Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
490 Riverside Drive, 11th floor
New York, NY 10027-5788

(212) 896 1700

Tickets & Concerts

Meet the composers | Reminiscentia Anna Clyne, Adolphus Hailstork & Gregg August

Hosted by WQXR's Elliott Forrest | Zoom Webinar

The Program

Concert Duration: 45 minutes

  • Host

    Elliott Forrest
    Radio Host, WQXR

  • Participants

    Anna Clyne

    Gregg August
    Composer & Orpheus bassist

    Adolphus Hailstork

    Alexander Scheirle
    Executive Director, Orpheus

Reminiscentia PRE CONCERT TALK for website

WQXR's Elliott Forrest hosts a conversation with all of the composers featured on Orpheus' livestream, Reminiscentia.

Orpheus’ newest associate member Gregg August refreshes a melody that has graced sacred spaces for 900 years, and Adolphus Hailstork reminisces about singing in a cathedral choir. Guest violinists Charles Yang and Geneva Lewis intertwine in Anna Clyne’s Grammy-nominated Prince of Clouds, a meditation on the gifts that pass from generation to generation.

Notes on the Program

By Aaron Grad

One of the very first composers known by name was Pérotin, a French church musician who probably worked at Notre Dame in Paris around 1200. In that period when simple liturgical chant was just starting to blossom into the multilayered vocal music that seeded the entire tradition of Western art music, Pérotin stood out to an anonymous British commentator later in the century, and it is through this one written appraisal that we can attribute specific compositions to him, including a call-and-response melody to match the Latin text of Beata viscera, a poem from the same era recognizing the wonder and mystery of the Virgin Mary.

Pérotin’s melody is no less resonant today, and it has proved adaptable in a variety of settings, including a famous crossover recording made in 1994 that paired jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek with the early music vocalists of the Hilliard Ensemble. When Orpheus commissioned its newest associate member Gregg August (b. 1968) to compose a work for this program, his thoughts turned to Garbarek’s recording and another Beata viscera rendition by his late friend Alexandra Montano, a distinguished classical vocalist.

August’s Variations on a Theme by Pérotin, scored for string orchestra and solo violin, takes advantage of the natural reverberation of Riverside Church and the richness of the Orpheus sound. It also leans on the stylistic range of soloist Charles Yang, who can traverse fluidly from a virtuosic cadenza to an improvised vamp. August himself straddles classical, jazz and Latin styles in his work as a composer and bandleader, and his role as the bassist anchoring the string orchestra allows for an openness in the musical treatment that will only reveal its final form in the moment of performance.

The London-born, American-based composer Anna Clyne (b. 1980) rocketed into the international limelight in 2009, when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra named her as one of two composers-in-residence. Within her extensive catalog of orchestral, chamber and acoustic-electric music, Clyne had proved especially adept at writing for strings, as in her Grammy-nominated concerto for two violins and string orchestra from 2012, Prince of Clouds. When writing it, Clyne explained in a program note, “I was contemplating the presence of musical lineage—a family-tree of sorts that passes from generation to generation. This transfer of knowledge and inspiration between generations is a beautiful gift. Composed specifically for Jennifer Koh and her mentor at the Curtis Institute of Music, Jaime Laredo, this thread was in the foreground of my imagination as a dialogue between the soloists and ensemble. As a composer, working with such virtuosic, passionate and unique musicians is also another branch of this musical chain.”

Having just celebrated his 80th birthday in April, Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941) is proving that he is still in the prime of his musical life, adding major new works to a substantial catalog that stretches back to the 1960s. During his student years at Howard University, Manhattan School of Music and Michigan State University, Hailstork gained notice for his finely crafted scores for large and small ensembles, including a master’s thesis work performed by the Baltimore Symphony. A succession of teaching posts brought him to Virginia, where he joined the faculty of Norfolk State University and then Old Dominion University. He still serves as Professor of Music and Eminent Scholar, and current projects such as his Fourth Symphony—a tribute to George Floyd—show his continued engagement with concert music that reflects his perspective on Black life in America.

When commissioned to write a work for the string orchestra at a high school in northern Virginia in 1992, Hailstork looked back on his own childhood singing as a chorister at a cathedral in Albany to find inspiration for his Sonata da Chiesa, or “church sonata.” The titles of the brief movements match the work’s reverent tone: Exaltation, O Great Mystery, Adoration, Jubilation, O Lamb Of God, Grant Us Thy Peace, Exaltation.

© 2021 Aaron Grad.

About the artists

Gregg August
Composer & Orpheus bassist

Bassist and composer Gregg August spans the classical, avant-garde, jazz and Latin jazz worlds making him one of the most versatile musicians on the scene today. He is an Associate member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra as well as a member of the American Composers Orchestra and Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Gregg is also the former Principal Bass of La Orquestra Ciutat de Barcelona and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.

As a jazz bassist Gregg is a member of the JD Allen Trio, having recorded 9 albums with the group, as well as Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, with whom he’s won 5 GRAMMY awards. In 2003 Gregg formed his own record label, Iacuessa Records, for which he has recorded four critically acclaimed albums of entirely his own original music: Four by Six ( 2014), One Peace (2007) and Late August (2005).

In August of 2020 Gregg released Dialogues on Race (Iacuessa Records). The album received a GRAMMY nomination in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble category. An extended suite for a 12 piece large jazz ensemble, three vocalists, strings and narrator, the work deals with the subject of race relations in the United States. He utilizes poems by Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Marilyn Nelson and others to create a musical conversation that is intended to help bring awareness and foster understanding on the issues surrounding race.

Gregg was awarded two Grand Prizes by the International Society of Bassists for the 2020 David Walter Composers Competition in both the Chamber Ensemble and Bass Ensemble categories. He has also composed many full length concert works, including “Una Rumba Sinfonica,” a commission from the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute and Earshot, which was premiered by the Buffalo Philharmonic.

Gregg has performed and/or recorded with The New York Philharmonic, Steve Reich, The Bang on a Can All Stars, Alarm Will Sound, as well as Ornette Coleman, Chick Corea, Branford Marsalis and Ray Barretto. Gregg was on the Downbeat Magazine Critics’ Rising Star Poll in 2017, 2015 and 2013.
An adjunct professor at New York University and Williams College, Gregg has also been on faculty at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA) since 2003.

Gregg received his bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music and his master’s from the Juilliard School.

Anna Clyne

London-born Anna Clyne is a GRAMMY-nominated composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music. Described as a “composer of uncommon gifts and unusual methods” in a New York Times profile and as “fearless” by NPR, Clyne’s work often includes collaborations with cutting-edge choreographers, visual artists, filmmakers, and musicians. In October 2020, AVIE Records released Mythologies, a portrait album featuring Clyne’s works recorded live by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Several upcoming projects explore Clyne’s fascination with visual arts, including Color Field for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, inspired by the artwork of Mark Rothko; Between the Rooms, a film with choreographer Kim Brandstrup and LA Opera, as well as Woman Holding a Balance, a film collaboration with Orchestra of St. Luke's and artist Jyll Bradley (whom Clyne also teamed up with for the film, Pardes, commissioned by the Scottish Ensemble).

Other upcoming premieres include A Thousand Mornings for the Fidelio Trio; Fractured Time for the Kaleidoscope Ensemble; and Overflow for wind ensemble, inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson, composed for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Clyne composed a trilogy of Beethoven-inspired works, which premiered in 2020 for Beethoven’s 250th anniversary: Stride for string orchestra, inspired by Beethoven's Sonata Pathétique, premiered by the Australian Composers Orchestra; Breathing Statues, premiered by the Calidore String Quartet; and Shorthand for solo cello and string quintet premiered by The Knights at Caramoor.

Other recent premieres include Sound and Fury, first performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Pekka Kuusisto in Edinburgh; and her Rumi-inspired cello concerto, DANCE, premiered with Inbal Segev at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, led by Cristian Măcelaru. DANCE was also recently recorded by Segev and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Marin Alsop.

Clyne served as composer-in-residence for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, L’Orchestre national d’Île-de-France, and Berkeley Symphony. She is currently the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Associate Composer through the 2021-2022 season and a mentor composer for Orchestra of St Luke's DeGaetano Composer Institute.

Clyne’s music is represented on the AVIE Records, Cantaloupe Music, Cedille, MajorWho Media, New Amsterdam, Resound, Tzadik, and VIA labels. Both Prince of Clouds and Night Ferry were nominated for 2015 GRAMMY Awards. Her music is published exclusively by Boosey & Hawkes.

Elliott Forrest
Host & Broadcaster

Elliott Forrest is a Peabody Award winning broadcaster, director, designer and producer. He is the afternoon host on New York’s Classical Radio Station 105.9FM, WQXR, host of the national radio concerts of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and has hosted more the 60 concerts on-stage at Carnegie Hall. Executive Producer of The Public Theater’s 2020 Shakespeare in the Park on the Radio of RICHARD II. Co-Creator and Producer of the national tour of AN EVENING WITH ITZHAK PERLMAN. Co-Director and Projection Designer of the live national tour and PBS TV Special of CONSIDERING MATTHEW SHEPARD, by composer Craig Hella Johnson.

Elliott has directed several versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL with such Scrooges as David Hyde Pierce, F. Murray Abraham, Brian Cox, Tony Roberts and Kathleen Turner. He regularly produces, directs and designs symphony concerts: LA Philharmonic, The NY Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, New Haven Symphony Pasadena Pops and the Little Orchestra Society in venues including the Hollywood Bowl and Lincoln Center. He is the Founding Executive Artistic Director of ArtsRock.org of Rockland County, NY, bringing professional concerts and conversations to his upstate community. Projection Designer for recent Off-Broadway play TECH SUPPORT. Orchestra narrator: Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, Peter and the Wolf, Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale and Britten’s Young Person’s Guide. For 12 years he was on A&E Television as host of Breakfast with the Arts. In the late 1970’s he appeared on the original THE GONG SHOW with Chuck Barris on NBC. He holds a BA in Theater from the University of Texas, Austin. www.ElliottForrest.com

Adolphus Hailstork

Adolphus Hailstork received his doctorate in composition from Michigan State University, where he was a student of H. Owen Reed. He had previously studied at the Manhattan School of Music, under Vittorio Giannini and David Diamond, at the American Institute at Fontainebleau with Nadia Boulanger, and at Howard University with Mark Fax.

Dr. Hailstork has written numerous works for chorus, solo voice, piano, organ, various chamber ensembles, band, orchestra, and opera.

Among his early compositions are: CELEBRATION, recorded by the Detroit Symphony in 1976; OUT OF THE DEPTHS (1977), and AMERICAN GUERNICA (1983), are two band works which won national competitions. CONSORT PIECE (1995) commissioned by the Norfolk (Va.) Chamber Ensemble, was awarded first prize by the University of Delaware Festival of Contemporary Music.

Significant performances by major orchestras (Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York) have been led by leading conductors such as James de Priest, Paul Freeman, Daniel Barenboim, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maezel, Jo Ann Falletta and David Lockington. This March, Thomas Wilkins conducted Hailstork’s AN AMERICAN PORT OF CALL with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The composer’s second symphony (commissioned by the Detroit Symphony, and second opera, JOSHUA’S BOOTS (commissioned by the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and the Kansas City Lyric Opera) were both premiered in 1999. Hailstork’s second and third symphonies were recorded by the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra (David Lockington) and were released by Naxos. Another Naxos recording, AN AMERICAN PORT OF CALL (Virginia Symphony Orchestra) was released in spring 2012.

Recent commissions include RISE FOR FREEDOM, an opera about the Underground Railroad, premiered in the fall of 2007 by the Cincinnati Opera Company, SET ME ON A ROCK (re: Hurricane Katrina), for chorus and orchestra, commissioned by the Houston Choral Society (2008), and the choral ballet, THE GIFT OF THE MAGI, for treble chorus and orchestra, (2009). In the fall of 2011, ZORA, WE’RE CALLING YOU, a work for speaker and orchestra was premiered by the Orlando Symphony. I SPEAK OF PEACE commissioned by the Bismarck Symphony (Beverly Everett, conductor) in honor of (and featuring the words of) President John F. Kennedy was premiered in November of 2013.

Hailstork’s newest works include THE WORLD CALLED (based on Rita Dove’s poem TESTIMONIAL), a work for soprano, chorus and orchestra commissioned by the Oratorio Society of Virginia (premiered in May 2018) and STILL HOLDING ON (February 2019) an orchestra work commissioned and premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He is currently working on his Fourth Symphony, and A KNEE ON A NECK (tribute to George Floyd) for chorus and orchestra.

Dr. Hailstork resides in Virginia Beach Virginia, and is Professor of Music and Eminent Scholar at Old Dominion University in Norfolk.