The Washington Chorus presents music of Elena Ruehr in New Music for a New Age series

Now in the third year, this year’s program features the music of award-winning American composer Elena Ruehr. With full orchestra and chorus, this concert/symposium setting promises to be one of the hits of the season.
New Music for a New Age
New Music for a New Age
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District of Columbia - District of Columbia - US

March 2, 2011 - PRLog -- Washington, D.C. –GRAMMY® Award winner The Washington Chorus (TWC), under the direction of Music Director Julian Wachner, will present its third annual New Music for a New Age concert on Sunday, April 3 at 5:00 PM at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC.  The New Music for a New Age series, inaugurated by TWC in 2009, features the music of living composers.  In past years the Chorus has presented works of Trevor Weston and Nico Muhly. This year TWC will showcase the music of Elena Ruehr, an award-winning composer and teacher who has been called “a composer to watch” by Opera News.

The program includes three major Ruehr works: Cricket, Spider, Bee (text by Emily Dickinson) and Gospel Cha-Cha (text by Langston Hughes), both Washington premieres; and the world premiere of Averno. The text of Averno comes from Louise Glück’s award-winning book of poetry of the same name which deals with the subject of “human’s relationship to the natural world,” using the myth of Persephone and Demeter as its starting point.  Encompassing 12 poems selected in order from Glück’s work, Ruehr sets the story for chorus, orchestra, male and female soloists -- changing perspective with the poetry from the personal to the collective, from myth to history.  Forty minutes long, this cantata uses the musical style for which Ruehr is best known:  long lyrical lines and rhythmic drives, combined with a sense of the tradition of cantata singing from ages past with references to the great choral music of Gluck, Bach, Beethoven, and Mahler.

The Washington Chorus will also give the second performance of Ruehr’s Gospel Cha Cha.   Based on the famous late text of Langston Hughes, the poetry tells the story of Africans in the Americas, referring to important historical, cultural, religious and iconic figures from Africa, Haiti, South America and the American South in a narrative web that culminates in both a celebration of, and an elegy to, endurance. Written for her close collaborator of many years, baritone Stephen Salters, Gospel Cha Cha is “A tightly linked chain of musical episodes, each more riveting than the last" (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2001). This cantata informed Ruehr’s acclaimed opera Toussaint Before the Spirits.  To complete the evening, Ruehr’s Cricket, Spider, Bee with text of Emily Dickinson, explores the relationship of humans to the earth from the point of view of a nineteenth century American poet.

The concert will feature full chorus and orchestra, as well as baritone soloist Stephen Salters and mezzo-soprano soloist Marguerite Krull, and will be presented in a concert/symposium setting.  Immediately following the concert, Wachner and Ruehr will hold a post-concert Talk Back! session to discuss the music in more depth with the audience.  In addition, in March Ms. Ruehr will be in the Washington D.C. area lecturing in local schools on the music to be presented in this program, focusing particularly on Gospel Cha-Cha, one of the last great poems of Langston Hughes.  

Tickets for the concert are priced at $25 - $40 and are available through the TWC box office at 202.342.6221 or visit to purchase your tickets online. National Presbyterian Church is located at 4101 Nebraska Avenue N.W. in Washington, DC.  

About Elena Ruehr
Elena Ruehr is a composer whose music has been called “unspeakably gorgeous” (Gramophone Magazine)  “stunning” (the Washington Examiner) “a rare gift” (The Boston Globe) “magical” (Audiophile Audition) and “elegant, top-shelf listening” (Classical Voice of New England) and she is a “composer to watch” (Opera News) who writes “music with heart and a forceful sense of character and expression.” (The Washington Post) Available recordings of Dr. Ruehr’s music include How She Danced:  String Quartets of Elena Ruehr (Cypress String Quartet), Toussaint Before the Spirits (Arsis), Jane Wang considers the Dragonfly (Albany), and Shimmer (Albany). She was composer-in-residence with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project from 2000-2005, and the orchestra premiered her pieces Shimmer, Sky Above Clouds and Ladder to the Moon, as well as her acclaimed opera Toussaint Before the Spirits. Three of her six string quartets were commissioned by the Cypress String Quartet, and they have also been performed by the Biava, Borromeo, Lark and Shanghai String Quartets. Through her long time collaboration with baritone Stephen Salters, she has become known for her vocal writing based on work of living writers including Elizabeth Alexander, Louise Glück, Laura Harrington, Marta Rainer, Madison Smart Bell, and Elizabeth Spires.  In 2008 she was a fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute, where she wrote her cantata based on Louise Glück’s National Book Award finalist in poetry, Averno.

About Julian Wachner
Music Director of The Washington Chorus, Julian Wachner is one of North America’s most exciting and versatile musicians, sought-after as conductor, organist and composer.  In the 2009-2010 season, he made New York City Opera history having been selected as both conductor and composer at the company’s annual VOX festival of contemporary opera.  In addition to his City Opera debut, Wachner regularly appears on the world’s leading stages, including engagements with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Glimmerglass Opera, Montréal Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops Orchestra, Portland Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Toledo Symphony, Honolulu Symphony, Spoleto Festival USA, Music Academy of the West, Berkshire Choral Festival, Calgary Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Handel & Hayden Society, Pacific Symphony, and L’Orchestre Métropolitan du Grand Montéal.  Julian Wachner’s complete catalogue of music, containing over 80 works, is published by E. C. Schirmer.  Wachner’s recordings are with the Chandos, Naxos, Atma Classique, Arsis, Musica Omnia, and Titanic labels. Born in Hollywood, California, Wachner began his musical education at age four with cello and piano lessons at the University of Southern California, and studied under Gerre Hancock while a boy chorister at the St. Thomas Choir School in New York City. He earned a doctor of musical arts degree from Boston University’s School for the Arts, where his teachers included David Hoose and Lukas Foss.  In July 2010 Wachner was appointed Director of Music and the Arts at Trinity Wall Street, the historic Episcopal parish in Lower Manhattan.

About The Washington Chorus
Founded in 1961 as the Oratorio Society of Washington, The Washington Chorus, now under the baton of Music Director Julian Wachner, presents an annual subscription series at the Kennedy Center, the Music Center at Strathmore, and other major concert venues in the greater Washington area. In addition, the Chorus frequently appears at the invitation of the National Symphony Orchestra. The Washington Chorus is noted for its stellar and critically-acclaimed performances and recordings of the entire range of the choral repertoire. TWC, under the direction of former Music Director Robert Shafer, won a Grammy® Award in 2000 for Best Choral Performance of the Year for its live-performance recording of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. In addition to its recordings, the 190-voice Chorus has been broadcast and nationally televised, and frequently tours internationally. The Chorus considers its many education and community outreach initiatives an integral component of its mission. More information is available at

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Now in it's 50th season, The Washington Chorus is noted for its critically-acclaimed performances and recordings of the entire range of the choral repertoire.
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