SFGC Concludes Season with Jacobsen World Premiere




San Francisco, CA – March 21, 2018 – The San Francisco Girls Chorus and Artistic Director Designate Valérie Sainte-Agathe conclude the 2017-18 subscription season on Sunday, April 22, at 4 p.m. at the Forum at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in a program in collaboration with composer and violinist Colin Jacobsen. Featuring the world premiere of Jacobsen’s Vocalissimus, the program celebrates Lisa Bielawa’s final concert as SFGC’s Artistic Director with a musical amalgam of projects and partnerships created during her five seasons with the chorus. Selections from the ensemble’s newly released album Final Answer are featured, including Opening: Forest from Bielawa’s TV opera Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch's AccuserFinal Answer by Theo Bleckmann, Herring Run by Carla Kihlstedt and Bubbles by Aleksandra Vrebalov. Also featured on the program are three hymns from The Crucible by Philip Glass and Septuor by French composer André Caplet.
“I can’t think of a more appropriate way to celebrate my tenure with SFGC,” said Artistic Director Lisa Bielawa. “For the last five seasons, Valérie and I have shared a joyous and fruitful artistic collaboration in pursuit of important tenets that were part of my vision for the chorus – developing artistic partnerships with leading composers and ensembles; creating a core body of concert repertoire for the chorus that is distinctly ours and that showcases our signature sound; and being a champion of music of our time.”
Artistic Director Designate Valérie Sainte-Agathe added, “Lisa’s vision and collaborative spirit over the last five years has helped guide this organization through a period of numerous achievements and historic milestones. This concert is an homage to all we have accomplished together over this time, and is a fitting celebration for an Artistic Director who has helped establish and build upon our legacy as one of the premier ensembles of its kind.”
A frequent collaborator with many of the world’s leading artists, ensembles and organizations, Colin Jacobsen joins SFGC for the world premiere of the chamber version of Vocalissimus for string quartet, percussion, flute and treble chorus with the composer performing as violinist. Written as a triptych, the work combines a poem called Vocalissimus by American poet Wallace Stevens with two songs that feature texts by author Lydia Davis. Jacobsen, who has enjoyed several collaborations with SFGC as co-artistic director of the New York-based orchestra The Knights, reflected on the work by adding, “I’m attracted by the mixture of humor and sadness, the juxtaposition of the mundane and magical, the tight construction, and the elevation of consciousness to a greater level of awareness about our surroundings and how we interact with the world.”

Under the direction of Lisa Bielawa and Valérie Sainte-Agathe, two guiding principles of SFGC’s artistic activities have been to create a repertoire of works with an emphasis on American composers and to showcase SFGC’s “signature sound.” Featuring nine new works written over the past four years including seven commissions for or by the chorus, SFGC’s new album Final Answer perfectly encapsulates this work. The program will highlight three of these works: Bielawa’s own Opening: Forest from her TV opera Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch's Accuser (2015 SFGC premiere at San Francisco Symphony SoundBox); Final Answer by Theo Bleckmann (2016 SFGC premiere at NY PHIL BIENNIAL); Carla Kihlstedt’s Herring Run (2016 SFGC commission and premiere), and Aleksandra Vrebalov’s Bubbles (2016 SFGC premiere with Kronos Quartet).
Also included on the program are three hymns from Arthur Miller’s Broadway musical The Crucible, written by Philip Glass, and part of SFGC’s season-long celebration of the composer. Speaking of SFGC’s season-opening performance with members of the Philip Glass Ensemble on October 26, 2017, the Bay Area Reporter praised the performance as “ambitiously planned and perfectly executed.” As part of its February 2018 New York tour, SFGC made its Carnegie Hall debut with the Philip Glass Ensemble performing the composer’s groundbreaking work Music with Changing Parts, and returned to the Bay Area to present the same program under the auspices of San Francisco Performances. The San Francisco Chronicle lauded this “robust and dramatically affecting performance” and commented specifically on the “sweet-toned contributions of the choral singers.” 
While Strings Attached is the final program in SFGC’s 2017-18 subscription series, local audiences will have two additional opportunities in the coming months to hear the chorus in concert. SFGC will join Kronos Quartet on Saturday, April 28, for the world premiere Aleksandra Vrebalov’s Missa Supratext as part of Day 3 of the KRONOS FESTIVAL 2018 at SFJAZZ. And on Thursday, June 7, and Saturday, June 9, SFGC joins forces with Voices of Music in a presentation of Henry Purcell’s baroque operatic masterpiece, Dido and Aeneas, for the San Francisco Early Music Society’s 2018 Berkeley Festival and Exhibition.
San Francisco Girls Chorus Presents:
“Strings Attached”
Colin Jacobsen, violin
Sunday, April 22, 2018, 4:00 p.m.
Forum at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Colin Jacobsen: Vocalissimus (World Premiere of Chamber Version)
Theo Bleckmann: Final Answer
Carla Kihlstedt: Herring Run
Philip Glass: Hymns from The Crucible
Aleksandra Vrebalov: Bubbles
Lisa Bielawa: Opening: Forest from the TV opera Vireo
André Caplet: Septuor

Single tickets are priced at $25 for General Admission and $5 for Students, and can be purchased online through City Box Office at http://www.cityboxofice.com or by phone at (415) 392-4400. 
For more information, please visit http://www.sfgirlschorus.org.

Stunning vocal range, flexibility, drama, and power are among the hallmarks of the 39-year-old San Francisco Girls Chorus, recognized as one of the world’s most widely known and respected youth vocal ensembles.

Under the direction of Artistic Director Lisa Bielawa and Music Director & Principal Conductor Valérie Sainte-Agathe, SFGC has achieved an incomparable sound that underscores the unique clarity and force of impeccably trained treble voices fused with expressiveness and drama. As a result, the Chorus vibrantly performs 1,000 years of choral masterworks from plainchant to the most challenging and nuanced contemporary works created expressly for them in programs that are as intelligently designed as they are enjoyable and revelatory to experience.

This season, SFGC will present a three-concert subscription series in San Francisco at Herbst Theatre, Davies Symphony Hall, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. In February, the Chorus made its Carnegie Hall debut with Philip Glass and the Philip Glass Ensemble for a remounting of the composer's seminal 1971 work, Music with Changing Parts. The Chorus will also appear on the Kronos Quartet’s KRONOS FESTIVAL 2018, present a co-production of Henry Purcell's Baroque operatic masterpiece, Dido and Aeneas, with the San Francisco Early Music Society and Voices of Music for the 2018 Berkeley Festival & Exhibition, and again collaborate with the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Symphony.

Highlights from the 2016-2017 Season included SFGC's debut at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with The Knights for the acclaimed SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras and performances with the Kronos Quartet, for the ensemble's festival at SFJAZZ, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, and San Francisco Film Festival. SFGC also went back to the studio to record works by nine living composers, including Philip Glass, Alesksandra Vrebalov, Sahba Aminikia, Lisa Bielawa, John Zorn, and Gabriel Kahane, with the Kronos Quartet for its newest album, Final Answer, which was released in February 2018.
Other recent performance highlights include the inauguration of President Barack Obama; Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony with Gustavo Dudamel and Venezuela’s Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra; and the New York Philharmonic's 2016 NY PHIL BIENNIAL festival at Lincoln Center. Recent touring activities have taken the chorus to China, Japan, Korea, Cuba, Germany, Nordic countries, New York, Washington, D.C., and Oregon, for performances at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Oregon Bach Festival, and Britt Music Festival.
Founded in 1978, the San Francisco Girls Chorus quickly became a regional center for choral music education and performance for girls and young women ages 5-18. Hundreds of singers from 46 Bay Area cities participate in this internationally recognized program, described as “a model in the country for training girls’ voices” by the California Arts Council. The organization consists of a professional-level performance, recording, and touring ensemble; the four-level Chorus School training program; and a Preparatory Chorus for 4-7 year olds.
Violinist and composer Colin Jacobsen is “one of the most interesting figures on the classical music scene” (Washington Post). An eclectic composer who draws on a range of influences, he was named one of the top 100 composers under 40 by NPR listeners. He is also active as an Avery Fisher Career Grant-winning soloist and a touring member of Yo-Yo Ma’s famed Silk Road Ensemble. For his work as a founding member of two game-changing, audience-expanding ensembles – the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and orchestra The Knights – Jacobsen was recently selected from among the nation’s top visual, performing, media, and literary artists to receive a prestigious and substantial United States Artists Fellowship.
Colin Jacobsen’s work as a composer developed as a natural outgrowth of his chamber and orchestral collaborations. Jointly inspired by encounters with leading exponents of non-Western traditions and by his own classical heritage, his writing reveals an eclectic personal voice with a “knack for spinning lines with an elasticity that sounds uncannily like improvisation” (The New York Times). 
Among Jacobsen’s most notable compositions for Brooklyn Rider are Brooklesca, an homage to his Brooklyn home; Beloved, do not let me be discouraged..., as heard on the quartet’s acclaimed recording with Kayhan Kalhor; and Achille’s Heel, which is showcased on Dominant Curve. His most recent compositions for the group include Three Miniatures – “vivacious, deftly drawn sketches” (The New York Times), which were written for the reopening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Islamic art galleries. Jacobsen collaborated with Iran’s Siamak Aghaei to write a Persian folk-inflected composition, Ascending Bird, which he performed as soloist with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House, in a concert that was streamed live by millions of viewers worldwide. His work for dance and theater includes music for Compagnia de’ Colombari’s theatrical production of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. 
As a touring member of Yo-Yo Ma’s venerated Silk Road Project since its founding in 2000, Jacobsen has participated in residencies and performances at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hollywood Bowl, and across the U.S., as well as in Azerbaijan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, and Switzerland. Highlights of his journeys with the ensemble include performances in front of the world’s largest wooden Buddha statue in Nara, Japan; as part of Lincoln Center’s 50th anniversary celebrations; at the opening of the Shanghai Special Olympics; and at the Red Fort in Agra, India. He appears on all six of the Silk Road Ensemble’s albums.
Composer-vocalist Lisa Bielawa is a 2009 Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition. She takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. The New York Timesdescribes her music as, “ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart.” She is the recipient of the 2017 Music Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters.
Bielawa began touring as the vocalist with the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1992, and in 1997 co-founded the MATA Festival, which celebrates the work of young composers. Bielawa was appointed Artistic Director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus in 2013 and recently completed her residency at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California. Her discography includes albums on the Tzadik, TROY, Innova, BMOP/sound, Orange Mountain Music and Sono Luminus labels.
Bielawa’s music is frequently performed throughout the US and Europe, with recent and upcoming highlights including two world premieres at the 2016 NY PHIL BIENNIAL, Drama/Self Pitypremiered by the Orlando Philharmonic, performances as both composer and soloist at The Kennedy Center’s KC Jukebox series and SHIFT Festival, and a concert of her works at National Sawdust. Bielawa’s music can be found outside the concert hall as well: Chance Encounter was premiered by soprano Susan Narucki and The Knights in Lower Manhattan's Seward Park; and Airfield Broadcasts, a 60-minute work for hundreds of musicians, was premiered on the tarmac of the former Tempelhof Airport in Berlin in May 2013 and at Crissy Field in San Francisco in October 2013. Bielawa recently completed her unprecedented, made-for-TV-and-online opera Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch's Accuser with librettist Erik Ehn and director Charles Otte. Vireo was produced as part of Bielawa’s artist residency at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California and in partnership with KCETLink and Single Cel. The opera was filmed at locations across the country, and featured over 350 musicians in support of its core cast. Vireo was broadcast online and on TV by KCET. The Los Angeles Times called it an opera, “unlike any you have seen before, in content and in form,” and San Francisco Classical Voice described it as, “poetic and fantastical, visually stunning and relentlessly abstract.”
For more information, please visit www.lisabielawa.net.

Colin Jacobsen / Courtesy Colin Jacobsen
Lisa Bielawa / Carlin Ma
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