Let’s face it, although temperatures were relatively mild, it was a bleak winter for many of us in the United States. But this spring, Melodia Women’s Choir is focused on hope and renewal—and, of course, music. Melodia’s spring 2017 concert, "Awakening the Spirit," takes place on April 29 and 30 and will feature the U.S. premiere performance of English composer John Rutter’s latest work, Visions, for solo violin, choir and strings; Grace Williams’s The Dancers; and Gustav Holst’s Choral Hymns From the Rig Veda.
“To say that I’m excited about this music would be an understatement,” says Cynthia Powell, Melodia’s founding conductor and artistic director. “To be able to offer the U.S. premiere of a new work by John Rutter is a thrilling thing in and of itself, but to bring to life the gorgeous choral suite The Dancers by Grace Williams is the cherry on top of this luscious spring concert!”
Welsh composer Grace Williams (1906–1977), arguably the greatest female composer of the 20th century, worked on The Dancers between August and October 1951. Considered one of Williams’s most mature works, it is scored for soprano, women’s chorus, strings and harp. Coincidentally, one of Williams’s classmates at the Royal College of Music in London was Imogen Holst, daughter of Gustav Holst, whose Choral Hymns From the Rig Veda will also be performed.
The premiere of John Rutter’s Visions will feature violinist Areta Zhulla, recently named “Young Artist of the Year” by the National Critics Association of Music and Drama in Greece. Zhulla has appeared worldwide at renowned venues from Carnegie Hall to the Auditorium du Louvre, and currently serves as teaching assistant to Itzhak Perlman at The Juilliard School. The piece examines the spiritual, religious and historic importance of Jerusalem as a symbol of “a utopian ideal of heavenly peace and seraphic bliss for redeemed humanity” in four movements.
In describing Visions, Rutter has said, “I’ve always loved to write for voices and instruments together. Truth to tell, 75 percent of my published output is for choir. And this was a little bit different, because, in a way, the focus of the work was the violin soloist.” Accompanied by Zhulla’s violin and a string quintet, Melodia aims to achieve his vision.
Melodia Women's Choir performs "Awakening the Spirit" on Saturday, April 29, 7:30 PM, at Church of the Holy Apostles, 296 Ninth Avenue at West 28th Street, and Sunday, April 30, 3 PM at West End Collegiate Church, 245 West 77th Street at West End Avenue, New York City. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door and $15 for students and seniors. For more information, visit www.melodiawomenschoir.org.
Matthew Schlecht is a writer and editor in New York City.