Shade Chases Light is the first of Witkowski’s two original settings of poems from a collection titled Gitanjali by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. The composer said: “I originally heard some of Tagore’s poetry in the early 2000s when I was accompanying for a vocal class on the Upper West Side taught by Jocelyn Rasmussen. Someone in that class read or sang one of Tagore’s poems, and the spiritual yet universal essence of his work stuck with me. In 2015, I wanted to write a new treble choir piece for a specific choral composition contest. I remembered Tagore and started reading through Gitanjali, marking poems that struck me with musical possibilities.”
A New York-based pianist and composer, Witkowski has released six critically hailed albums over the past two decades, with each new project revealing a steadily evolving sensibility marked by melodic invention and emotional connection. As an accompanist, she’s toured with soul-steeped vocalist Lizz Wright and held down the piano chair for ten years in the Jim McNeely–led BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra.
Witkowski’s latest album, Makes the Heart Sing: Jazz Hymns, is in three pre-nomination categories for the 2019 Grammy Awards: Best Jazz Instrumental Album; Best Improvised Jazz Solo; and Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella. With Makes the Heart to Sing, Witkowski taps into another deep tradition, using jazz to breathe new life into the communal experience of worship. “Whatever one’s faith, it’s easy to understand the abiding power in coming together in song,” says Witkowski. Listen to tracks from the album here.
Horrocks-Hopayian’s Red Bird and Witkowski’s Where Shadow Chases Light can be heard on Saturday, November 17 at 7:30 at Holy Apostles, Chelsea, and on Sunday, November 18 at 3:00pm at West End Collegiate Church, Upper West Side, NYC. Click here for further information and tickets.
Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, Red Bird
Deanna Witkowski, Where Shadow Chases Light
Gyorgy Orban, Mass No. 6
Eric Whitacre, Five Hebrew Love Songs
Gustav Holst, Ave Maria
Elena Kats Chernin, Memorial Rag