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Kristina Boerger to conduct Amuse in "A Poet Sings"
by Carol McD. Wallace for Vocal Area Network
Posted May 31, 2005

Kristina BoergerOn June 12 at 4:00 PM, Amuse will present its fifth concert at St. Michael's Church (99th Street and Amsterdam Avenue) under the leadership of guest conductor Kristina Boerger. The program, entitled "The Poet Sings," includes sacred and secular music ranging from chant by Hildegard of Bingen to two contemporary compositions by Boerger herself. Each piece, with a text that originated as poetry, will be performed in the original language--English, Spanish, Latin, Finnish, French or Norwegian.

Of course, much secular music begins as verse that is set to music by a composer. What, then, does Boerger consider to be a good musical setting of poetry? "The selection of the poem is so critical, and some of the greatest poetry may not even need to be set to music. The French poet Paul Valéry said, I think, that setting a poem to music is like looking through a painting at stained glass. Certainly you can go wrong: there are settings that obscure the poetry. On the other hand, if the music is really great then the function of the poem is to have inspired the composition. On the whole, I think if the poem is good enough to inspire an arresting piece of music, then it works." And sometimes music makes an audience more receptive to the words: "it may just be a matter of slowing down enough to really let the poetry sink in."

The program for "The Poet Sings" includes Samuel Barber's To Be Sung on the Water, a setting of poetry by Louise Bogan, and Francis Poulenc's Petites Voix, with text by Madelaine Lay, among the more familiar pieces. Sharing the program are contemporary works by Matthew Harris and David Lang along with two settings of poetry by Boerger: Songs from Cymbaline and Draum om medsnodde bruer.

As part of the group's search for a new music director, Amuse's founder, Lee Ryder, invited Boerger to serve as guest conductor for the June 2005 concert. Says Ryder, "She wanted a wide stylistic range and an organizing theme, which I wanted to keep as loose as possible, which is why I chose poetry."

Kristina Boerger holds a doctorate in conducting from the University of Illinois and was Founding Director of Amasong, Champaign-Urbana's premier lesbian/feminist chorus. Amasong was the subject of a 2002 documentary by Jay Rosenstein for PBS's Independent Lens series. Amasong's two recordings both won GLAMA awards for Best Choral Performance. Since moving to New York in 2000, Boerger has become the director of the 28-voice Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble and she performs as a singer with groups as diverse as Pomerium, The Western Wind and Urban Bush Women. She teaches music history at Barnard College.

Amuse, founded in 2003, is a women's ensemble of 16 skilled amateur singers. Amuse's repertory encompasses works from the 16th to the 21st centuries, and concerts feature a combination of full and small ensembles. The group performs three concerts a year at St. Michael's Church. For more information, visit www.amusesingers.org.

Tickets for the June 12 Amuse concert are $15, seniors $10. Admission is free for children under 12. For more information, call (212) 877-6898. Amuse's next concert will be on September 18, 2005, with guest conductor Dianne Berkun.

Carol McD. Wallace is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Opera News, Brides, The New York Times and many other publications. She sang in Amuse's first concert. This is her second article for Vocal Area Network.

Content Contact: Carol McD. Wallace.
Revision Date: June 1, 2005.
Technical Contact: Steve Friedman.

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