THE CECILIA CHORUS OF NEW YORK PRESENTS
The Prison, by Dame Ethel Smyth
Music Director, Mark Shapiro
Smyth (1858-1944) based the text on a book of the same name by her soulmate and sometime lover, the little-known writer and philosopher Henry Bennett Brewster. Though The Prison has the form of an oratorio, the fiery composer, political activist, and iconoclast called it a symphony, wishing to avoid the connotations of organized religion which she felt were associated with the term ‘oratorio.’ The Prison is Smyth’s last work.
Mark Shapiro conducted this piece in 2016 with his chamber chorus, Cantori New York, using the composer’s own reduction for piano and bugle. Now, The Cecilia Chorus of New York will perform the piece in its full original orchestration, making this the second U.S. premiere of our season.
Mozart’s beloved Requiem, written as he lay dying and never finished by him, will complete our 2017-18 season. 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.”