Bringing together composers united by the calendar, the San Francisco Girls Chorus opens its season with a program they’re calling Philip Glass and the Class of ’37. Along with arrangements of works by Glass made specially for the chorus, they’ll have music by Mily Balakirev (1837), Johann Michael Haydn (1737), and Dieterich Buxtehude (1637). Music Director Valerie Sainte-Agathe says the 36 singers will be accompanied by two members of the Philip Glass Ensemble in Wednesday night’s performance.
You can find out more about the concert at the San Francisco Girls Chorus website.
The ensemble’s Artistic Director, Lisa Bielawa, is a member of the Philip Glass Ensemble (although she won’t be singing in the concert) and will frequently appear singing either alone, or as one-on-a-part with them. Sainte-Agathe says especially for the younger singers, there’s strength in numbers. “Those girls, they are 36. So, everything is arranged for choir, but in a piece like The Photographer, the endurance that you need to have 20 minutes of music like that non-stop and keep the rhythm! It’s great that we can be 36 because technically, it’s extremely difficult.” They’re also performing excerpts from his opera Einstein on the Beach, and the score for the film Koyaanisqatsi. “We’ve been performing Philip’s music for a long time right now,” she says. “And so, the first time we performed it was at Lincoln Center two years ago. I’m just happy to say that he was there, you know, at this performance, and he listened to our repertoire and just loved it. And so, I think the idea came up there.” Having the other composers on the program helps to put the contemporary works in context. “Sometimes we’re afraid about contemporary music, but Haydn, Buxtehude, at one point were contemporary composers also. Philip Glass, you need to know who is this person. I mean, you can’t not know. And in 30 years, this is the music that’s going to be part of music history.”