Ember to honor veterans in World War I commemorative choral concert
by Kathleen Engles for Vocal Area Network
Posted October 31, 2017

Deborah Simpkin KingThe impact of war on veterans and their families as told musically through the story of the death of Rudyard Kipling’s son in World War I, is the subject of a choral concert to be performed by Ember, the vocal ensemble of Schola Cantorum on Hudson. The concert will feature the east coast premiere of a concert-length work by composer John Muehleisen entitled But Who Shall Return Us Our Children?—A Kipling Passion that tells the story of the build-up to England’s involvement in World War I, and John Kipling’s tragic death and the effect it had on his family.

The concert will be performed on Veterans' Day, Saturday, November 11 at 7 PM at St. John’s Lutheran Church in New York City, and on Sunday, November 12 at 5 PM at Church of the Immaculate Conception in Montclair, NJ. Ember, which is comprised of singers from New York and New Jersey, will perform the two-hour oratorio under the baton of conductor Deborah Simpkin King, Ph.D., the organization’s artistic director and founder.

Mr. Muehleisen will be in residence with Ember, and will speak to the audience twenty minutes before each concert begins.

“In preparing for the centenary anniversary of the World War I Armistice on November 11, 2018, we wanted to honor our veterans and their families in a meaningful way that would recognize their enormous sacrifice,” explains Dr. King. “The heartrending Kipling story is representative of what so many families go through who are significantly impacted by war. That’s why Ember is devoting the entire 2017-18 season, extending through the November 2018 concert, to raising awareness about issues relevant to the impact of military conflict, and to potentially inspire greater awareness about decisions concerning military engagement.”

The season, entitled "When the War is Over," is supported by the work of a special Veterans Task Force which is arranging for veterans’ involvement in every concert, and producing a series of podcasts to launch in October. The podcast series will feature interviews with a broad range of individuals knowledgeable about and/or experienced with the impact of military conflict.

While the concert deals with the Kiplings’ terrible personal loss, in the end the story is about how we all struggle with loss. As Muehleisen says, “I want the work to provide hope and encouragement to those who have lost friends and loved ones in war, and in other circumstances as well, by experiencing the story of a family who loved their son deeply, who struggled to heal from their great loss and who ultimately found at least some degree of healing through the power of community, compassion and remembrance.”

A Kipling Passion, scored for chamber orchestra, soloists and vocal ensemble, was commissioned by Choral Arts Northwest, along with a consortium of additional choral organizations, each of which produces a regional premiere. Craig Hella-Johnson’s Conspirare produced the second performance shortly after the world premiere by Choral Arts world premiere in April 2017. Ember’s performances of the work, its third (NYC) and fourth (NJ), will include a newly-composed movement, along with other substantial edits to the original score.

Tickets for both concerts can be purchased in advance on the Schola website for $20, or at the door for $25. Children 12 and under are admitted free of charge. For tickets, or for more information go to www.ScholaOnHudson.org or call 888-407-6002 x5.

Ember is the performing ensemble of Schola Cantorum on Hudson, founded in 1995 by Deborah Simpkin King as an independent nonprofit organization. Ember performs its entire concert season in Manhattan and in Montclair, NJ. Its unique programming features new music (largely by living composers) with a socially pertinent message. The internationally recognized new music initiative, PROJECT : ENCORE™, was founded through Schola and the organization supports a multi-pronged education and engagement programs in addition to its performing activities. Ember draws singers from eleven counties throughout New York and New Jersey. Schola is supported by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Marjorie Bunnell Foundation, and many other generous individuals, foundations and business partners.

Deborah Simpkin King is the Founder and Artistic Director of Ember, the vocal ensemble of Schola Cantorum on Hudson (Schola), and of PROJECT : ENCORE™. Dr. King chairs the New York Choral Consortium (NYCC) and serves as the Interim Director of Music at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church and the Artistic Director of the Crescent Concert Series in Plainfield, NJ. Known as a visionary conductor, educator and advocate of new music and the choral community, Dr. King is a frequent presenter at professional conferences and is active as a guest conductor and teacher of master classes and choral workshops.

Kathleen Engles is a communications professional and freelance writer.