UCI Chamber Singers Premieres New Work at Walt Disney Concert Hall
Seth Houston, Director of Choral Activities and Associate Chair for Performance, led UCI Chamber Singers and a consortium of other performers in a world premiere performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Tuesday, October 9. The work, Oscillations: One Hundred Years and Forever, by New York-based composer Ellen Reid, was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic as part of its centennial celebration. UCI Chamber Singers was joined by singers from USC Thornton School of Music and the Donald Brinegar Singers, video artists Keith Skretch and Hana S. Kim, vocalists Kelci Hahn, Angelica Rowell (UCI ’18), Jodie Landau, and Joel Nesvadba, percussionist Sidney Hopson, and sound design elements. Twelve members of UCI Chamber Singers also played bell plates, which were custom made for the work. In addition to the premiere, which was presented as part of LA Fest: LA’s Newest Music and the Green Umbrella Series, the ensemble performed the work again on Thursday, October 11, as part of a concert with Andrew Bird and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The work, a sound installation in which a ten minute musical loop repeats ad infinitum, also featured video art that bathed the performers and the surrounding space—Disney Hall’s garden amphitheatre—with abstracted images of stone, streets, and historical photographs. In his review for the Los Angeles Times (October 15, 2018), Mark Swed wrote: “A large, ecstatic chorus transformed Keck Amphitheatre in the Disney garden into a mystical evocation of a forgotten but eerily present Los Angeles… It was transfixing.” Jim Farber, writing for the San Francisco Classical Voice (October 11, 2018), likened the work to “an endlessly unrolling scroll.”
UCI Chamber Singers, under Houston’s direction, first worked with composer Ellen Reid to present the pre-premiere “workshop performance” of her dreams of the new world, with a libretto by Sarah LaBrie, on November 11, 2017. That work, which was commissioned by the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, was premiered by the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Walt Disney Concert Hall on May 13, 2017.
Houston is especially proud of the members of UCI Chamber Singers, who completed their second performance of the work exactly two weeks after the first day of classes, which is when the choir was auditioned together. In addition to learning a complex contemporary score in a very short time, the singers had to memorize the work, learn associated movements, and (for twelve singers) learn a bell plate part. They also devoted their first Saturday of the year to an all-day rehearsal retreat and drove to Glendale or Los Angeles five times to rehearse or perform. The singers impressed all they met with their musicianship, professionalism, and esprit de corp.
UCI Chamber Singers is grateful to UCI Illuminations for its generous support of the project.
Photo: Jim Farber, San Francisco Classical Voice. Used by permission.
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