Danielle Beckvermit, soprano*
Kathleen Reveille, mezzo-soprano*
John Chongyoon Noh, tenor*
Paul Whelan, bass*
Soloists, The Prison:
Chelsea Shephard, soprano
Tobias Greenhalgh, baritone*
*Carnegie Hall main stage debut
THE CECILIA CHORUS OF NEW YORK PRESENTS
The Prison, Dame Ethel Smyth
Music Director, Mark Shapiro
On May 11, 2018, at Carnegie Hall, Music Director Mark Shapiro conducted The Cecilia Chorus of New York in the long overdue New York premiere and North American co-premiere of suffragist and composer Dame Ethel Smyth’s last work, The Prison (1930). This performance of The Prison (Blachly edition) by The Cecilia Chorus of New York was the second phase of a joint initiative; the Johnstown Symphony (PA) performed The Prison on April 7.
Written for her by her soul mate, the author, poet and librettist Henry Bennett Brewster, The Prison, a symphony for chorus, soprano, baritone, and full orchestra, grapples with spiritual liberation in a dialogue between “The Soul” and “The Prisoner,” who is imprisoned in the “crust of self.” By searching for our own singular truth, we will be set free, for as the text says, "We are full of immortality.”
During her lifetime, Smyth’s work was dismissed by critics as a “novelty” due to her being a strong female composer who generally lived as she wished to, during a period when doing so while female was considered a threat to the social fabric. In more recent times, she has slowly gained recognition as a musical titan.
Mozart’s beloved Requiem, written as he lay dying and never finished by him but completed by Robert Levin, completed our 2017-18 season. Our mid-winter concert on March 4 ended with Gounod's Requiem, written for his four year-old grandson but completed only days before Gounod's own death. Why program this trilogy of last works? Music Director Mark Shapiro: “Composers, like any of us, engage in soul-searching later in life. An artist’s ‘late style’ typically entails both a summing up and a concentrated seeking that are charged with the wisdom and perspective earned through a lifetime of art-making. All of us are deepened—our lives become fuller and more joyful—when we are confronted with the inevitability of our own mortality and that of those we love. Artists especially can invoke and communicate this deepening, and lead us to experience it ourselves in a beautiful, exhilarating way.”