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International Orange Chorale Celebrates Crystal Anniversary

June 4, 2019

Seemingly acting on Ecclesiastes 1:9 — “What has been will be again / What has been done will be done again / There is nothing new under the sun” — the International Orange Chorale of San Francisco (IOCSF) is celebrating its 15th anniversary with “Re-Set,” a concert of modern settings of old texts.

Performances are set for June 8, at 7:30, in Berkeley’s Christ Church; June 9, at 5, in St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco (a 15th anniversary celebration); and June 15, at 7:30, in St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco. Admission is free at the “Re-Set” concerts on June 8 and 15, donations are welcome; tickets are $20 for June 9.

The program is described by Artistic Director Zane Fiala: “We invited our two previous music directors to each conduct a piece they chose, and built a program to complement works by Frank Martin and Eric Whitacre. We also look forward to premiering a new piece.”

The premiere is Te Puse Collares, a dramatic reimagining of a Federico García Lorca poem by IOC’s 2019 Composer-in-Residence Robin Estrada. Also on the program: contemporary compositions by Ola Gjeilo, Graeme Langager, Frank LaRocca, James MacMillan, Frank Martin, Stephen Paulus, Brian Schmidt, Urmas Sisask, Nicholas Weininger, Eric Whitacre, and David Wikander.

Estrada’s work uses only a single pitch class, allowing no use of melodic variation to provide musical form. Instead, the piece weaves different vocal colors, vowels, dynamic changes, and articulations to produce a dramatic emotional expression of an excerpt from Federico García Lorca’s anguished, surrealistic love poem “Aire de nocturno.”

“This season represents both a look back at a glorious heritage and a look forward to an exciting, innovative future,” says Fiala. “As we celebrate 15 years of IOCSF, we continue to build on our traditions with music from the past hundred years drawing on texts from the past 2,000 years.”

Jeremy Faust, founding artistic director and director of new music, is flying in from Boston, where he is both an emergency-room physician and conductor of choral music. Locally, Faust goes back to the days of Mady Bacon’s San Francisco Boys Chorus, and he says of the ongoing connection that “So much of what influences me now as a composer I was first exposed to in the SFBC.”

His comment on the current concerts: “It’s so moving for me to see how this ensemble has fulfilled the early vision we had. The group continues to focus on challenging a cappella choral music that connects with our audience. Every third season or so is entirely focused on premiering pieces by living composers, many of them emerging talents who have gone on to great careers. And at 40 voices, this group can truly do anything.”

Assistant Conductor Elizabeth Kimble added: “The community and family that naturally grows from this ensemble is one of the most amazing and rewarding aspects of IOCSF. The friendships that are forged here become some of the strongest bonds many of us have, and we’ve even celebrated several IOCSF weddings over the years!

“Not only do we strive for our highest musical caliber, we also deeply care about each other, and celebrate our joys and lean into our struggles together. It is a joy and privilege to be part of the IOCSF family, which unquestionably extends to all alums and audience members. Once you’re in, you’re always part of this community, no matter where life takes you.

IOCSF, founded in 2003, is named after the color of the Golden Gate Bridge. The ensemble received the 2011 Chorus America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. The auditioned volunteer-based chamber choir is devoted to performing established repertoire of all periods, with particular attention to contemporary music including newly commissioned works by promising composers.

The Chorale has performed world premieres of more than 40 works by such composers as David Conte, Nico Muhly, and Caroline Shaw, and has also presented regional premieres of works including Milton Babbitt’s Music for the Mass, Thomas Ades’s Fayrfax Carol, and the 2008 revision of Jake Heggie’s Faith Disquiet.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].