Cecilia Chorus pairs world premiere by a Syrian composer with Brahms
by Jefftrey James for Vocal Area Network
Posted April 30, 2017

Mark ShapiroThe Cecilia Chorus of New York, Mark Shapiro, Music Director, will present the world premiere of A Garden Among the Flames, a commissioned work by Syrian composer Zaid Jabri on a Sufi text poem by Ibn Arabi, with additional text by Yvette Christiansë, on Saturday, May 6 at8:00 PM at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, 57th Street and Seventh Avenue. Jabri’s piece will establish a new context for the Brahms Requiem that will follow. The concert will be performed by soloists, chorus, children’s chorus and full orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Shapiro.

Guest artist Chelsea Shephard, soprano, remarked, “After hearing A Garden Among the Flames, who can listen to the Brahms Requiem without hearing it as a requiem for Syria?”

A Garden Among the Flames, from Krakow-based Syrian composer Zaid Jabri, is based on a poem by the 13th-century Sufi philosopher Ibn Arabi, with additional lyrics by Barnard College poet Yvette Christiansë. Sung in English, Arabic and Latin, the piece is written for chorus, two soloists, a children’s chorus and orchestra. Into the ecumenical Sufi text calling for love and inclusion, Christiansë has woven a narrative evoking the trauma of today’s refugees fleeing war and oppression. Read more about Zaid Jabri at ceciliachorusny.org/updates-contact/2017/3/18/zaid-jabri/.

A German Requiem, To Words of the Holy Scriptures, Op. 45 by Johannes Brahms was composed between 1865 and 1868. The Requiem is sacred but non-liturgical, written in German vernacular rather than the traditional church Latin. Unlike the Requiem Mass in the Roman Catholic liturgy which begins with prayers for the dead ("Grant them eternal rest, O Lord"), A German Requiem focuses on the living, beginning with the text "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted" from the Beatitudes. While Brahms derived the libretto from the German Lutheran Bible, he eschewed Christian dogma to stress a more universal message of comfort.

Soprano Chelsea Shephard and baritone Sidney Outlaw will be joined by the Every Voice Children’s Choir, Nicole Becker, Director.

Tickets for the May 6 concert range from $25 to $85 and can be purchased online at ceciliachorusny.org/tickets/. For more information about this concert, visit www.ceciliachorusny.org/ or call 646-638-2535.

The Cecilia Chorus of New York is the 2015 winner of the ASCAP/Chorus America Alice Parker Award; and the 2013 third-place winner for The American Prize in Choral Performance. New York City's Department of Cultural Affairs recently bestowed a generous grant of support on The Cecilia Chorus of New York for its’ 2016-17 season.

The Chorus, a secular organization, was founded in 1906 and has evolved into one of the finest avocational performing arts organizations in New York City. Recent performance highlights have included the commission and premiere of Tom Cipullo’s Credo for a Secular City at Carnegie Hall in Spring 2014, the New York premiere of the Mass in D (1892) by Dame Ethel Smyth and revivals of works by Peter Mennin and Isabella Leonarda, as well as the Chorus’s first-ever commission/premiere for Carnegie Hall, Divis Cetera by Raphael Fusco in 2012. The Chorus’s 2016-17 season will include three newly commissioned works throughout the year.

Mark Shapiro was appointed the seventh Music Director of The Cecilia Chorus of New York in 2011. He is one of a handful of artistic leaders in North America to have won a prestigious ASCAP Programming Award five times, achieving the unique distinction of winning such an award with three different ensembles. His February 2015 Juilliard performance of Britten's The Rape of Lucretia was characterized in The New York Times as "insightful"; The Times has elsewhere praised his work for its “virtuosity and assurance,” and “uncommon polish,” and his leadership was characterized by New Jersey’s Star-Ledger as “erudite and far-reaching.” His bio is at www.ceciliachorusny.org/music-director-mark-shapiro/.

Jeffrey James runs Jeffrey James Arts Consulting, a full-ervice arts agency dedicated to management and public relations.