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November 15, 2011 > Music at the Mission presents Written in the Stars

Music at the Mission presents Written in the Stars

Submitted By Bill Everett

Music at the Mission presents Written in the Stars: Existentialist Poetry, Zen Buddhism and the American Song, featuring the music of John Jacob Niles. This inspiring and colorful, multi-media performance will explore the music and life of famous Kentucky composer and balladeer, John Jacob Niles, whose work greatly influenced the Folk Revival of the 1950s and '60s. The concert will weave together live performance with video, highlighting each era of the composer's life from his early popular songs to the rarely performed Niles/Merton Songs, op. 171 and 172.

In the summer of 1967, John Jacob Niles met the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. Niles had spent his career collecting, cataloging and arranging American folk music, especially that of his native Kentucky. His work became a huge influence on popular folk musicians of the '50s and '60s, including Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary. Merton was a well-traveled poet, social activist, and scholar in comparative religion, whose great admiration for eastern religion had helped open dialog between East and West.

The two struck up an instant friendship founded in their shared interest in Zen Buddhism and existentialism. Niles was devastated by the untimely death of Merton the following year. He spent the next four years setting Merton's poetry to music and the result was the haunting and beautiful collection of Niles/Merton Songs, op 171 and 172. Come and join Kentucky mezzo soprano Sherri Phelps and pianist Rachel Taylor in exploring the meeting of these two great minds.

Mezzo Soprano Sherri Phelps is an active soloist throughout the Southeast including operatic, oratorio, and concert repertoire. Her performances include The Haydn Festspiele where she appeared as Alto Soloist in Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis" in the Haydnsaal in Eisenstadt, Austria. She also had the pleasure of working with the late Roscoe Lee Brown at the Music at the Mission Concert Series narrating Stravinsky's "L'histoire du Soldat."

Dr. Phelps had the honor of being Alto Soloist with The Classical Music Festival Broadcast of Haydn's "Lord Nelson Mass" live from St. Stephen's Dome in Vienna, Austria. She was delighted to sing the world premiere of Craig Bohmler's song "Keys" as well as the rest of his song cycle "Songs of Loss" with the Mission Chamber Orchestra of San Jose under the baton of Emily Ray.

Her credits include a benefit concert with the Fremont Symphony Guild, Aspen Opera Center in the role of Myrtle in "Still Life," the alto solos in Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony," Mozart's "Requiem" and Handel's "Messiah," the latter multiple times with the Lexington Philharmonic.

Dr. Phelps has sung as soloist under the renown Jonathan Wilcox, and Sir Neville Marinner as well as many other conductors over the course of her career, and has recorded a role in Aaron Copeland's "Tenderland" with Kirk Trevor. She is also an active teacher with experience at Western Kentucky University, and Murray State University, as well as maintaining a private studio.

Dr. Rachel Taylor currently serves as a piano instructor at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) and the director of F.A.M.E., a new preparatory department of music at EKU. She currently maintains a private piano studio in Georgetown, Kentucky and previously served on the faculties at The College-Conservatory of Music at University of Cincinnati, Grinnell College, Coe College, Cornell College, and the Preucil School of Music. Dr. Taylor is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music (Music Teacher's National Association), holds numerous certifications, serves on the faculty of the Stephen Collins Foster Summer Music Camps and is the director of the Middle School Piano Camp.

Founded by Aileen Chanco in 2005, Music at the Mission restores the luster of Mission San Jose's early 19th century reputation as an active center for musical performance by presenting a vibrant mix of contemporary and historic music in the intimate acoustics of the Mission. Chanco draws on the wealth of the accomplished Bay Area's musical community, inviting the region's top performers to come together in a celebratory atmosphere of music making and exploration of chamber music in various combinations ranging from duos to small orchestral configurations.

Inspired by the success of their first concert, Chanco presented a new chamber music group, the Adorno Ensemble, in the spring of 2005. Her artistic vision was to present "a new type of chamber music series for the new century" to stimulate greater interest in classical music among the next generation. The result is programming with engaging concerts built around themes that provoke critical thought and continued exploration from the audience. Informative pre-concert talks and post-concert "Meet and Greet the Artist" receptions provide close contact with the artists, where she hopes the audience will feel actively engaged in the experience as a participant rather than just an observer.

The series has grown to be an important part of the Tri-Cities arts scene and draws audience members Bay Area-wide. Acclaimed artists presented include New-York based, ETHEL string quartet, soprano Lucy Shelton, pianist Stephen Gosling and actor David Ogden Stiers. Alongside the more traditional programs, the series also champions American new music and has programmed contemporary works by composers from Latin America, China, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Georgia and has given premieres of several works by new composers in its short history.

Tickets for November 19 are $25 for general admission and $20 for students and seniors when purchased at the door. Online tickets are $28.50 general admission and $23 for students and seniors at http://www.musicatthemission.vbotickets.com/events.

Music at the Mission: Written in the Stars
Saturday, November 19
8 p.m. (pre-concert talk begins at 7:15 p.m.)
Old Mission San Jose Church
43300 Mission Blvd., Fremont
http://www.musicatthemission.vbotickets.com/events
www.musicatmsj.org
Tickets: $20 - $28.50

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