“We musician are always looking for anniversaries,” said Lee R. Kesselman, professor of music and director of choral activities at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. “That way we periodically get around to almost every one.”
So, the College of DuPage is launching a series of 11 programs celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of English composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976). Britten is in good company, as 2013 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great opera composers Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi.
But Britten, who also wrote significant operas, appealed to Kesselman because of the composer’s numerous choral pieces and song cycles, which can be presented by students as well as professionals affiliated with the College of DuPage. “The English composers especially seemed to write so beautifully for the voice, and Britten combined text and music to create powerful dramas,” he noted.
The opening program features the song cycle, titled “Songs and Proverbs of William Blake,” written by Britten in 1965 for famed baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and to be performed by COD alumnus David Govertsen, who just completed two years at the Ryan Opera Center and will perform the role of the Bonze in Lyric’s upcoming production of “Madama Butterfly.”
Of the 18 songs, the bass-baritone is singing seven of them. “First I speak the proverb and then sing the song Britten wrote related to it,” said Govertsen.
He gave the example of “A Poison Tree.” The proverb is “the bird, the nest, the spider, a web, man, friendship,” while the song tells a tale of anger. The cycle includes 18 songs, of which Govertsen will sing seven, including “A Poison Tree,” “Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,” “London,” “Ah, Sun-Flower,” “The Fly,” “The Chimney-Sweeper,” and “Every Night and every Morn.” Kesselman will accompany on the piano.
His segment will run about 20 minutes. COD students Nicole Davini and Christian O’Kelley will also contribute folksong performances to the program.
The recital will be in OCC, the Open Campus Center, Room 130M, as the McAninch Arts Center at the College of DuPage is undergoing a $35 million renovation and does not reopen until January.
COD Professor Ken Paoli will speak at noon on Friday, Sept. 27 in Building K, Room 107 on “Benjamin Britten’s Music Language. ” I’m using Britten’s Variations on Theme of Frank Bridge,” Paoli explained. “Bridge was one of Britten’s teachers and only student he ever took on.”
The piece for string orchestra has 10 variations, each one highlighting an aspect of Bridge’s character, which Britten admired greatly. “The variations display Britten’s virtuoso writing for strings,” explained the professor, who will play excerpts from a recording to illustrate his points.
Kesselman, who is also a composer, has done numerous festivals at College of DuPage since joining the faculty in 1981. “We’ve focused on composers, like Alice Parker, Stephen Paulus and Dominick Argento. We did a ‘Sons of Bach’ series. If we have a visiting composer, we focus on him or her. More recently we did a series of Peace concerts.
“Britten has done so many different types of music, that he is a wonderful composer to honor with a festival,” he concluded, adding “especially since this is the 100th anniversary of his birth.”
Festival program coming up:
Thursday, Oct. 10, 7:30 p.m. Student Resource Center 2000
COD Faculty recital. “Embroidery Aria” from “Peter Grimes,” sung by Jennifer Barnickel-Fitch, soprano, Steve Havens, piano. “Vivace, ma non troppo presto” from “Holiday Diary,” Karol Sue Reddington, piano. Simple Symphony arranged for flute quintet, played by Carolyn May and Friends. Suite No. 1 for cello, played by Catherine Kuna
Friday, Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. SRC 2000
“A Boy was Born,” College of DuPage Chamber Singers. ‘I Lov’d a Lass,” College of DuPage Concert Choir. March from “Soirees Musicales,” College of DuPage Chamber Orchestra.
Friday, Oct. 25, noon, OCC 130M
Britten at the Movies: “Moonrise Kingdom,” featuring music from the composer’s Noye’s Fludde and other works.
Sunday, Oct. 27, 4 p.m., Grace United Methodist Church in Naperville
“Rejoice in the Lamb,” “Choral Dances” from “Gloriana,” “A.M.D.G.,” Five Flower Songs, “Jubilate Deo,” “Fancie,” and selected solo songs, by New Classic Singers, Lee R. Kesselman, director .
Friday, Nov. 8, noon, OCC 130M
“The Poet’s Echo” (poetry of Alexander Pushkin), Lindsay Kesselman, soprano, Lee R. Kesselman, piano. Selected folk-songs by COD students.
Wednesday, Dec. 4, 7:30 p.m. Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church
Soirees Musicales, College of DuPage Chamber Orchestra, Dan Pasquale d’Andrea, director.
Friday, Dec. 6, noon, OCC130M
Winter Words (poetry of Thomas Hardy), Steven Stolen, tenor, Lee R. Kesselman, piano. Selected folk-songs, COD students.
Sunday, Dec. 8, 8:00 p.m., Wentz Hall, North Central College, Naperville
“Saint Nicolas” sung by Steven Stolen, tenor and DuPage Chorale, Lee R. Kesselman, director.
St. Walter’s Children’s Chorus, Joan M. Figley, director, DuPage Chorale Orchestra
Thursday, December 12, 7:30 p.m., SRC 2000
“A Boy was Born,” “Deus in Adjutorium Meum,” College of DuPage Chamber Singers. “I lov’d a Lass,” “Venite Exultemus Domino,” College of DuPage Concert Choir