The Ember Ensemble takes on issues of war
by Kathleen Engles for Vocal Area Network
Posted February 13, 2018

In Flanders FieldsThe Ember Ensemble of Schola Cantorum on Hudson will raise their voices in tribute to fallen soldiers on both sides of World War I and from many of the nations involved in the conflict when they perform the concert titled "Where Poppies Grow" on March 3 and 4. The concert will feature music and poetry from soldiers’ homelands, including France, Germany, Canada, Greece, Russia and others. The concert takes its name from the popular WWI poem In Flanders Fields, by Canadian poet John McCrae, in which he references fields of poppies where many soldiers lost their lives. Ember will perform three musical settings of the poem as part of its repertoire. The March concerts are the second of three sets of concerts making up Ember’s current season, "When the War is Over," that focuses on military conflict and its aftermath. The season honors the centenary anniversary of WWI and culminates in Armistice Day concerts in November 2018.

"Where Poppies Grow" will be performed at 7 PM on Saturday, March 3 at St. John’s in the Village Episcopal Church in New York City and at 5 PM on Sunday, March 4 at Church of the Immaculate Conception in Montclair, NJ. Ember, a pro-am ensemble drawing singers from New York and New Jersey, will be led by conductor Deborah Simpkin King, Ember’s artistic director and founder.

Veterans will be recognized and honored at every performance and given red lapel poppies, the WWI symbol of solidarity with soldiers.

“The point we seek to make with this concert is that the experience of war is the same on both sides of the battle line; and furthermore, that those whose lives are endangered are almost never those making decisions about war,” says Dr. King. “With our singing, we hope to provide a vicarious experience that can serve as a catalyst for heightened attention and fresh thinking around subjects of significance. Especially in a democratic nation, we have the opportunity to affect leadership responsible for making decisions on our behalf. I believe the arts can have a uniquely powerful impact because of their ability to reach deeply into our souls.”

In the concert, Ember will sing of pre-war innocence and dreams of a peaceful world (Friede auf Erden by Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg); of sadness at seeing a beloved leave for battle (Trois beaux oiseaux du Paradis by French composer Maurice Ravel and in settings of In Flanders Fields); and of remembrance of soldiers’ sacrifice (When the War is Over by Irish composer Michael McGlynn). Although the concert’s message about loss is a powerful one, it is also a message that’s as much about hope and joy (Everyone Suddenly Burst out Singing by Canadian composer, Peter Wilshire) as it is about sadness.

Tickets for both concerts can be purchased in advance for $20 or at the door for $25. Veterans can reserve their free ticket online at www.artful.ly/Schola. Children 12 and under are free of charge. For more information, visit 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 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, Ph.D., 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 active as a guest conductor and teacher of master classes and choral workshops.

Kathleen Engles is a communications professional and freelance writer.