SAN FRANCISCO GIRLS CHORUS PRESENTS WEST COAST PREMIERE OF GAWLICK/BRECHT "KINDERKREUZZUG"
WORLD PREMIERE OF NEW ARRANGEMENT OF PHILIP GLASS’S FATHER DEATH BLUES PLUS LILI BOULANGER’S PIE JESU
San Francisco, CA, February 12, 2015 –The five-time Grammy-winning San Francisco Girls Chorus will present the West Coast premiere of German-Kurdish composer Ralf Yusuf Gawlick’s Kinderkreuzzug (Children’s Crusade) based on Bertolt Brecht’s moving account of a group of war orphans who band together to collectively survive the hardships inflected on them by adult conflict and search for a land of peace. The program, conducted by SFGC Principal Conductor Valérie Sainte-Agathe, will also feature the world premiere of a new arrangement by Philip Glass and SFGC Artistic Director Lisa Bielawa of Glass’s Father Death Blues, a setting of Allen Ginsberg’s poem of the same name, and Lili Boulanger’s ethereal and stunning Pie Jesu. Two performances will be given Friday, April 17, at 8 pm at First Congregational Church, Berkeley; and Sunday, April 19 at 4 pm at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco.
Tickets are priced $36 for Reserved; $26 and $18 (Students) for General Admission. They are available for purchase through City Box Office; by phone at 415-392-4400; online at www.cityboxoffice.com; or in person at City Box Office, 180 Redwood Street, Suite 100, San Francisco (Monday – Friday, 9:30am-5pm).
“Our April concert weekend brings the artistic depth and expressive range of our young singers to a subject that is as relevant in our own time as in the times when these stories and pieces were written: the impact of war and conflict on the lives of children,” says SFGC Artistic Director Lisa Bielawa. “Brecht's Kinderkreuzzug, penned in 1941 in response to a story he heard about a nomadic community of war-orphaned children walking across Poland together, is the lodestar for the program, in a beautiful setting by German-Kurdish composer Ralf Gawlick. We hear Allen Ginsburg's words too - his own meditation on Death and those it leaves behind in Father Death Blues, his Buddhist-informed collaboration with Philip Glass (in an arrangement made expressly for our young singers, for this performance, by Philip and myself); and Lili Boulanger's Pie Jesu, composed when she herself was on her deathbed--herself only 24 years old--just months after attending to wounded soldiers on the field as a nurse during World War I.
When Bielawa was a member of the San Francisco Girls Chorus in her teens, she was profoundly affected by learning and performing a work about children’s experiences of war that was an important influence in her development as an artist. “No world history class at my school had anywhere near the impact of this experience: we sang multiple performances - many in Bay Area Jewish temples - of Charles Davidson's I Never Saw Another Butterfly, with texts written by children in the Terezin camp. When I felt the impact of our singing on these audiences, in the context of this emotionally demanding yet beautifully human and expressive musical work, I came to a new understanding of what a musical performance could be, how important our role as choral singers could be, in the face of some of our society's most troubling sorrows. I knew when I discovered Gawlick's Kinderkreuzzug that this work could give our singers an opportunity to fill this role for today's audiences, and deepen our whole community's shared understanding of our human history and of its dark shadows in our own time.”
About Kinderkreuzzug Composer Ralf Yusuf Gawlick says, “In the years following his 1933 escape from Nazi Germany Bertolt Brecht penned some of his most extraordinary and grim anti-war poetry. This bitter, anti-war literary crusade finds one of its most poignant expressions in a ballad that springboards with dramatic precision from reality to intimate, personal contemplations of that same reality. The Kinderkreuzzug consists of 35 4-line stanzas. Brecht's simple and direct tone betrays a lyric force and beauty that stems from and unfolds in an unadorned and episodic story-telling style that is never sentimental or callous.
“Kinderkreuzzug is a dramatic cantata for children's voices and small chamber ensemble including clarinet, string trio (vln, vla, vc), sanctus bells, and organ. The story is simple: in 1939, fifty-five war-orphaned children embark from Poland in search of a land of peace. Brecht's socio-political commentary is as relevant and necessary today as when it was first published in 1941.
“There is nothing new in the deprivation, want, suffering, and death Brecht profiles. Nor is there any redemptive moral hidden in the lost innocence, dogged hope, and simple sincerity of this little band of children. They are neither martyrs nor heralds of goodwill, but simply orphans who are hungry and tired. Their plight and wretchedness are actually quite unremarkable and all too familiar tale in that each generation from time past to time present bears witness to such pitiful crusades. Even hope has become ordinary. In fact the only extraordinary outcome would be for these children to actually find a land of peace.
“I felt utterly compelled to write this music. Brecht's children still walk and suffer in our collective conscience. Although my music may not give bread, it just may harbor their hope, and ours, for the extraordinary.
About Ralf Yusuf Gawlick Ralf Yusuf Gawlick, born in Pfaffenhofen-an-der-Ilm, Germany in 1969, is of Kurdish descent but has never lived in his ethnic homeland or in the town where he was born. Educated in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Austria, Poland and the United States, Dr. Gawlick holds degrees from the University of California, Santa Barbara (B.M. cum laude), the University of Texas at Austin (M.M.) and the New England Conservatory of Music (D.M.A).
Similarly, his music travels far afield by drawing inspiration from and engaging with literary, visual and musical landscapes both in time and place. This dialogue across centuries and among the arts informs much of his solo, chamber, orchestral, film and vocal music.
Through noteworthy festivals, recordings, and commissions, his work has received both national and international recognition, including grants, fellowships and awards from the American Composers Orchestra, American Music Center, ASCAP, SCI, the Moniuszko Musical Society, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Britten-on-the-Bay International Piano Composition Competition, the 1st Karol Szymanowski International Composers Competition and most recently, the Red Note New Music Festival International Composition Competition. Groups championing Mr. Gawlick's works include the Slovak State Philharmonic, the Missouri Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the American Composers Orchestra, The Civic Symphony Orchestra of Boston, Sinfonietta Polonia, the New England Conservatory Classical Orchestra, the Knabenchor der Chorakademie Dortmund, the Gütersloh Knabenchor, the Poznan Boy's Choir, the Treble Chorus of New England, Youth Pro Musica, New York's Music at the Anthology (MATA), Composers in Red Sneakers, Majestic Brass, the Hawthorne and Atma String Quartets, as well as numerous new music ensembles and distinguished soloists.
In 2003, Mr. Gawlick was the American selection at the 1st Festival of Contemporary Art in Kosice, Slovakia. Zrodlo, for soprano solo, mixed chorus and full orchestra, was commissioned in 2004 for the 25th anniversary of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Boston and the United States. The following year, his work At the still point of the turning world for solo violoncello was selected by the Miami ISCM Section as one of six works sent to the 2005 World Music Days in Zagreb, Croatia, representing the United States. His compositional oeuvre includes solo, chamber, orchestral and choral music as well as music for a film documentary commemorating the 20th anniversary (2009) of the fall of the Berlin Wall, music commissioned by the German Embassy (Washington D.C.) and Boston College. The world première of his cantata Kinderkreuzzug in April 2010, written for the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII, was supported by the German Consulate General Boston, the Jesuit Institute, Boston College as well as the Goethe Institutes in Boston and Munich. In addition to the European premiere of Kinderkreuzzug in Dortmund, Germany, in June 2012, and a performance for the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII in Poland, August, 2014, his song-cycle Kollwitz-Konnex (...im Frieden seiner Hände) was performed at the Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln by soprano Anne Harley and guitarist Eliot Fisk in April 2013. Missa gentis humanæ, a Mass for eight-voice a cappella choir was recently premièred by Julian Wachner and the Grammy-nominated Choir of Trinity Wall Street. Mr. Gawlick's music, broadcast on National Public Radio, is available on the Capstone label and Musica Omnia. He currently teaches at Boston College.
MEDIA CONTACT Scott Horton Communications 510-735-9200 Scott@SHCommunications.org