Spoleto Festival Offering a Variety of Music Productions

The program for the this year's Spoleto Festival USA, taking place May 26th through June 11th, features more than 160 ticketed events spanning numerous categories.

This year's music series will feature artists from numerous genres and backgrounds. Here's how Spoleto Festival USA describes this year's music program:

After the great success of last year’s 40th-Season Celebration Concert, Spoleto Festival USA will again explore the depths of its rich history in a new jubilant evening. Artists from every corner of the Festival’s musical offerings—the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, the Westminster Choir, and musicians from the Bank of America Chamber music series—will join together for the Spoleto Celebration Concert at the Martha and John M. Rivers Performance Hall at the Charleston Gaillard Center, led by esteemed conductor Anne Manson, who is returning to the Festival for her third time in recent years. The varied program on May 30 will include works by Charleston composer Edmund Thornton Jenkins, Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances” from West Side Story, and chamber musicians—including The Charles E. and Andrea L. Volpe Director for Chamber Music violinist Geoff Nuttall—in a Vivaldi concerto. The concert will also include works by Joseph “Fud” Livingston, an early jazz musician born in Charleston in 1906.

Westminster Choir, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus, and the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra will combine forces on June 6 to present works including Mozart’s Great Mass. Thought to be written as a peace offering to his father—who did not approve of Mozart’s marriage—the mass features solos (written for, among others, his wife Constanze) that require great virtuosity and range; these traits along with mighty choruses and grandiose orchestral writing make this work far more ornate than any church music of its time. Festival Director of Choral Activities Joe Miller will conduct this choral masterwork that has captivated and delighted audiences for more than 200 years.

Joe Miller will also conduct the Festival’s ever popular Westminster Choir Concerts at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul. The choir, lauded as “remarkable for its precision, unanimity, and power” by The New York Times, will explore its striking sonic capabilities in a program titled A Thousand Years to Live (May 29 and June 3). It will feature works by American composers Dominick DiOrio, Kile Smith, and Paul Crabtree, along with Brahms’s Three Songs, op. 42 for a cappella choir, Latvian composer Uģis Prauliņš’s Laudibus in Sanctis, and music from the Sacred Harp and Ring Shout traditions.

Festival Resident Conductor and Director of Orchestral Activities John Kennedy will lead the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra in Gustav Mahler’s beatific Symphony no. 4, a yearning for a peaceful life on earth with his setting of the poem “Das himmlische Leben” (The Heavenly Life). Soprano Pureum Jo, whose performance in the opera Matsukaze at the 2013 Festival received critical acclaim from Opera News, The Wall Street Journal, and Charleston’s Post and Courier, will return as a soloist. Also on the June 3 program entitled Mahler 4 and Dreaming will be the US premiere of Dreaming by Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir, which won the Nordic Council Music Prize in 2012.

As part of the American Express Woolfe Street Series, the world premiere of Cinema and Sound will pair silent film shorts with original music composed by pianist Stephen Prutsman. The suspense, surrealism, and silliness of the three early films—The Cameraman’s Revenge (1910), Suspense (1913), and Mighty Like a Moose (1926)—is well suited for the Woolfe Street Playhouse, where Prutsman and a quartet from the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra will offer this music-meets-the-silver-screen experience for five performances starting on June 7. Cinema and Sound is co-commissioned by Spoleto Festival USA, Schubert Club, and Festival Mozaic, with generous support from Michael Hostetler and Erica Pascal.

Under the direction of violinist Geoff Nuttall, the Bank of America Chamber Music series features 33 concerts of 11 programs performed three times in the historic Dock Street Theatre. Nuttall’s signature wit and joie de vivre mark each of the performances, whether he is playing with his St. Lawrence String Quartet, or acting as emcee. The series is set apart by the unmatched stage chemistry and rollicking good time the musicians have as they play together. Returning favorites this season include countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo (who will also star in the title role during the Festival’s US premiere of Farnace); percussionist Steven Schick, last heard at the Festival in 2013; as well as oboist James Austin Smith, violinist Livia Sohn, and pianists Pedja Muzijevic and Stephen Prutsman. They are joined by several Festival newcomers: composer-in-residence Jaroslaw Kapuscinski, composer/cellist Joshua Roman, pianist Gilles Vonsattel, and the Rolston String Quartet, a Canadian ensemble that won the 2016 Banff International String Quartet Competition. The full program will be announced in April.

Directed and hosted by the Festival’s Resident Conductor and Director of Orchestral Activities John Kennedy, the Music in Time series includes four concerts exploring contemporary music. Three will be held at the Woolfe Street Playhouse as part of the American Express Woolfe Street Series. The first program (on May 28), entitled Tempus Fugit, will highlight a new generation of international composers including Argentina’s Jose Manuel Serrano, Estonia’s Helena Tulve, and Italy’s Luca Francesconi (who also composed the opera Quartett, receiving its US premiere at the Festival). Members of the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra will perform, led by conductor Jeffrey Means. On May 31, rising-star composers Ted Hearne and Jonathan Holland’s work, Synchrony, a response to the Black Lives Matter movement, will be featured in the program Sounding Peace, which will also include a selection from time-honored American composer Lou Harrison.    For the third program on June 5, Kennedy will lead a presentation of

John Cage’s classic 1976 performance piece Lecture on the Weather, which was created using texts by Henry David Thoreau, recordings of nature, and projections.

The Simons Center Recital Hall at College of Charleston will also welcome the June 1 Music in Time performance, featuring Festival chamber music favorite, pianist Pedja Muzijevic. The program, Dialogues with Pedja Muzijevic, will include four Haydn sonatas interspersed with three modern works by Jonathan Berger, John Cage, and Morton Feldman, to offer listeners a fresh landscape for hearing works anew.

Augmenting Spoleto Festival USA’s rich classical music canon will be two special musical guests. On Friday, June 2, Nashville-based and Grammy-nominated string band Della Mae will take to the College of Charleston Cistern Yard, a perfect match for lead singer Celia Woodsmith’s unvarnished yet intimate vocals and the group’s knack for blurring the lines between bluegrass, folk, soul, and old-time traditions. Rhiannon Giddens, the former frontwoman for the Grammy- winning Carolina Chocolate Drops (heard at the Festival in 2010 and 2008), will share an evening of American roots music at the Charleston Gaillard Center on Friday, June 9. Giddens’s show- stopping voice, writes Rolling Stone, “sweeps, soars, and snarls, driven by equal parts classical training and folksy instinct.”

The full 2017 program and an event calendar can be found here.

Tickets can be purchased by phone at 843.579.3100 and online at spoletousa.org. Tickets can also be purchased in person through the Spoleto Festival USA Box Office at the Gaillard Center (95 Calhoun Street) beginning on Monday, May 1.

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