Cube Calendar Articles from 2003

Celebrating the Muses
CUBE’s Fifteenth Anniversary Concert

CUBE will present a concert of large ensemble pieces by its Co-artistic Directors Patricia Morehead and Janice Misurell-Mitchell in celebration of its Fifteenth Anniversary. The program features works for voice and ensemble on poetry by African American women and will be conducted by Philip Morehead. The concert is sponsored in part by the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation and the Center for Race, Politics and Culture at The University of Chicago.

As part of the celebration there will be readings given by the poets, Angela Jackson and Regina Harris Baiocchi, on Saturday, March 15 at 3:00pm at the University of Chicago at a space to be announced. The readings are sponsored by the Center for Race, Politics and Culture at the University and will be free and open to the public.

The concert will take place in the auditorium of the Harold Washington Library Center on Sunday, March 16 at 2:30 PM. It will begin with Dichophony, a fanfare for two trumpets by Janice Misurell-Mitchell.

Ms. Misurell-Mitchell’s second work, Sermon of the Middle-Aged Revolutionary Spider, for tenor, chamber ensemble and Gospel choir, is based on the poem by Angela Jackson, a widely acclaimed poet from Chicago. The composition received Second Prize in the Miriam Gideon Competition sponsored by the International Alliance for Women in Music in 2000; it was performed at DePaul University in 1997. The piece is presented dramatically, as a sermon given by the tenor, who is a preacher; the instrumentalists play the role of a congregation which also performs. The monodrama addresses ideas of social change through communal activity. It was written for nationally renowned tenor William Brown, who will repeat his role as “singing-preacher” in this performance. Mr. Brown, Professor of Voice at the University of North Florida, has performed with the New York City Opera, Baltimore Opera, Opera Ebony and the Florentine Opera, among others, and has appeared with Boston Musica Viva, the Kitchen Concerts in New York, the San Francisco Contemporary Players, the Black Music Repertory Ensemble in Chicago and ensembles in Europe and Asia. He has recorded for New World Records and Videmus Recordings.

Patricia Morehead is represented by two works for voice and chamber ensemble. Good News Falls Gently for soprano and chamber orchestra is based on three poems by Chicago poet and composer Regina Harris Baiocchi. The three poems are sacred in nature and portray God from a feminist perspective: God, the Son and the Holy Ghost are presented as being female rather than male in these three poems. The music is inspired by American spirituals. The piece was commissioned by Incontri di Musica Sacra Contemporanea and premiered in Bari, Trani and Rome, Italy in the fall of 1995 by the Orchestra Sinfonica of Bari.

The first poem, Trinity, begins the composition and the three verses are interspersed between the second and third poems in the manner of a refrain. Thus the first poem which surrounds the second and third poems helps to organize the large scale musical structure of the work. This refrain uses cluster chord sounds or vertical chords which begin the piece to create a sense of expectancy and longing. Each time it returns it is transformed with the last version ending on a tonal resolution coming from the initial sets of chords.

The second poem, Good News Falls Gently, uses dance-like rhythms and the melodic qualities of a spiritual to capture the ritualistic yearnings of womankind. I tried to create the feel and tone of a spiritual without using one that we all know. The third poem, Intercessions, speaks with the ecstatic vision of one person, speaking for all of us, both male and female. Its musical materials are derived from the original cluster chords which were presented vertically at the beginning of the work and are now presented in a horizontal or melodic realization and layered canonically over each other creating an exciting orchestral texture to support the text.

The CUBE performance will be the US premiere. The soloist is soprano Jonita Lattimore, a former ensemble member of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists. Ms. Lattimore has performed with the Grant Park, Ravinia and Aspen Music Festivals, the Houston, Fort Worth, Richmond, Grand Rapids, Charlotte, Lake Forest and Rockford Symphonies, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Illinois, DuPage, Skokie Valley and St. Cloud Symphony Orchestras, the Chicago Sinfonietta, and was the leading soprano in the Goodman Theater’s production of Cry, the Beloved Country.

Ms. Morehead’s The Wonderful Musician for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble is a setting of the poem of the same name from the collection Transformations by Anne Sexton. The work was premiered by the Contemporary Chamber Players at The University of Chicago with Constance Beavon, soprano and Barbara Schubert, conductor.

Ms. Morehead writes: “I have long been attracted to the works of Anne Sexton. Her poetry speaks to some of my innermost feelings and calls forth many musical images and designs. I chose to set The Wonderful Musician because of its powerful portrait of music as a seductive force. This poem, with its commentary on modern life in the guise of an old Grimm fairy tale, the Brementown Musicians, has attracted me for a long time, as have all of her Transformations poems. Cluster-type string chords create the atmosphere for this setting and are used to define the form. A jazzy dance motive evokes the urban setting, and a motive influenced by Russian folk song evokes the powerful and sometimes sinister character of the musician. I have chosen to use lots of different woodwind colors to depict the various characters involved in the action of the story: the “womanly” fox, the “greedy” wolf, the hare (“a child of the dark”), the “rabid” dog, “drowse-belly” the snake, and the woodcutter. It is a continuous dramatic setting of a very gripping story, weaving these musical motives together in a variation-like procedure that impels the listener to the final moment.”

CUBE’s performance will feature mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley, also an alumna of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists. Ms. Bentley has appeared with opera companies throughout the country, and has been featured as an oratorio soloist with George Manahan, Raymond Leppard, Oliver Knussen, Pierre Boulez and Robert Shaw. She performs in Chicago with Mostly Music, CUBE, the Contemporary Chamber Players, the Orion Ensemble, Pinotage, Ensemble Noamnesia, the Chicago Chamber Musicians, and Chicago Opera Theater. She performed Le marteau sans maître with Pierre Boulez in New York and sang Lucretia in last season’s production of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia by the Chicago Opera Theatre.



On November 9, 2003, at 2pm at Thorne Hall, as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, CUBE will perform Ned Rorem’s chamber work Winter Pages (1981), Quintet in twelve movements for clarinet, bassoon, violin, cello and piano, the performance to be followed by an interview with the composer by John von Rhein.

The composer writes about Winter Pages:

In October of 1980 my old friend Charles Wadsworth and I had lunch at O’Neill’s (eggs Benedict, chocolate truffles, espresso) to discuss the length, choice of instruments, degree of difficulty, fee, and deadline for the piece I had long been wishing he’d invite me to write, tailor-made for his Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Here, too, the color combination was unprecedented in catalogs of chamber music —and I knew the instrumentalists before I set pen to paper: Gervase de Peyer, clarinet; Loren Glickman, bassoon; James Buswell, violin; Leslie Parnas, cello; and Charles himself on piano.

During the first cold weeks of 1981 I began writing the quintet in New York, completing it in Nantucket in late May. The suite of twelve pieces is a diary of the season, each entry leading to the next, reworking the same concerns which nevertheless shift their mood according to the weather. The whole represents a plateau from where, as the future grows narrower, the past seems more widely open to reinterpretation. Today I dwell autumnally — winterishly, even — upon my teen years in Chicago, where I wrote my first songs on American poetry. This “dwelling” forms the core of Winter Pages.

My nonvocal works are songs without texts. Indeed, so firmly do I rely on the poor singer within me longing to get out that the music feels almost like verse without words. Yet, since nonvocal music can never contain a uniformly identifiable program (music is not literature), I often, like many another “impressionist,” take pains to suggest images through titles. A musical rose by another name smells differently.

The following is biographical information on the composer from the article in Grove’s Dictionary by Anthony Tommasini.

American composer and writer Ned Rorem was born in Richmond, IN, October 23, 1923. He grew up in Chicago, where he studied the piano with Bonds and music theory with Sowerby. His interests focused early on 20th-century music, especially the works of Stravinsky and the French Impressionists. Billie Holiday, whose artistry he has written about eloquently, also made a lasting impression.

Rorem began studies at Northwestern University in 1940, but left in 1942 to enter the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. He found classes at Curtis stultifying, however, and believed his composition teacher, Rosario Scalero, to be too rigid and conservative. In late 1943 he left Curtis and became secretary and music copyist to Virgil Thomson in New York. Though he never studied composition with Thomson, he benefited from his instruction in orchestration and prosody.

Rorem spent the summers of 1946 and 1947 as a fellowship student at Tanglewood, where he was part of Copland’s composition class. Copland, he later wrote, “was less a pedagogue than an adviser – a sort of musical protocol expert”. He eventually completed his formal training at the Juilliard School (BA 1947, MM 1949). In 1948 The Lordly Hudson , on a text by Paul Goodman, was deemed the “best published song of the year” by the Music Library Association and Overture in C, recipient of the Gershwin Prize, was performed by the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall.

In 1949 Rorem went to Paris, where he studied at the Ecole Normale de Musique with Arthur Honegger. After travels through Morocco, he settled in Paris in 1952, where he lived for six years, winning acceptance into the literary and musical circle of Cocteau, Auric and Poulenc, and gaining the patronage of Marie-Laure de Noailles. Increasing attention to his compositions in the USA compelled his return to New York in 1958. He later taught at the University of Buffalo (1959–60) and the University of Utah (1965–7), and in 1980 was appointed to the Curtis Institute.

Outside musical circles, Rorem became known for his writing, particularly his diaries. The Paris Diary of Ned Rorem (New York, 1966/ R) includes sharp, elegantly written observations on culture, people, music and more. His nonchalant, guiltless accounts of his homosexual life, three years before the Stonewall uprising started the modern gay liberation movement, made Rorem a hero to 1960s youth. Three additional autobiographical volumes followed: The New York Diary (New York, 1967), The Final Diary (New York, 1974), and The Nantucket Diary (San Francisco, 1987). He has also published Knowing When to Stop (New York, 1994), a memoir of his early years. Rorem’s several books of essays, which discuss topics from fellow composers to pop culture, also reveal him to be a trenchant music critic and insightful witness to his times.

Though many of Rorem’s musical works exhibit advanced harmonic techniques – altered chords, polytonal passages and patches of modified serialism – he has never strayed far from diatonicism. His use of tonal materials, however, produces striking variety, complexity and, often, intensity. Though he is best known as a composer of songs, it was an orchestral suite, Air Music (1974), that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1976. His many orchestral works are distinguished by timbral exploration, rhythmic inventiveness and harmonic richness. The Piano Concerto for Left Hand and Orchestra (1993) is notable for its structural ingenuity. The work’s eight movements include an opening and closing passacaglia interspersed with a tarantella, hymn, duet, vignette and medley, fashioned into three larger sections.

— excerpted from Anthony Tommasini: Ned Rorem, The New Grove Dictionary of Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed [August 28, 2003]), <>

Our readers may also want to visit
for a very interesting interview with the composer by Jay Nordlinger.