The Peabody Post

Peabody’s Marin Alsop, Taylor Boykins, Awadagin Pratt, and Beth Willer perform with Chicago Symphony Orchestra This Weekend

Marin AlsopMaestra Marin Alsop, Professor and Director of the Graduate Conducting Program, and a handful of Peabody artists join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for its weekend concerts spotlighting the works of three contemporary women composers. The evening opens with Anna Clyne’s single-movement This Midnight Hour, which is followed by CSO Mead Composer-in-residence Jessie Montgomery’s Rounds, which was commissioned for and will be performed by acclaimed pianist Awadagin Pratt (PC ’89, Piano; PC ’89, Violin; GPD ’92, Conducting).

The program concludes with composer Julia Wolfe‘s Her Story, a theatrical work for orchestra and women’s vocal ensemble that was written explicitly for the intrepid Lorelei Ensemble, founded by artistic director Beth Willer, the Peabody Associate Professor and Director of Choral Studies. Her Story was co-commissioned by the Nashville Symphony, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Boston Symphony, and National Symphony Orchestras and was initially planned to debut in 2020 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of women’s suffrage.

How women’s voices have been prevented from being heard in both the concert hall and choirs and in American politics are intertwined in Her Story, which Willer expands upon in the Winter 2022 issue of Johns Hopkins Magazine. Western classical music didn’t encourage women to become composers, instrumentalists, or vocalists, as boys sung high parts. Women were also banned from singing in church services until the 19th century, and the lingering effects of such extend into the present: interesting, ambitious music written explicitly for women’s vocal ensembles is modest at best. Her Story received its world debut by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and Lorelei in September, which was when mezzo-soprano Taylor Hillary Boykins (MM ’14, Voice) made her debut with the ensemble.

Alsop, Boykins, Pratt, and Willer join the CSO for its Alsop Conducts Wolfe: Her Story program, which was previewed by Musical American and the Chicago Tribune. Tickets for the January 6 and January 7 performances are available online.