$300,000 in Gerbode-Hewlett Commissions to Local Composers

Janos Gereben on January 28, 2014
Mark Winges of Volti
Mark Winges of Volti

San Francisco organizations and composers received six $50,000 commissions from the Wallace Alexander Gerbode and William and Flora Hewlett foundations to support the creation and production of new compositions. They are:

* Volti and Mark Winges — The choir's resident composer for a quarter century (he must have started at age 10), will combine the Volti adult choir with the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir for The Pandora Project, for which "poet Denise Newman will update the classic Pandora’s box legend." Premiere in spring of 2015.

* Door Dog Music Productions/S.F. World Music Festival and composer Anuradha Sridhar — "for a collective music process for The War Project: Propaganda, Protest, Prayer." Sridhar, trained in Carnatic music, will create "prayer-like songs for women and girls impacted by war," to premiere next winter.

* Circuit Network/San Francisco Electronic Music Festival and co-founder Pamela Z — "to create a new five-movement work inspired by the history, architecture, engineering, and cultural impact of bridges and scored for a chamber ensemble with real-time live electronic processing, text, and sampled sounds." Premiere is expected in spring of 2015.

Anuradha Sridhar (left), with student Sruti Sarathy Photo by Sherwood Chen
Anuradha Sridhar (left), with student Sruti Sarathy
Photo by Sherwood Chen

* Gamelan Sekar Jaya and founding member Wayne Vitale — "to create a suite of five experimental works for a smaller ensemble using both traditional and newly constructed and tuned instruments. Themes will be drawn from Balinese cosmology." The project will premiere in spring of 2015.

* Kronos Quartet and composer Jonathan Berger — "to create My Lai, an opera monodrama scored for tenor, string quartet, traditional Vietnamese percussion instruments, and digitally processed sounds, which will explore first-hand reflections on the My Lai tragedy." Joining Kronos will be tenor Rinde Eckert and Vietnamese performer Vân-Ánh Võ. The project will premiere during Kronos Quartet’s 2015–2016 home season.

* San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and Amy X Neuburg — "to develop a 30-minute song cycle for voice, live looping, electronics, and chamber orchestra, inspired by the composer’s experience with hunger in America today." The first electronic work to be performed by the orchestra, the project will premiere in spring of 2016 as part of SFCO’s Main Stage Concert Series.

Sekar Jaya founding member Wayne Vitale, tuning gamelan
Sekar Jaya founding member Wayne Vitale, tuning gamelan

Gerbode Foundation President Stacie Ma’a spoke about being "thrilled to continue the partnership with the Hewlett Foundation to commission new works by California artists for Bay Area arts organizations. This year, our grants will support six stellar music projects featuring a wide array of aesthetics, different genres, and myriad traditions. Of particular note, was how many of the contemporary composers were infusing narrative structures and voice into their compositions.”

John E. McGuirk, director of the Hewlett Foundation’s Performing Arts Program, added that "The recipients of this year’s grants are some of the most dynamic and exciting creators of new music in our community. New work like this is essential to cultivating a vibrant arts community, and we are proud to be able to support these artists."

The advisory panel for the grants included Philip Blackburn of the American Composers Forum and innova Recordings; Will Hermes, a senior critic at Rolling Stone; pianist, composer, singer Robin Holcomb; violinist Mary Rowell, concertmaster of the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra; and jazz pianist Helen Sung.

Winges told SFCV about his commissioned work under development:

The Pandora myth is a powerful one, and open to many different nuances: Is curiosity a bad thing (because it leads to unleashing bad things)? Is hope, because it’s the last thing left in Pandora’s box, the tiny thing that keeps us going, or is it "last" because it’s the most powerful thing there is?

I’m really looking forward to exploring how we shape the various elements of this project as Denise Newman crafts her words and as I work with the singers, their placement and how the move in they performance space. From a purely sonic standpoint, I’m really excited about combining the timbres of both young and adult voices, especially when it’s on the level of musicianship present in Volti and the Piedmont Choirs.