A new work by noted American composer Robert Kyr has been commissioned by Chorus Austin for its chamber ensemble. The Unutterable is a multimedia work Kyr is creating for Chorus Austin’s 32-voice Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble. The piece will be premiered March 31 at AVAE’s “In Remembrance” performance, which is part of Austin’s “Light / The Holocaust and Humanity Project.”
According to Kyr, the text of the choral piece, which will be read in performance by the composer, is “Death Fugue” by the poet Paul Celan, who was forced to work in a labor camp for 18 months in 1942 and 1943 and whose parents died in a Nazi concentration camp. “The German title of the poem is ‘Todesfuge,’ which resembles the word ‘todesmusik’ or ‘death music,’ suggesting the music that prisoners were forced to play for those who were being led to the gas chambers,” Kyr said.
According to the composer, The Unutterable is staged around the audience, as the choristers move through the concert space during the reading and singing of the text. Vocal soloist/cantor is Rabbi Neil F. Blumofe, senior rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim; and conductor is Chorus Austin Artistic Director Ryan Heller.
Born in 1952, Robert Kyr has composed 12 symphonies, three chamber symphonies, three violin concerti, chamber music and numerous works for vocal ensembles of all types. As a composer, writer and filmmaker, Kyr has been commissioned by many ensembles including the Yale Camerata, University of Chicago Choruses, Chanticleer, Conspirare, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Harvard Glee Club, Radcliffe Choral Society, Yale Symphony, Berkshire Symphony, New England Philharmonic (Boston), Oregon Symphony and New West Symphony (Los Angeles). His international commissions include Cappella Nova (Scotland), Revalia (Estonia), Putni (Latvia) and Moscow State Chamber Choir (Russia).
Currently Robert Kyr is Philip H. Knight Professor of Music at the University of Oregon School of Music, where he is chair of the composition department. He also is director of the Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium, Music Today Festival and Vanguard Concert and Workshop Series. He holds degrees from Harvard (Ph. D., ’89), University of Pennsylvania
(M. A., ’78), and Yale (B. A., ’74).
“In Remembrance” is one-night only, beginning at 8:15 p.m. Saturday, March 31, at Congregation Agudas Achim, 7300 Hart Lane. Tickets, at $20 general admission and $15 for seniors and students, are available for purchase online at www.chorusaustin.org, at the door or by contacting the Chorus Austin business office at (512) 719-3300.