Saturday, May 12, at 8 pm and Sunday, May 13, at 5 pm, Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, 3534 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland.
The Sierra Club Northern Alameda County is co-sponsoring premier performances of a new choral work with texts by John Muir.
The Oakland-East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus begins its 14th year with The Writes of Spring, celebrating spring in diverse musical styles. OEBGMC premiers several new works and arrangements, including the new commission And Sings Our Love by San Francisco Conservatory student composer Red Bennett based on text from Mountain Thoughts by John Muir.
Tickets are $25 premier, $20 general, $15 students and seniors, available from (800)706-2389 or www.oebgmc.org.
Prior to reaching out to composers to undertake a new commission, the Artistic Committee of the Chorus decided to look for text from an East Bay native and quickly thought of John Muir. Their search was made much easier by the collection of many of Muir’s writings on the Sierra Club web site at http://www.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings. The Artistic Committee then worked directly with the Holt-Atherton Special Collections staff at the University of the Pacific Library as representatives of the Muir family and Trust to confirm permission to use the text for the composition. The library staff and the Muir family fully supported the proposal and granted the Chorus full unrestricted rights to use the text.
“It is our extreme honor to premiere this new commission. Red Bennett has been a delight to work with, and I believe he has done an outstanding job of setting John Muir’s beautiful text to music,” says Stephanie Lynne Smith, interim artistic director of OEBGMC.
Mr. Bennett stated, “I am incredibly excited to be writing this piece for the OEBGMC. I have immensely enjoyed the chance to work with this fantastic group of gentlemen and their director, not to mention the auditory joy of hearing the power of their combined voices at close range!” He added, “Setting any text is the nerve-wracking process of interpreting a writer’s words. The theme I settled on in making this piece was the exuberant wonderment I’ve felt whenever I’ve had the chance to visit the majestic natural parts of California. I hope that idea would have been something Mr. Muir would approve of. After all this state is the natural home and habitat of sequoias and John Muir.”
A student of Conrad Susa, Mr. Bennett is currently studying with Elinor Armer, a renowned composer in her own right, while Mr. Susa is on sabbatical. She describes the piece as “a strong, elemental work – like its words, a ‘song of the rocks’, from a promising young composer.”
After selecting text and composer, the Chorus reached out to the Sierra Club about the exciting new piece and to gauge its interest in spreading the word to its members. OEBGMC was very pleased at the swift action taken by the Northern Alameda County Group to co-sponsor performances of the piece.
OEBGMC is the most active and well-known gay-arts organization in the Oakland and East Bay region. They donate a portion of the proceeds from their concerts to local charitable organizations. Partial proceeds from the Oakland concerts will benefit the Wildwood Conservation Foundation and Retreat Center.