With The Choral Artists Singers and Mezzo-Soprano Thea Lobo Violinist Francisca Mendoza
Sunday, March 20, at First Presbyterian Church
Celebrate Women’s History Month with this uplifting program devoted solely to works by female composers, including Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Alma Mahler, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach and more.
(February 15, 2022) Choral Artists of Sarasota’s 43rd season, “Carried Away,” continues with “She Is The Music,” Sunday, March 20, 2:30 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church, 2050 Oak Street, Sarasota. The concert commemorates Women’s History Month with an uplifting program devoted to works by female composers, including Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Alma Mahler, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach and more. Thea Lobo, mezzo-soprano, violinist Francisca Mendoza, and pianists Susan Versage and Joseph Holt will join 25 Choral Artist Singers in this concert conducted by Holt and Kevin Trapasso, Choral Artists’ new assistant conductor. Tickets are $35; $5 for students. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.ChoralArtistsSarasota.org or call 941-387-4900. For information about Covid health and safety protocol, visit https://choralartistssarasota.org/schedule/health-safety-protocol/.
According to Joseph Holt, Choral Artists’ artistic director, the concert is a long overdue celebration of brilliant women composers.
“We’re celebrating Women’s History Month by exploring the history of great female composers,” he says. “These women made extraordinary contributions to the world of music — usually against great odds. Classical music has long been a male-dominated genre. Despite this inequality, female composers have created incredible music throughout history.” Holt adds that several of the program’s female composers were related to acclaimed male composers. These include Fanny Mendelssohn, Alma Mahler, and Clara Schumann — the wife of Robert Schumann and one of the 19th-century’s leading concert pianists. According to Holt, she doubted her own abilities as a composer. “She once wrote that, ‘A woman must not wish to compose—there never was one able to do it,’” he says. “She proved herself wrong with her own compositions.” Holt adds that Schumann’s contemporary, Fanny Mendelssohn, composed over 460 pieces of music, and yet her identity as a composer was nearly lost to history.
Holt explains that the concert’s theme evolved from the LGBTQ-themed concert of Choral Artists’ 2021 season. “During the program selection process, I came across a wealth of great music composed by female artists,” he says. “Thea Lobo then brought even more composers to my attention. She also introduced me to ‘Meditation for Mezzo-Soprano, Violin and Piano’ — a beautiful piece by the German pianist and composer, Clara Faisst. We were thrilled that the great Chilean violinist Francisca Mendoza can perform this piece with Thea for this concert.”
Compositions by Amy Marcy Cheney Beach will also be performed in this concert. Holt describes her as, “a pioneering American composer whose works are rarely performed today.” He adds that Beach was a piano prodigy who stopped performing after she married and turned to composing instead. “She held off returning to the concert stage until her husband had died,” Holt says. “When Beach died in 1944, her works nearly disappeared from the concert scene.”
The program also features two works by the French composers (and sisters) Nadia Boulanger (“Soleils Couchants”) and Lili Boulanger (“Hymn to the Sun”). Lobo is the soloist for “Soleils” and then joins the Choral Artist Singers for “Hymn.” Holt points out that Nadia Boulanger, aside being the first woman to conduct many major orchestras in America and Europe, was also the teacher of dozens of acclaimed male musicians and composers, including Daniel Barenboim, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Philip Glass, Quincy Jones, and Virgil Thomson.
The concert also features “The Clown” composed by Ethel Smyth. Holt notes that Smyth also wrote “The March of the Women” in 1910 — the official anthem of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). “It was important to include a work by Smyth,” says Holt, adding that Lobo will perform the piece as a soloist.
Holt points out that another remarkable composer whose music the concert will showcase is Florence Price, an African-American pianist and composer of the mid-20th century. Even though she was recognized as a prominent Black woman composer and had one of her works premiered by a major orchestra, many of her works remained in obscurity after her death in 1953 until dozens of her scores were discovered in her abandoned summer home in 2009.
Hailed as “impeccable,” “limpidly beautiful”, “impressive,” “stunning,” and “Boston’s best,” Grammy-nominated mezzo-soprano Thea Lobo has recently performed as a soloist with Boston Symphony Orchestra, Bucknell Bach Festival, Halcyon Chamber Series, Guerilla Opera, Sunshine City Opera, Callithumpian Consort and The Shakespeare Concerts. Other solo appearances include Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Schubert’s Mass No. 3 with Andover Choral Society, Falla’s El amor brujo with Brookline Symphony Orchestra, Händel Arias with Boston Early Music Festival, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Boston Landmarks Orchestra. Lobo has also been a featured soloist with Handel and Haydn Society, Boston Baroque, Opera Boston, Northwest Bach Festival, Tucson Chamber Artists, Spire Chamber Concerts in Kansas City and New Vintage Baroque, among many others.
Chilean violinist Francisca Mendoza has been performing internationally since she was selected by Musical America as Young Artist of the Year in 1990. She has received outstanding accolades for her performances in Europe, the United States, Canada, Latin America, Israel, and the Far East. Her album of Debussy and Prokofiev Sonatas has been praised as “superb” and “enchanting.” In New York Mendoza has graced the stages of Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Steinway Hall and Lincoln Center. Radio appearances have included being a guest with Robert Sherman at WQXR, New York. In addition, her concerts have been broadcast on radio and television in the United States, Latin America, Poland and Spain. Winner of numerous competitions and awards during her studies, Mendoza obtained a diploma in performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a master’s degree in performance and literature from the Eastman School of Music.
Kevin Trapasso is the new assistant conductor of Choral Artists. Trapasso has a bachelor’s degree in choral music education from Arizona State, and a master’s in choral conducting from the University of South Florida. He has directed many vocal ensembles of different genres, including middle school/high school choral, show-choir and jazz ensembles, collegiate pop a cappella, and has been the assistant conductor for the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay. Trapasso also works as an area vocal clinician, and a judge for Varsity Vocals’ International Competition of Collegiate and High School A Cappella.
The Choral Artists of Sarasota comprises 32 of the region’s most notable professional singers. Eight young singers, ages 16 to 22, are also invited to join the group each year, as part of the organization’s educational outreach. One of these gifted singers will be awarded the Dr. Ann Stephenson-Moe Apprentice Scholarship, a funding program to support either private lessons or vocal training at an institution of higher learning.
“Ensuring the future of choral music means investing in the next generation of music lovers,” says Susan Burke, executive director of Choral Artists of Sarasota. “Incorporating young singers into the professional ensemble encourages them to further develop their musical talents and appreciation for singing in an ensemble.”
For more information, visit www.ChoralArtistsSarasota.org.
About the Choral Artists of Sarasota
The Choral Artists of Sarasota, entering its 43rd season, features 32 of the region’s most notable professional singers and eight apprentice singers. The group celebrates the rich, artistic expressiveness of choral music through innovative repertoire, inspired performances and stimulating educational outreach. Under the artistic direction of Dr. Joseph Holt, Choral Artists of Sarasota performs a repertoire spanning four centuries, and includes symphonic choral works, intimate madrigals, folk songs, close-harmony jazz, and Broadway show music. The ensemble also specializes in premiere performances of lesser-known choral works—particularly music by living American composers. Choral Artists of Sarasota has performed premieres by René Clausen, Dick Hyman, Robert Levin, Gwyneth Walker and James Grant. As part of the organization’s educational outreach, eight young singers from area schools, colleges and universities, ages 16 to 22, are invited to join the group each year. For more information, visit www.ChoralArtistsSarasota.org.