Melodia celebrates 15 years with "The Harmony of Morning"
by Teri Duerr for Vocal Area Network
Posted April 23, 2018

Melodia: Harmony of MorningSongs from five diverse American composers come together for "The Harmony of Morning," a spring concert celebrating Melodia Women’s Choir of New York City’s fifteenth year of bringing women’s voices to the national choral scene.

“This concert is pure Americana,” promises Melodia artistic director and co-founder Cynthia Powell. “From songs of early Shaker communities in New England and Kentucky to the hills of West Virginia, our music spans a wide swath of our heritage.”

At the heart of the program is the Elliott Carter work from which the program derives its name, The Harmony of Morning. Written in 1944, it is one of the composer’s lesser-known early choral works, and is a setting of the poem “Another Music,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet (and New Yorker) Mark van Doren. As a work for women’s voices and small orchestra, it stands apart from the predominately instrumental, rhythmic works Carter is perhaps most well-known for, but the underlying exploration of music as the evolution of idea, another language—perhaps one purer to truth than words—is signature Carter. The “tonal painting” is rendered evermore vibrant through a repeated seven-note motif throughout by the choir, here joined by the virtuosic sound of an 11-piece, all-female orchestra, for what music critic David Schiff describes as “a spray of poetic colors.”

Fitting for a program celebrating Melodia’s milestone, as well as its mission to support, perform and commission new work by female composers, is the inclusion of works from Sally Lamb McCune and Christina Whitten Thomas, both composers with works previously commissioned and premiered by the choir. In fact, Whitten Thomas’s Mornings With You, composed for the choir in 2011, with lyrics from Brooklyn poet Pam McAllister, continues the theme of awakening to our senses and to the connections between body, heart and mind. “Whitten Thomas set four of my poems to music [in Mornings With You], says McAllister about her poetry themed around relationships and love. “I wrote Mornings With You …several relationships ago about the joy of waking beside a lover," says the poet. "Creativity is the saving grace in these difficult days. Come, hear some beautiful music. Celebrate love, mornings and friendship.”

McCune's two works in the program take listeners from the Appalachian Mountains in Jubilee down into the heartland of a changing rural America in Where Do the Roads Go? Continuing the tour of rural America, the program includes a selection of Shaker folk songs, arranged by Kevin Siegfried.

And finally, Melodia is set to perform a U.S. premiere from Paul Halley, A Brighter Garden, which weaves together poetry from Emily Dickenson and the 18th-century poet Isaac Watts. In the spirit of celebration and awakening that is a recurring theme in this delightful program, Halley’s work “invites the listener into a brighter place of sunshine and light,” writes Melodia executive director Jenny Clarke on the choir’s site.

Performers for "The Harmony of Morning" include Cynthia Powell, conductor; Taisiya Pushkar, piano; and an all-female orchestra: Dora Dimitrova and Elena Chernova-Davis, violins; Stephanie Griffin, viola; Maria Hadge, cello; Dara Bloom, bass; Allison Loggins-Hull, flute; Katie Scheele, oboe; Sara Budde, clarinet; Nancy Belmont, bassoon; Rachel Drehmann, french horn. The concert also features Aaron Copland's Hoedown from Rodeo, a piano interlude performed by Taisiya Pushkar.

"The Harmony of Morning, a 15th Anniversary Concert" will be performed Saturday, April 28 at 7:30 PM in Chelsea at Holy Apostles, 296 9th Avenue (between 27th and 28th Streets) and Sunday, April 29 at 3:00 PM on the Upper West Side at West End Collegiate, 245 West 77th Street (at West End Avenue). Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door, available at Brown Paper Tickets. For more info, visit melodiawomenschoir.org.

Teri Duerr is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York.