Hollywood Master Chorale celebrates the conclusion of its two-year project “Voices of LA” with a world premiere performance of eight newly commissioned works inspired by William Blake’s “Songs of Experience”

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.— The Hollywood Master Chorale (HMC) obviously likes to mix it up a bit. Its most recent performance, entitled “Masterworks in March,” was devoted entirely to the music of a composer who became a household name centuries ago – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. However, at “Songs of Experience” – which will take place on Sunday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Hollywood Lutheran Church in Los Angeles and on Saturday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m. at West Hollywood Library in West Hollywood—the renowned ensemble will present the WORLD PREMIERES of eight choral pieces by composers living and working in Los Angeles today.

HMC commissioned these works—all inspired by William Blake’s collection of poetry entitled “Songs of Experience”—as part of a project it inaugurated two years ago. Voices of LA began in 2011, when the Chorale selected four emerging composers—Joshua Fishbein of UCLA and Mark Popeney, Saad N. Haddad and Jordan Nelson of USC—to write choral pieces inspired by the poems in Blake’s “Songs of Innocence,” which the Chorale presented at a concert last spring, 2012.

“We chose well,” recalls Artistic Director Lauren Buckley with a smile. “Since last season’s performance, a number of our ‘young’ composers have received elite awards and recognition.”

Meanwhile, this season, each emerging composer was paired with a mentor composer and encouraged to write songs based, this time, on Blake’s “Songs of Experience.” Mentors participating in the program are Michelle Green Willner, Nick Strimple, Sage Lewis, and Jeffrey Bernstein, who originated the idea for “Voices of LA.”

“I wanted to create a project that would yield, over two years, a coherent body of accessible new music for HMC,” explains Bernstein, who served as HMC’s Artistic Director for two seasons, beginning in 2009. “I selected the texts by Blake for their brevity, their accessibility and their modest rhythm and prosody. I also loved how the themes of innocence and experience fit the student and student/mentor aspect of the project and unify it as a whole.”

“Our student composers have quite a bit of experience,” adds Buckley. “But it is the collaborative effort of imagining, writing, realizing and performing these works that makes this project so valuable. Everyone is invested in the outcome in a very personal way.”

Works the Hollywood Master Chorale will perform at “Songs of Experience” are: Ah Sunflower by Saad Haddad; Blake’s Ode by Jordan Nelson; Love Seeketh (The Clod and the Pebble) by Mark Popeney; A Divine Image by Joshua Fishbein; Two Flowers by Nick Strimple; The Little Girl Lost by Sage Lewis; The Garden of Love by Michelle Green Willner; and a second composition inspired by The Garden of Love by Jeffrey Bernstein.

“Composers benefit tremendously from writing for specific performers,” adds Bernstein, who confesses that he “very much enjoyed composing” The Garden of Love because he knows Lauren Buckley and HMC so well and had no doubt the Chorale could more than do justice to “the dark and evocative” nuances within his work.

“For a conductor, commissioning new works is exciting because there is the chance to participate in creating new pieces that resonate musically with the tastes and inclinations of the ensemble,” Bernstein continues. “And that relationship between the composer and the performers then becomes a part of the piece, something that can’t help but be communicated to the audience.”

As the Artistic Director behind the commissioning of not one but eight new works, Buckley couldn’t agree more with Bernstein’s assessment. “Being on the interpretive end of this project has been wonderful,” says Buckley. “The composers came to us with a vision, and we helped them realize it in a practical and artistic way. All of us involved—composers and singers—have put our blood, sweat and tears into these pieces, and the result is the best expression of the Voices of LA."

Voices of LA has been generously funded in part by grants from the City of West Hollywood and the County of Los Angeles.

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