Christopher Cerrone’s world premiere captures messages of loss and hope


After a two-year postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, composer Christopher Cerrone’s work for choir and orchestra, ‘The Last Message Received’, will have its world premiere at Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music Saturday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, on the Evanston campus of Northwestern University.

Several years in the making, “The Last Message Received” was co-commissioned by the Bienen School of Music for the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble, the Northwestern University Chorale, the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra and the Director of Choral Organizations. Donald Nally as well as the Yale Glee Club and the Yale Symphony Orchestra. Nally previously led the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble in the “The branch won’t break” in February 2020.

The idea for the work came from an unexpected place.

“In 2016, I came across a blog titled ‘The Last Message I Received,'” Cerrone explained. “I was intrigued by its unique title and even more unique premise: a Tumblr, in the words of its author, “run by a 15-year-old containing submissions of the latest messages people have received from ex- friends or significant ex-people, as well as deceased friends, significant others and relatives. As I read hundreds of these messages, I was deeply moved by the willingness of so many to share their heartbreaking losses. I started designing a piece where this set of texts became the fabric of a musical composition.

“The idea went through many iterations,” Cerrone continued, “but finally found its present form when Donald Nally asked me to compose a new work for choir and orchestra. I suggested ‘Last Message’ as material source and he eagerly agreed. It made musical sense for me to adapt these lyrics, which came from a multitude of voices, into a work sung by a multitude of voices. I was thrilled when the blog’s founder, Emily Trunko, accepted the idea.

Cerrone completed “The Last Message Received” in early March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact daily life in the United States, and its May 2020 premiere was postponed.

“It’s not lost on me that such a piece seems oddly prescient of what many people have now, tragically, had to go through,” Cerrone said. “But I hope the artwork’s message of hope resonates and heals people.”

The concert on April 30 at the Bienen school associates “The last message received” with another work in memory of the deceased, the Requiem by Maurice Duruflé, op. 9. Completed in 1947, the work was originally written for choir and organ, but in 1961 Duruflé completed a version for choir, soloists and orchestra. He based much of the Requiem material on Gregorian Chant and the Gregorian Mass for the Dead – music with which he was intimately familiar from his time as a resident chorister at the school linked to Rouen Cathedral – and has dedicated the work to the memory of his father. .

A free pre-concert discussion between Christopher Cerrone and Donald Nally will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 30 in the McClintock Choral and Recital Room, located at the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts at 70 Arts Circle Drive.

Tickets for the April 30 concert are $12 for general public and $6 for full-time students with valid ID. They can be purchased at the Bienen school ticket office by visiting concertsatbienfr.org or by calling 847-467-4000. The performance will also be presented as a live stream; to visit https://www.music.northwestern.edu/live for more details.

Artist biographies:

Composer Christopher Cerrone has received international acclaim for its music characterized by immersive textures, dramatic impact and attention to detail. The 2021-22 season sees the premieres of two of his other works. “In a Grove,” an opera composed with librettist Stephanie Fleischmann, premiered at Pittsburgh Opera in February 2022, and in April 2022 the Phoenix Symphony will premiere its new orchestral suite “The Age of Wire and String.” A 2014 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his opera ‘Invisible Cities’, Cerrone is the winner of the 2015-2016 Samuel Barber Rome Prize for Music Composition and received Grammy nominations for his 2019 recording of the song cycle ‘The Pieces that Fall to earth”. and his 2022 album “The Arching Path.” A graduate of the Yale School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music, Cerrone is a member of the composition faculty at the Mannes School of Music.

John W. Beattie Chair in Music and Director of Choral Organizations at the Bienen School, Donald Nally collaborates with creative artists, leading orchestras and art museums to create new choral works that address social and environmental issues. He has commissioned over 120 works and, with his Grammy Award-winning ensemble The Crossing, has produced over 20 recordings. Nally has held distinguished positions as Chorus Director for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Welsh National Opera, Philadelphia Opera, Chicago Bach Project and the Spoleto Festival in Italy. His collaborations include the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center, National Sawdust, Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNow series, and the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in BigSky. , Montana, where The Crossing holds an annual residency.

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