Benjamin Britten’s 100th birthday will soon be upon us. The specific date is November 22, and on that Friday the Community Music Center (CMC) will host A Benjamin Britten 100th Birthday Bash. Having just completed a four-article “examination” of the 65 CDs in Decca’s Britten: The Complete Works (based on its organization into the categories of “The Operas,” “Stage & Screen,” “Voices,” and “Instruments”) on my national site, I find myself approaching this date with a rich appreciation of the prodigious breadth of this composer’s achievements. The CMC event, as may be expected, will be far more modest and will focus on the last two of these categories.
Performances will be by CMC faculty members and their colleagues. Here is a summary of the program as it is currently planned:
- Opus 27, “Hymn to St. Cecilia,” a setting of a poem by W. H. Auden for a cappella choir composed in 1942, to be performed by the Sacred and Profane Chamber Chorus directed by Rebecca Seeman
- Opus 80, the second solo cello suite, dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich and given its premiere at the 1968 Aldeburgh Festival, to be performed by William Skeen
- Unpublished, “Corpus Christi Carol,” originally composed as the fifth variation of the Opus 3 “A Boy was Born” and subsequently rejected since the subject of the text is the Crucifixion, rather than the Nativity; this will be performed in two arrangements; the first will be by Seeman on wineglass organ; then the original setting for boy alto and piano will be performed by Zac Selissen on electric guitar accompanied by Sigrid Sheie on piano
- The art song repertoire will include selections from first five (of seven) volumes of settings of folksongs published between 1942 and 1959 sung by Seeman accompanied by Sheie, the 1939 settings of Auden texts called “Cabaret Songs” performed by Ellen Shea with piano accompaniment by Allison Lovejoy, and vocalists Nicole Lumetta and Trisha Varley-Leavitt performing some of the duets
- Unpublished, the 1936 lullabies for piano duo will be performed by Jennifer Peringer and Lauren Coney
Additional offerings may be added to this program.
The following Sunday, November 24, the CMC Faculty Chamber Music Series will honor the centennial year of the first performance of Igor Stravinsky’s music for the ballet “The Rite of Spring” with a program entitled The Rite Stuff. This will feature premiere performances of three compositions inspired by Stravinsky’s music:
- A duo for electric guitar (performed again by Selissen) and piano (Jacqueline Chew) composed by Steve Kirk
- A duo for piano (Peringer) and flute and voice (both performed by Martha Rodríguez-Salazar) composed by Katrina Wreede
- A duo for harpsichord (Katy Luo) and percussion (Victor Flaviani) composed by Erik Pearson
In addition, the members of the Out of the Chamber artists collective will perform Peringer’s arrangement of Manuel de Falla’s music for the ballet “El amor brujo” (Love, the magician), Stravinsky’s sonata for two pianos, and Ryan Brown’s arrangement for electric guitar, electric bass, clarinet, and piano of selected movements from Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” score.
The Birthday Bash will begin at 8 p.m. on Friday, November 22. The Rite Stuff will begin at 4 p.m. on Sunday, November 24. Both events will take place at the Mission District Branch of CMC at 544 Capp Street. General admission for both will be $10. Those interested in further information may call 415-647-6015.