Perhaps you’re wondering where we’ve been this summer and what our 2020-2021 concert season will look like in these unprecedented times. We’re moving ahead with exciting plans and I want you, as a valued member of our MOR family, to be among the first to know about them. Our upcoming season – Endurance of Hope – brings music with messages of strength and perseverance for our troubled moment.
At least until next spring, it’s unlikely that conditions will permit us to return to the concert hall in a manner that’s safe for our audience members, performers and staff. So, for the first six months of our season – October through March – we’ll present a series of four all-new concert programs that we’ll record and bring to you in the comfort of your home. The concerts will consist almost entirely of works that we’ll be performing for the first time, and the virtual format will allow us to enhance them with live conversations, panels and meet-the-artist events.
Although we’re still finalizing our exact concert dates and ticketing details, I can already tell you about the music, which includes two world premieres of our newest commissions. With the pandemic sending us on a voyage that none of us could have expected, it seems appropriate that a theme running through our entire season is that of journeys: Journeys in search of safety and freedom. In search of identity. Journeys of hope in the face of daunting odds. Odysseys to new lives in new lands.
Our first concert – To Life!, in late October/early November – features Haim (Life), by the gifted Russian-born composer Polina Nazaykinskaya. This chamber work is a musical tribute to David Arben, a survivor of three concentration and four labor camps who as a young boy was saved by his violin when he was pulled from a crowd of 105 prisoners waiting to be shot or buried alive by the SS. After the war he came to America, penniless and barely speaking a word of English, and eventually joined the Philadelphia Orchestra for 34 years.
“Music is Life. Music is Hope. Music is Peace.” - Violinist David Arben (1927-2017)
In our second concert in mid December we unveil Stormy Seas by Iranian-American composer Sahba Aminikia. With a deep personal commitment to human rights causes, Aminikia is also the founder and the artistic director of the Flying Carpet Festival, a performing arts festival for children in war zones. Aminikia’s new work is based on the beautiful book Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees by Mary Beth Leatherdale and Eleanor Shakespeare. It tells five true stories about young people who braved the peril of setting sail in search of safe shores: from Nazi Germany; from communist Cuba; from war-torn Vietnam; from Taliban-infested Afghanistan; from an orphanage in Ivory Coast. The work is a testament to hope and courage, and an appeal to our shared humanity. The program also takes us on a timeless journey with a poignant setting of Ladino songs of love and loss. Rodas Recordada by Canadian composer Sid Robinovitch explores the often-overlooked story of Greece’s Sephardic communities in the Holocaust. Based on a haunting Ladino ballad, the work has revealed a surprising bridge linking Rhodes and Seattle.
Art From Ashes
In late January, we continue our tradition of an annual concert marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Our Art From Ashes program showcases works we’ve never performed before by murdered composers from across Nazi-controlled Europe: David Beigelman, Hans Krása, Dick Kattenburg, László Weiner, Erwin Schulhoff and Paul Hermann. These musical treasures remain as testaments to inspiring courage and resilience in a time of unfathomable horrors, and they tell stories that resonate today as strongly as ever.
Return to Amasia
Our season of online concerts concludes in late February/early March with a world premiere illuminating the Armenian Genocide. During and after World War I, about one and a half million ethnic Armenians in Turkey and adjacent regions were systematically murdered or expelled by the Ottoman authorities. American composer Eric Hachikian is the grandson of survivors from that genocide. Return to Amasia is Hachikian’s intimate musical and visual account of his own journey to that city in Turkey in search of his roots.
The Music of Jake Heggie
Nothing can compare, of course, to the magic of sharing music together with an in-person audience. We’re planning, if the situation allows, to celebrate a return to the concert stage next May in Seattle and San Francisco with the same rare double bill of works by the incomparable team of composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer that we were forced to cancel this spring. Their Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope, inspired by the same Holocaust instruments we brought to Seattle in March 2020, consists of six songs sharing the stories of those instruments and imagining how their owners would tell their own stories. Our own ensemble, featuring violinist Mikhail Shmidt as soloist, will be joined by Metropolitan Opera mezzo soprano Laura Krumm. For a Look or a Touch, MOR’s earliest commission from Heggie and Scheer, was the first major musical work ever to explore the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. The musical drama is based on the true story of two idealistic young gay men in Berlin whose lives and love were torn apart under Nazi rule. This new production, directed by Erich Parce, features rising star baritone Jarrett Ott and the amazing musical actor Curt Branom.
It will be an exciting and memorable season, with our stellar ensemble drawn from the ranks of the Seattle Symphony and special guests who also include pianist Craig Sheppard, baritone José Rubio, mezzo soprano Karen Early Evans, soprano Tess Altiveros and guitarist Michael Partington. You’ll also meet the newest recipient of our David Tonkonogui Memorial Award for Young Musicians: the extraordinary 13-year old flautist Julin Cheung,
We’ll soon be back in touch with more details about our online concert series and other virtual events like film screenings, and live conversations with performers, composers and other special guests. As I’m sure you can imagine, this year’s unexpected transition to an online format involves financial challenges as well as technical ones. Now more than ever we depend on our supporters to help us through this difficult time. If you believe in our mission and are in a position to help, we hope that you’ll consider making a donation to help sustain our important work.
With my gratitude always,
Mina Miller, Founder and Artistic Director
Special Thanks to our 2020-2021 Season Sponsor
The Powell Family Foundation