Featured Article by Lori Goldstein from the Bucks County Herald
The Concordia Chamber Players will be as excited as their loyal audience to return to Trinity Church in Solebury at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 6. The concert, conceived by cellist and Artistic Director Michelle Djokic, includes compositions by four female living composers.
Long before the 2020 presidential elections, Djokic was assembling the program. “When Kamala Harris was nominated and then elected, I was so empowered. … I thought that this was the right time for this to happen … and when I saw International Women’s Day was on the calendar, it just worked beautifully. Somehow maybe it was meant to be this way.”International Women’s Day is March 8.
Grammy-nominated Caroline Shaw’s Entr’acte will open the program. Shaw is the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Music. “When I’m playing her music and I’ve read what she’s shared on her blog and webpage, that’s exactly her,” says Djokic.
“Much of her music relates to older music. It’s not that she’s copying anybody, but she has a unique way of embracing the older sound in a completely new fashion, making it her own.” Entr’acte was originally written for and performed by the Brentano String Quartet in 2011.
“Hecuba” and “Cassandra,” two of the three movements in Lisa Bielawa’s “Trojan Women” will follow. In 2019, Bielawa became the inaugural composer-in-residence and chief curator at the Philip Glass Institute at The New School of Performing Arts.
Djokic was first introduced to Bielawa’s music during a project with the New Century Chamber Orchestra, with which she performs in San Francisco. “I love the energy in her music … the writing, the colors, the timbres, and it fit really well within my programming. I try to balance one work after another and find something so that the ‘meal’ people experience, if you imagine it as being a meal, that it translates one course after another in a fashion that is embraceable.”
The third “course” is the movement titled “Quiet Art” from Jennifer Higdon’s “Impressions” for string quartet. A composer-in-residence with the New Century Chamber Orchestra, Higdon received the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2010 as well as three Grammys.
According to the composer’s program notes, “Impressions” is a musical response to the artists of the Impressionist period in both music … and painting. The second movement, “Quiet Art,” is about the solitude in which artists work, and the passion and consistency that help to create a work of art.” (Djokic has become amenable to programming a movement from a work for the sake of shortening concert length in light of Covid limitations.)
The final offering is “Leyendas, an Andean Walkabout” by Gabriela Lena Frank. Currently composer-in-residence with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Frank has been nominated for Grammys for both composer and pianist. She is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. “I kept Gabriela’s piece intact, as it is an Andean walkabout, it is a whole journey, and I felt that that was really important. … She thanks her Peruvian roots for the influence in her life for this particular composition” and combines Western, classical, and Andean folk traditions in the piece.
“Frank replicates so many natural sounds, like the whipping of the horses [which Djokic vocalizes] and other gestures she recreates through the instruments – it’s truly remarkable how creative she is – if you close your eyes and imagine what it is when you’re listening to it.”
Djokic purposefully chose four female musicians from the Concordia roster for this concert. “I really do feel that it’s a different energy when it’s all women. … I just have a sense of what the chemical reactions are, and if I’m focusing on an all-female composers’ foundation as the platform, I want to be able to explore those voices, particularly with the repertoire that I chose, which has so much heart-felt emotion in it. I’m not judging men in any way, but I want to take that journey with other women. I’m just looking forward to that.”
Djokic thanks the people who make Concordia Chamber Players possible. “My board members have been working so many years. Many of them have been involved with Concordia, maybe not on the board, but involved since its inception [25 years ago], and they’re all volunteers. … I feel so fortunate that there’s a community in place that will repeatedly support Concordia Chamber Players as we have evolved over the years, and I don’t know how I can say thank-you enough to that … community.”