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Director’s Corner Address from Christopher Kendall

We end our season in a state of war: the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s "Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975,” that is. This ambitious exhibition has elicited an equivalently ambitious program for the occasion. At least, a week before the concert, as rehearsals intensify, it FEELS ambitious! These are marvelous, challenging works, including two virtuoso pieces for pairs of instruments by Jim Primosch (In Times like These, for clarinet and piano) and Christopher Theofanidis (The World is Aflame, for violin and cello). Both works comment, by way of their titles and otherwise obliquely, on the circumstance of war, then and now.

These two pieces are paired, on each half of the program, by large-scale compositional enterprises: Susan Botti’s new and evolving work, River Spirits, for a most intriguing combination of sound-producers, 3 sopranos and a group of early instruments (what do you call a group of early instruments? Not a pride, surely; a bevy? A murder?). This new work, in its premiere, promises to be a highly inventive and expressive vehicle for these remarkable artists, three generations of sopranos Mary Bonhag, Susan Botti herself and Lucy Shelton, with instrumentalists from the Folger Consort who will join Consort percussionist Lee Hinkle to complete the ensemble.

The final work on a Vietnam War program is almost inevitable - except that it’s rarely performed because of its audacious demands on the performers: George Crumbs iconic “Black Angels” for electronic string quartet. Our own Allie Osborne, violin, and Rachel Young, cello, are joined by the other musicians of “Last Stand Quartet” for this monumental undertaking. And I want to point out that the Consort’s intrepid manager Boyd Sarratt has hand-crafted unique racks to hold the glass crystals played by the quartet (along with various percussion instruments and, incidentally, their four amplified strings) in the performance.

Admittedly, the tenor of this program is on the high intensity and decidedly not jolly side. As a kind of relief - or release - following the concert, we’ve secured the participation of one of the great folk groups of DC, Magpie, to lead us in an authentic sing-along, with introduction by Martin Goldsmith, among other things the host of the storied public radio show, Songs for Aging Children. I’m going to provide a list of the repertoire below in case you want to practice the tunes. We’ll supply the lyrics!

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the 5:00 concert and sing-along, or even earlier, at 4:00, for my pre-concert discussion with composers Susan Botti and James Primosch, along with Crumb scholar Joshua DeVries.

Christopher Kendall

Where Have All the Flowers Gone (Pete Seeger)

Where Have All the Flowers Gone (Pete Seeger)

Draft Dodger Rag (Phil Ochs)

Letter To Eve (Pete Seeger)

Fixin to Die Rag (Country Joe MacDonald)

Universal Soldier (Buffy St. Marie)

I Aint Marchin Anymore (Phil Ochs)

Hammer Song (Pete Seeger, Lee Hays and Peter, Paul, and Mary)