Saturday, October 5, 2019 • 7:30 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church (3200 3rd Ave W)
advance tickets: or 1-800-838-3006
Seattle Chamber Singers
William White, conductor
Jessica Robins Milanese, soprano
Sarah Mattox, mezzo-soprano
Les Green, tenor
Ryan Bede, baritone
Seattle Girls Choir • Jacob Winkler, artistic director
Carlos Garcia (*1991)
Vast Array [world premiere]
Darius Milhaud (1892–1974)
La Création du monde, Op. 81a
— intermission —
Carol Sams (*1945)
About the Concert
Our 50th season begins with music of creation. Hear trailblazing composer Carol Sams’ epic masterpiece, The Earthmakers, an oratorio that recounts creation stories from a multitude of world cultures. We also feature La création du monde, a jazzy work by Sams’ teacher, Darius Milhaud, as well as the world premiere of local composer Carlos Garcia’s fanfare, Vast Array.
About the Soloists
Soprano Jessica Robins Milanese has been critically acclaimed for the depth and sparkle she brings to the concert and opera stages. The News Tribune called her performance of Mozart’s Exsultate, Jubilate “all that could be wished for. [Her] voice rang like liquid gold, and she produced some goosebump coloratura.” Ms. Milanese has performed with many of the region’s leading arts organizations, including Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Northwest Sinfonietta, Symphony Tacoma and Orchestra Seattle. Susanna (The Marriage of Figaro) is one of her favorite and most frequently performed characters, a role she has sung with Tacoma Opera, Washington East Opera, Skagit Opera and Opera Pacific. Other memorable roles include Rosina (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Héro (Béatrice et Bénédict), Blonde (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Norina (Don Pasquale), Marie (Daughter of the Regiment), Pamina (The Magic Flute), Zerlina (Don Giovanni) and Gretel (Hansel and Gretel). With OSSCS , Ms. Milanese has sung the world premieres of Huntley Beyer’s Songs of Illumination and The Turns of a Girl. Learn more: plu.edu
Mezzo-soprano Sarah Mattox has sung principal roles with Seattle Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Amarillo Opera, Eugene Opera, Tacoma Opera and many others. Favorite roles include the title characters in Carmen and Cendrillon, Dorabella in Così fan Tutte, Ottavia in L’Incoronazione di Poppea and the Witch in Hansel and Gretel. She received special acclaim from The Seattle Times for her debut as Feodor in Seattle Opera’s Boris Godunov: “newcomer Sarah Elouise Mattox … raised eyebrows all over the Opera House with her believable, lifelike acting and her well-schooled voice.” In Cleveland, the Beacon Journal called her “a rich-toned mezzo-soprano who came to life as Dorabella.” Also at home on the concert stage, Ms. Mattox has made several appearances at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony. She has also been a soloist with the Northwest Sinfonietta, Cascade Festival of Music, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Helena Symphony, Bainbridge Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Walla Walla Symphony, Portland Chamber Orchestra, Eugene Concert Choir and OSSCS. As a composer, Ms. Mattox was won awards for her chamber opera Heart Mountain and her song cycle Rumpelstiltskin and the Falcon King. Learn more: sarahmattox.com
Tenor Les Green is in high demand as a soloist throughout the Pacific Northwest. Highly praised for his seemingly effortless, expressive singing, Mr. Green performs a wide variety of literature, from Bach arias to contemporary art songs. He has appeared with many of the region’s finest ensembles, including Oregon Repertory Singers, Portland Symphonic Choir, Annas Bay Music Festival, Mount Angel Abbey, Willamette Master Chorus, Eclectic Orange Festival, Rose City Chamber Orchestra, Cascade Music Festival, Northwest Mahler Festival, Salem Chamber Orchestra, Festival Chorale Oregon and Columbia Chorale. Recent engagements with Cappella Romana have included the Utrecht Early Music Festival in Holland and subsequent tours to Boston, New York and Ottawa, as well as the world premiere of Maximillian Steinberg’s Passion Week. He has sung several highly praised performances of Handel’s Messiah, an enthusiastically received presentation of Schubert’s Winterreise, a “brilliant” recital of Beethoven and Schumann with pianist Jean-David Coen, the role of Victory in Hildegard von Bingen’s Ordo Virtutem and the lead role of the Stage Manager in the Northwest premiere of Ned Rorem’s opera Our Town.
Baritone Ryan Bede made his Seattle Opera solo debut as the Second Priest in The Magic Flute in May 2017, followed in the 2017–2018 season by Prince Yamadori in Madama Butterfly, Jim Crowley in An American Dream and Fiorello in The Barber Of Seville, as well as Moralés in Carmen in May 2019. Recent concert engagements have included Handel’s Messiah with both the Bremerton Symphony and Federal Way Symphony, Spectrum Dance Theater’s acclaimed production of Carmina Burana and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with Early Music Vancouver/Pacific Musicworks, conducted by Stephen Stubbs. He has been a frequent soloist with OSSCS in such masterpieces as the Fauré and Duruflé Requiems, Haydn’s Die Jahreszeiten and Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols. Other recent performances have included the role of the Land Speculator in the premiere of Sarah Mattox’s Heart Mountain with Vespertine Opera and Samuel Barber’s Dover Beach with the Bella Sala Ensemble. Upcoming engagements include a role debut as Belcore in The Elixir of Love (conducted by Clinton Smith) at Tacoma Opera and Mozart’s Requiem with Symphony Tacoma and conductor Sarah Ioannides. He teaches voice at the University Of Puget Sound and Tacoma Community College, as well as maintaining a private studio in the Tacoma area. Learn more: ryanbede.com
Carol Sams was born November 25, 1945, in Sacramento, California. She composed this oratorio in 1986 with support from the King County Arts Commission (now 4Culture). George Shangrow conducted Orchestra Seattle (then the Broadway Symphony), the Seattle Chamber Singers and the Northwest Boychoir in the first performance on November 17, 1987, at Meany Hall. OSSCS reprised the work in 1990 and again in 2004, when the composer revised the orchestration. In addition to 8 vocal soloists, chorus and children's chorus, the score calls for pairs of woodwinds (including piccolo, English horn and bass clarinet, plus alto saxophone), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, large percussion battery (bass drum, snare drum, marimba, virbaphone, temple blocks, tom-toms, wood block, triangle, tambourine, suspended cymbal, güiro, bamboo wind chimes, glass wind chimes, chimes, cowbell, steins, rocks, hose, finger cymbals, sandpaper block, rattle and log drum), synthesizer and strings.
The Earthmakers begins and ends in darkness. The opening introductory section starts with the words “Sometimes at night” and the work closes with the poetry of Galway Kinnell: “half my life belongs to the wild darkness.” Wildness and darkness frame the oratorio, just as they frame the imagination of storytellers, adventurers, the curious and the creative. Between the wild and dark is a collection of mythic tales and poetry from diverse cultures, with the work of contemporary poets interspersed. The myths are panoramic: cosmic and objective. The poems are close-ups: subjective, detailed, particular, intense. Each illumines the other.
The music does the same thing. Smaller orchestral groups typically accompany the poems, with one sung a cappella in order to lend it an intimate feeling. The myths employ a variety compositional techniques that mirror the essential character of each story.
The “Father Raven” story is improvisational in character — as if the storyteller were making it up as he goes along — and contains a story within a story. Likewise, the music is improvisational in style and contains a contrasting middle section framed by a bass solo. The “God Who Laughed Seven Times” story has seven, contrasting, illustrative sections, each described differently by the music, with a recurrent laugh holding them together. In this myth particularly, the music creates sound pictures. A tentative, curling sound in the high violins depicts light, lonely and delicate like some small thing in the dark cosmos. An aleatoric chorus and woodwinds evoke water as ripples, a wave action. When bitterness appears (the dark sound of male voices with with solo baritone), the images become much more subjective.
The third myth is the story of Naareau, divided into two sections. In the first, Naareau creates a woman, Nei Teakea (depicted by a Polynesian dance — graceful, tonal and rhythmic), and a man, Na Atibu (described by a timpani solo). Their lying together creates Naareau the Younger. The father makes a toy for his son, which turns out to be the world. But in order for the son to play with his toy, he must open the world, which is like a rock. Here a cappella chorus interrupts the myth narrative, singing “Go inside a stone,” the intimacy of the unaccompanied voices comparing the discovery of a new world with self-discovery. The final section of Naareau’s myth introduced people in to the world, and invites the audience to sing along.
The Big Bang theory and the Zuni Indian myth share several common elements. To present them as if they were the same ideas from different sides of the brain, the Zuni myth features wide vocal leaps and an unstable tonality, while the Big Bang theory is spoken in a pompous manner by a stuffy university professor who becomes carried away by the poetry in his own concepts and begins to sing. These two images occur at the same time, and comment on each other.
The oratorio comes to a close with a final, intimate, personal invocation to those particular creative powers of darkness within all of us.