Where does patriotism end and nationalism begin? Are there universal values that transcend national borders? The Crossing, hailed as an “ardently angelic” chamber choir by The Los Angeles Times, considers these difficult questions with works by three powerhouse composers: Pulitzer Prize winners David Lang and Caroline Shaw and Pulitzer Prize finalist Ted Hearne. The strings players of ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) magnify the impact of this stirring and timely concert.
From Peak Performances’ executive director, Jedediah Wheeler: “Donald Nally has created our country’s most forward-thinking choral ensemble, The Crossing. The Crossing will perform the national anthems composed by David Lang with the incomparable International Contemporary Ensemble providing strings. Lang explores the relationships and meanings of 100 different anthems from around the world. Another Pulitzer winner, Caroline Shaw, adds her voice, considering the displacement of refugees, while celebrated Los Angeles-based composer Ted Hearne seeks to understand gender inequality and sexual violence.”
Alexander Kasser Theater
Join Peak Performances’ executive director Jedediah Wheeler, composer David Lang, conductor Donald Nally, and the musicians to share reflections and responses immediately following the performance.
Donald Nally is responsible for imagining, programming, commissioning, and conducting at The Crossing. He is also the director of choral organizations at Northwestern University where he holds the John W. Beattie Chair of Music. Nally has served as chorus master at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Welsh National Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and for many seasons at the Spoleto Festival in Italy. He has also served as music director of Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble, chorus master at The Chicago Bach Project, and guest conductor throughout Europe and the United States, most notably with the Grant Park Symphony Chorus, the Philharmonia Chorus (London), the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, and the Latvian State Choir (Riga). With The Crossing, Nally is the American Composers Forum 2017 Champion of New Music; he received the 2017 Michael Korn Founders Award from Chorus America. He is the only conductor to have two ensembles receive the Margaret Hillis Award for Excellence in Choral Music: in 2002 with the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia and in 2015 with The Crossing. Collaborations include the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center, Mostly Mozart, Cleveland Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, National Sawdust, the Barnes Foundation, Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), American Composers Orchestra, The Cathedral Choral Society (Washington, D.C.), Haymarket Opera (Chicago), David Lang’s The Mile Long Opera (on the High Line in New York City), and The Big Sky Conservatory in Montana where The Crossing holds an annual residency. Nally is visiting resident artist at the Park Avenue Armory and guest director at the Lisson Gallery (London).
The Crossing is a professional chamber choir conducted by Donald Nally and dedicated to new music. Consistently recognized in critical reviews, the ensemble regularly collaborates with some of the nation’s most accomplished ensembles and creative composers. It is committed to working with creative teams to make and record new, substantial works for choir, most often addressing social issues. Highly sought-after for collaborative projects, The Crossing’s first collaboration was as the resident choir of the Spoleto Festival, Italy, in 2007. Regular collaborators include the International Contemporary Ensemble, American Composers Orchestra, Network for New Music, Lyric Fest, Piffaro, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Toshimaru Nakamura, Beth Morrison Projects, Allora & Calzadilla. Upcoming collaborations include the National Gallery in Washington, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Northwestern University, Harvard University, and the Park Avenue Armory. The Crossing holds an annual residency at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in Big Sky, Montana. The choir has presented over sixty commissioned world premieres from some of the world’s leading composers, including Michael Gordon, Lansing McLoskey, John Luther Adams, Kile Smith, David Lang, Ted Hearne, Caroline Shaw, David T. Little, Robert Maggio, Gavin Bryars, Thomas Lloyd, and Hans Thomalla. With a commitment to recording their commissions, The Crossing has fifteen commercially-released recordings. Nominated for the 2017 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, The Crossing, with Donald Nally, is the American Composers Forums’ 2017 Champion of New Music. The choir is the recipient of the 2015 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence, three ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, as well as the Dale Warland Singers Commission Award (with composer Joel Puckett) from Chorus America. Conductor Donald Nally was awarded the 2017 Michael Korn Award and the 2012 Louis Botto Award for Innovative Action and Entrepreneurial Zeal for his work with The Crossing. The Crossing is represented by Alliance Artist Management.
Passionate, prolific, and complicated, composer David Lang embodies the restless spirit of invention. Lang is at the same time deeply versed in the classical tradition and committed to music that resists categorization, constantly creating new forms. He is one of America’s most performed composers. Many of his works resemble each other only in the fierce intelligence and clarity of vision that inform their structures. His catalogue is extensive, and his opera, orchestra, chamber and solo works are by turns ominous, ethereal, urgent, hypnotic, unsettling and very emotionally direct. Much of his work seeks to expand the definition of virtuosity in music — even the deceptively simple pieces can be fiendishly difficult to play and require incredible concentration by musicians and audiences alike. Lang is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award nominations, Musical America’s Composer of the Year, Carnegie Hall’s Debs Composer’s Chair, the Rome Prize, the BMW Music-Theater Prize (Munich), and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1999, he received a Bessie Award for his music in choreographer Susan Marshall’s The Most Dangerous Room in the House, performed live by the Bang on a Can All-Stars at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. The Carbon Copy Building won the 2000 Village Voice OBIE Award for Best New American Work. The recording of the passing measures on Cantaloupe Records was named one of the best CDs of 2001 by The New Yorker. His CD pierced on Naxos was praised both on the rock music site Pitchfork and in the classical magazine Gramophone, and was called his “most exciting new work in years” by the San Francisco Chronicle. The recording of the little match girl passion, released on Harmonia Mundi, received the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance.
Caroline Adelaide Shaw is a New York-based musician—vocalist, violinist, composer, and producer who performs in solo and collaborative projects. She is the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, for Partita for 8 Voices, written for the Grammy Award-winning ensemble Roomful of Teeth, of which she is a member. Recent commissions include new works for the Dover Quartet, the Calidore Quartet, the Aizuri Quartet, FLUX Quartet, Brooklyn Rider, Anne Sofie von Otter, The Crossing, Roomful of Teeth, yMusic, ACME (American Contemporary Music Ensemble), ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), A Far Cry, Philharmonia Baroque, the Baltimore Symphony, and Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect. In the 2017–18 season, Shaw’s new works will be premiered by Renée Fleming with Inon Barnatan, Dawn Upshaw with Sō Percussion and Gil Kalish, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s with John Lithgow, the Britten Sinfonietta, TENET with the Metropolis Ensemble, the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, the Netherlands Chamber Choir, and Luciana Souza with A Far Cry. Future seasons will include a new piano concerto for Jonathan Biss with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and a new work for the LA Phil. Shaw’s scoring of visual work includes the soundtrack for the feature film To Keep the Light as well as collaborations with Kanye West. She studied at Yale, Rice, and Princeton, and she has held residencies at Dumbarton Oaks, the Banff Centre, Music on Main, and the Vail Dance Festival. Caroline loves the color yellow, otters, Beethoven opus 74, Mozart opera, Kinhaven, the smell of rosemary, and the sound of a janky mandolin.
Composer, singer, bandleader and recording artist Ted Hearne (b.1982, Chicago) draws on a wide breadth of influences ranging across music’s full terrain, to create intense, personal and multi-dimensional works.
The New York Times has praised Mr. Hearne for his “tough edge and wildness of spirit,” and “topical, politically sharp-edged works.” Pitchfork called Hearne’s work “some of the most expressive socially engaged music in recent memory — from any genre,” and Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker that Hearne’s music “holds up as a complex mirror image of an information-saturated, mass-surveillance world, and remains staggering in its impact.” Hearne’s Sound From the Bench, a cantata for choir, electric guitars and drums setting texts from U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments and inspired by the idea of corporate personhood, was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize. He is currently collaborating with poet Saul Williams and director Patricia McGregor to create Place, an 80-minute contemplation on the topic of gentrification through music. Commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Barbican Centre and Beth Morrison Projects, and scored for 18 instrumentalists and six vocalists, Place sees its theatrical premiere in Fall 2018. Hearne’s oratorio The Source sets text from the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs, along with words by Chelsea Manning (the U.S. Army private who leaked those classified documents to WikiLeaks), and was premiered to rave reviews last October at the BAM Next Wave Festival in Brooklyn. The New York Times called The Source “a 21st century masterpiece,” and included it on its list of the best classical vocal performances of 2014 and best albums of 2015, noting that the work “offers a fresh model of how opera and musical theater can tackle contemporary issues: not with documentary realism, but with ambiguity, obliquity, and even sheer confusion.” During the 2016-17 season, the original production of The Source (directed by Daniel Fish) was presented by both the LA and San Francisco Operas. Hearne’s piece Katrina Ballads, another modern-day oratorio with a primary source libretto, was awarded the 2009 Gaudeamus Prize in composition and was named one of the best classical albums of 2010 by Time Out Chicago and The Washington Post. A recent collaboration paired him with legendary musician Erykah Badu, for whom he wrote an evening-length work combining new music with arrangements of songs from her 2008 album New Amerykah: Part One. Law of Mosaics, Hearne’s 30-minute piece for string orchestra, has been performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic. His album of the same name, with Andrew Norman and A Far Cry, was named one of The New Yorker’s notable albums of 2014 by Alex Ross. A charismatic vocalist, Hearne performs with Philip White as the vocal-electronics duo R WE WHO R WE, whose debut album (New Focus Recordings, 2013) was called “eminently, if weirdly, danceable and utterly gripping” (Time Out Chicago). R WE’s sophomore release I Love You was named one of the Best Albums of 2017 by The Nation. Other recent albums of vocal music of various stripes include The Source and Outlanders (New Amsterdam Records) and The Crossing’s acclaimed recording of Sound From the Bench (Cantaloupe Music). Hearne was awarded the 2014 New Voices Residency from Boosey and Hawkes, and is a member of the composition faculty at the University of Southern California. His many collaborators include poet Jena Osman, director Daniel Fish, and filmmaker Bill Morrison. His works have been conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, John Adams, and Gustavo Dudamel. Recent and upcoming commissions include orchestral works for the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New World Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and A Far Cry, chamber works for Eighth Blackbird, Ensemble dal Niente, and Alarm Will Sound, and vocal works for Conspirare, The Crossing, and Roomful of Teeth.
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is an artist collective that is transforming the way music is created and experienced. As performer, curator, and educator, ICE explores how new music intersects with communities across the world. The ensemble’s 35 members are featured as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners, and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time. Works by emerging composers have anchored ICE’s programming since its founding in 2001, and the group’s recordings and digital platforms highlight the many voices that weave music’s present. A recipient of the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, ICE was also named the 2014 Musical America Ensemble of the Year. The group currently serves as artists-in-residence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Mostly Mozart Festival, and previously led a five-year residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. ICE was featured at the Ojai Music Festival from 2015 to 2017, and at recent festivals abroad such as gmem-CNCM-marseille and Vértice at Cultura UNAM, Mexico City. Other performance stages have included Peak Performances @ Montclair State University, the Park Avenue Armory, The Stone, ice floes at Greenland’s Diskotek Sessions, and boats on the Amazon River. New initiatives include OpenICE, made possible with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which offers free concerts and related programming wherever ICE performs, and enables a working process with composers to unfold in public settings. DigitICE, a free online library of over 350 streaming videos, catalogues the ensemble’s performances. ICE’s First Page program is a commissioning consortium that fosters close collaborations between performers, composers, and listeners as new music is developed. EntICE, a side-by-side education program, places ICE musicians within youth orchestras as they premiere new commissioned works together; inaugural EntICE partners include Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and The People’s Music School in Chicago. Summer activities include Ensemble Evolution at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, in which young professionals perform with ICE and attend workshops on topics from interpretation to concert production. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for ICE. Read more at iceorg.org.
In The News
JOSHUA BARONE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Three Composers on the Necessity and Pitfalls of Political Music”
When classical music composers get political, they often do it at the risk of preaching to the proverbial choir… That is especially a danger [performing] choral works that tap into issues like sexual consent, homelessness and nationalism. [According to composer David Lang,] “A real point of these pieces is for us to figure out how to be better citizens. An entire community of people may have their minds on this issue, and then go out and change their communities.”
CHARLES T. DOWNEY, WASHINGTON CLASSICAL REVIEW: “The Crossing Presents Timely and Challenging New Music for Voices”
This one-hour program by the Philadelphia-based chamber choir and some of the ICE strings — conducted by Donald Nally — delivered an intense burst of recent music for voices, all of it politically charged with some burning issues of our day.
THE NEW YORKER: “The National Anthems”
OUT OF TOWN Hard on the heels of a sold-out Park Avenue Armory engagement, the splendid Philadelphia vocal ensemble the Crossing offers a timely consideration of nationalism, sexual trespass, and global migration. The program, to be presented in Montclair, New Jersey, takes its name from a work by David Lang, a patchwork of phrases excerpted from almost two hundred anthems, which together suggest a universal posture of insecurity masked with bravado.
Programs in Peak Performances’ 2018-19 season are made possible in part by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. This engagement of The Crossing is funded through the Mid Atlantic Tours program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.