Thursday, November 17, 2016

Interview with Ted Sperling on MasterVoices' THE ROAD OF PROMISE

Image result for ted sperling
Ted Sperling, MasterVoices Artistic Director
MasterVoices has been a major musical institution in New York City since their inception as the Collegiate Chorale 75 years ago, under the direction of renowned conductor Richard Shaw.

Their latest release, THE ROAD OF PROMISE, is a double-disc world premiere recording of the concert adaptaion of Kurt Weill's The Eternal Road.

In anticipation of its release, we caught up with MasterVoices' artistic director Ted Sperling to discuss the new album and learn more about how it came to light.

What inspired MasterVoices to produce and perform THE ROAD OF PROMISE?

We’ve been big fans of Kurt Weill’s music for a long time. We already produced concerts of Knickerbocker Holiday and The Firebrand of Florence. So this is very much something we’d been aware of and interested in. When the critical edition was finished, it was time to take the plunge! In addition, this work is a great showpiece for our chorus, and deals with subject matter that, unfortunately, is always timely.

This project has certainly been a long time in the making, from the premiere of Kurt Weill’s The Eternal Road in 1937 to the concert adaptation’s performance and recording in May 2015. How does the newer work interpret and expand upon the themes of Weill’s original epic?

The newer work is actually a distillation of the original into a more compact and performable version. The original production was close to five hours in running time and had a huge cast of principals. The Road of Promise concentrates on the relationship among the Rabbi, the Boy and the Skeptic, with the Bible stories providing commentary.

What would you say is the biggest benefit to the album being recorded live, rather than in a studio?

A live recording is never perfect, which is sometime hard for us to adjust to in this age of being able to manipulate nearly everything in a studio recording. But it captures a moment in time, with the sounds of an audience being engaged, so it has a special excitement. 

It is also, practically speaking, easier to pull off. You don’t have to reassemble the forces again in a recording studio, and as result, it’s also economically more feasible for a project that isn’t commercial in nature.

What message do you want your listeners to take away from this album?

I hope a greater understanding of Kurt Weill’s different voices as a composer… this is an interesting period for him, right between his European work and American work. The Road of Promise calls on both his classical roots and his showman’s talents.

What’s next for MasterVoices? What performances and recordings are you currently preparing?

We are currently preparing for two more performances at Carnegie Hall: Bach’s St. John Passion, in a newly commissioned English translation by our Evangelist, Michael Slattery, who sings the role of The Voice in THE ROAD OF PROMISE. Followed by the first major revival of Victor Herbert’s “Babes in Toyland” in over 75 years, with an all-star cast headed by Kelli O’Hara, Christopher Fitzgerald, Lauren Worsham and Bill Irwin.

THE ROAD OF PROMISE is available on Navona Records tomorrow  in the meantime, you can hear a preview of the album via the YouTube player below.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Project Update: The Music of Hayes Biggs

We're pleased to share that PARMA Artist Hayes Biggs has signed on to complete his upcoming album of chamber and choral works, with final pieces to be recorded in early-to-mid 2017.

You may recall about a year ago when Hayes began working with us towards this album (here's a link to the original post: - we've since entered the studio with him twice to produce some excellent recordings and are looking forward finishing and sharing the results with all of you.

One of the upcoming recordings, for a piece titled "Pan-fare" for 12 musicians including steel pan soloist, will likely be the curtain-raiser on a track list of works showcasing the many facets of Hayes's compositional voice across a diverse array of instrumental and choral works.

For now, you can hear our recording of "When you are reminded by the instruments" below - stay tuned for more!

Friday, November 11, 2016

New PARMA Artist: Zhen Chen

We are pleased to welcome pianist/composer Zhen Chen to the PARMA family!

We will be working with Zhen to release his debut album of compositions, ERGO, an exciting combination of Eastern and Western styles using the framework of traditional Chinese instruments alongside piano. Zhen takes a minimalism and modern approach in composition and emphasizes emotional appeal with melodic lines and excellent tonality.Zhen received a bachelor's degree in piano performance from the Central Conservatory of Music in China as well as a masters degree in piano performance under Dr. Arkady Aronoy at the Manhattan School of Music, where he also earned a master's degree in collaborative piano as a full scholarship recipient.

An artist of many hats, Zhen has emerged as a soloist and chamber artist in several premier music venues such as Carnegie Hall and David Geffen Hall of Lincoln Center. Although classically trained, Zhen has had the pleasure of working with Jeffery Milarsky and Edward Smaldone to perform and promote contemporary music. Zhen has also worked with folk artists from China to contribute to the diverse music scene of New York City.

He is also one half of the Jade Duo, a partnership with violinist Shuai Shi. Their debut recording FAURÉ, SCHUMANN, BARTÓK Sonatas for Violin and Piano has been hailed as "a perfect balance" with “sheer beauty of tone, fluent and fluid playing, and emotional refinement.” Below is a song from the aforementioned album.

We look forward to the upcoming collaboration, and we are excited to be working with Zhen Chen!  Please keep your eyes open for details on the release of ERGO!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New PARMA Artist: Patricia Julien

photo by Lindsay Raymondjack
We're happy to welcome composer/flutist Patricia Julien to the PARMA family of artists!

Patricia is an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Vermont. Before UVM, she taught at Skidmore College, George Washington University, and University of Maryland, College Park. She has presented her continuing research at the national conference of the Society for Music Theory, and has published articles and reviews in Theory and Practice, Annual Review of Jazz Studies, Jazz Education Journal, and Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy.

Here are some thoughts from Julien describing the inspiration and content of the orchestral work we'll be recording in the spring:

"Among the Hidden grew out of my recent and ongoing exploration of what it means to be hidden, to hide, to conceal. I attempted to depict and embed some of these ideas in the piece. I considered the literal "concealer," a type of makeup used to hide so-called flaws and bruises. I thought about children experimenting with lying, attempting to hide the truth, and how this can be a type of storytelling and can also represent an effort to create a new reality. I pondered the idea that a flurry of activity and cheer can sometimes mask unease. I wondered about the use of a disguise to hide and transform, and I contemplated how hiding is related to privacy. Sometimes hiding is playful as in "peek-a-boo" with babies and "hide and seek" with young children. Sometimes there is comfort in being hidden, in not revealing oneself. Almost always, hiding takes effort, but sometimes being hidden is like being invisible, a manifestation of being ignored."

We're looking forward to revealing Patricia's music in 2017 - keep an eye out for more news on this project, and in the meantime we recommend checking out some of her past work on her website:

#ThrowbackThursday: PARMA Takes on Dr. Strange

We are not having fun at all...
Here at PARMA we work hard to make sure we are promoting our artists in the best way possible, and that we are making music that sounds terrific.

However, we are not all superheroes, and running 110% all the time is tiring.

We like to think that we deserve a break every once in a while to have some fun and relax our powers. And why not do it on November 4th, National Stress Awareness Day, you know, when we are supposed to step back and assess the stress in our lives and address it?

Last Friday the PARMA team took the afternoon off to go see the newest Marvel movie that has been receiving rave reviews, Dr. Strange! PARMA set up camp at the IMAX in Newington, put our feet up, because yes, they were the reclining seats, and slid on our trusty 3D glasses.

Dr. Strange, which is played by the English heartthrob, Benedict Cumberbatch, is about how Dr. Stephen Strange's life changes after he gets into a car accident that nearly killed him but took away his star-studded career as a neurosurgeon. Strange seeks help from an enclave where he finds hope and healing through sorcery. Strange is then caught between two lives and deciding which one to leave behind. 

Now, without giving anything away, we will tell you that we were so engrossed in the movie that we couldn't eat our popcorn! When you get a chance, take a break from your normal superhero duties and let Hollywood do the work! Happy Thursday! 

Friday, November 4, 2016

How Music Therapy Relieves Stress

Happy Friday! Did you know that today is National Stress Awareness Day? Everyone has stress that comes in all shapes or forms. Stress can show up in getting a stain in your favorite shirt, maybe picking the kids up after practice that happen to end at the same time and are at opposite sides of town, running out of coffee or running out of chocolate at the peak of a craving. 

Stress also comes in more devastating forms such as illness, money problems, work, a broken down car, and a boat load of other things that life likes to throw at us. It's hard to get rid of stress. It's in our daily lives. November 4th is the nationally recognized day of the year to step back and address your stress and take steps toward easing that stress, whatever it may be.

How do you normally relieve stress? Do you take a walk? Read a book? Go for a run? Do you use music? 

Kate Beever, founder of Maine Music & Health studied music performance as an undergraduate at the University of Southern Maine, and then completed her masters in Music Psychotherapy at New York University, and is certified to practice Neurologic Music Therapy. 

Music Therapy is not as commonly known as a health resource but Beever explains that music therapy is "an evidence-based healthcare field that uses music to address nonmusical goals. The work happens through the emotional human connection to music, through memories or feelings evoked by certain chord progressions; but it isn't about perfecting a performance. Music is more of a tool." 

There is no doubt that music has strong emotional connections.  I know you can think of a specific song that connects you to a memory in your life, making you feel like that memory just happened. You can see the surroundings, smell the air and hear the voices of those that are now long gone. Music is wired in our brain as a tool like Beever explained. Music therapy uses these tools to help patients that have cancer, people with disabilities, help family dynamics, and to even relieve stress. 

To use specific examples, classical music can he used as a tool for pain relief and relaxation. Beever explained that "Guided imagery to classical music allows the brain to wander far away from a hospital setting, and breathing in time to music relaxes the nervous system by locking the brain into the tempo." This form of therapy is called entrainment, which also works for patients with Parkinson's because their gait can be guided with the tempo of the music that can be sped up or slowed down, the same works for immobile patients and heart rate. Our body is bound to a song's tempo, like when you listen to music while you walk, you walk in step with the rhythm, unconsciously.

Music therapy can also be used to enhance social skills for people with development disabilities through percussion games and writing songs. Drumming helps explore themes of social sharing, self-confidence, communication, and friendship. In addition to improving skills and confidence in people with disabilities, drumming exercises also help teens in correction facilities because of creative freedom and expression. Another form of therapy can occur through musical improvision. This technique especially helps family dynamic, such as families going through a challenging time,"the music opens up a comfort zone that then allows for safe verbal processing of family dynamics - and the music can be played again while implementing changes in old habits," explains Beever. 

So if you're looking for a new way to relieve some stress today and in the future, consider banging on some drums, walking to the beat of your favorite song, or listening to classical music, in fact, we have a playlist for you to check out on Spotify!

Music is a safe way to express feelings that may be too confusing to express in words. It can energize, uplift, calm and relax. It can teach academic skills or social practices. It creates a positive experience that may not exist without this modality. And everyone has the ability to benefit from music therapy! 
-Kate Beever, Music Therapist

Maine Music & Health has two locations, the main location in Portland, and a space in Saco, which was recently opened. If you'd like to contact Kate Beever or would like to seek music therapy, call 207.233.8734 or email at 
Follow MM&H on Facebook and Twitter.

New PARMA Artists: Eric Funk and Lori Mirabal

We are so excited to announce plans to record and release a new orchestral work by composer Eric Funk performed by mezzo-soprano Lori Mirabal.

Eric Funk 
Eric Funk is an accomplished American contemporary classical composer and conductor. Over the years his extensive catalog of 140 works has included nine symphonies, three operas, six ballet scores, three large works for chorus and orchestra, 13 concertos, several orchestral tone poems, numerous works for chamber ensembles, solo instruments, and vocal works. Funk's works have earned him numerous awards and commissions including 13 ASCAP Standard Awards, the 2001 Governor's Award for the Arts (Montana), and three Arts Commission Fellowships.

Dr. Lori Brown Mirabal
Dr. Lori Brown Mirabal is an internationally accomplished mezzo-soprano, scholar, and music educator. Her career has led her to working with legendary opera and music theatre luminaries such as Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Hal Prince, Susan Stroman, and Cab Calloway. Recently she premiered the role of "Adelaide Bobo" in the opera Les Negres at Opera de Lyon in France.

This new piece follows the success of Funk's piece for Mezzo-soprano and wind ensemble titled "Harriet Jacobs- A Tribute." The piece drew inspiration from the novel "Incidents In the Life of a Slave Girl" written in 1858 by Harriet Jacobs. It tells how she escaped slavery and hid in an attic space for seven years watching her children grow up in secret. Funk brought Mirabal to Bozeman to perform the piece to much success.

Funk and Mirabal have reconnected to create the second part of their artistic message, integrating new text from contemporary viewpoints on race in the US, and culminating in a new version of the piece for multiple voices and symphony orchestra

Keep an eye on the PARMA blog and Twitter for more updates about this exciting new work.

Welcome, Eric and Lori!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

#MakeItYours: An Environmentally-Conscious Playlist

In light of Fry Street Quartet's recent release, THE CROSSROADS PROJECT, and in support of their hashtag campaign #MakeItYours, we've assembled a collection of "environmentally-conscious" music for your appreciation and contemplation. Though Earth Day is still almost half a year away, we think it's important to keep the environment in mind on a daily basis, and in appreciation of the wonders of the natural world, we hope you'll enjoy the music they helped to inspire:

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Preview of PARMA's November 2016 Releases


THE ROAD OF PROMISE represents a concert adaptation of Kurt Weill’s 1937 opera-oratorio The Eternal Road. Performed by members of the New York City-based performing arts organization MasterVoices (formerly The Collegiate Chorale), under the baton of Ted Sperling, this pseudo-allegorical work was conceived by European Jewish emigrants in the US as an attempt to inform the American public about Adolf Hitler’s persecution of German Jews. The storyline is set in a synagogue on a night of fearful waiting during the “timeless night of Israel’s persecution.” The Rabbi comforts his congregation by recounting for them iconic stories from Jewish scripture. These biblical scenes unfold through spoken dialogue, arias, ensemble pieces, and a chorus, and bounces between the Rabbi’s ‘present day’ conversations with his congregants and dramatizations of different Torahic stories. READ MORE


With his new album SURSUM, composer Michael Slayton presents six compelling compositions, each performed by a different ensemble or solo performer. Despite the album’s varied & esteemed assemblage of performers, there lies a common thread throughout in both the form of Slayton’s distinguished composing style – dreamy but focused, and equal parts smooth and dissonant – as well as the imagery that the music conjures. READ MORE

Davis Brooks 

EARLY MUSINGS presents a comprehensive collection of new works for solo violin composed by American and American-based composers, almost all of whom were born after 1990. Though young, these composers’ music speaks to the core strengths of solo violin repertoire, a genre that has represented a prominent pillar in the Western chamber music canon since the seventeenth century. READ MORE


American composer Marty Regan specializes in composing music for traditional Japanese instruments, a fascination he has developed since 2000. Regan describes his Japanese-style compositions as, “hybrid musical soundscapes that reflect the age in which we live, an era based not necessarily on globalization, but of partnership based on global cultural interaction.” In contrast, SPLASH OF INDIGO features a complementary side of Regan’s output, containing only works for Western orchestral instruments and voice. READ MORE

Jutta Puchhammer-Sédillot | Élise Desjardins

Violist Jutta Puchhammer’s album PIÈCES DE CONCOURS POUR is a treasure trove of late romantic French viola music. Originating as exam compositions for students enrolled at the Conservatoire Supérieur de Paris from 1896-1938, this album demonstrates Puchhammer’s peerless virtuosity as a performer, as well as the expressive range of her instrument, which was largely dismissed by the mainstream of eighteenth and nineteenth century composers. READ MORE


2016 marks the 50th anniversary of composer Deems Taylor’s death (1885-1966), an opportune time to revisit his music by releasing his previously unrecorded piece THREE CENTURY SUITE. This piece, in the form of a Baroque dance suite, is delightfully accessible, full of beautiful melodies, exquisite harmonies, and marvelous orchestration. THREE CENTURY SUITE was performed once before, in Interlochen, Michigan, in 1961, conducted by A. Clyde Roller. READ MORE


THE PRELUDES PROJECT is Holly Roadfeldt’s debut album on Ravello records, and features a complete recording of Chopin’s Op. 28 preludes for piano and a new set of twenty-six piano preludes written by American composer Kirk O’Riordan. In her performance of these works, Roadfeldt takes claim to one of the most iconic pieces in the solo piano repertoire, and also annoints O’Riordan’s new work as an impressive achievement among Classical music’s greatest sets of piano preludes. READ MORE

Allen Harrington | Lottie Enns-Braun 

Ravello Records presents VANISHING POINT, featuring saxophonist Allen Harrington and organist Lottie Enns-Braun in an unusual instrumental pairing not often heard in classical repertoire. “The saxophone and organ are wind instruments that rarely occupy the same space at the same time,” says Enns-Braun,“ and it is our contention that this seemingly incongruous combination is actually quite perfect.” READ MORE

Gheorghe Costinescu

Ravello Records presents ANIMATED SOUNDS, a multimedia release from composer Gheorghe Costinescu. The album showcases works by Costinescu from a varied and illustrious career spanning more than half a century. The first half of the release is purely musical, while the second half showcases Costinescu's work and collaborations in multimedia. READ MORE