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Unless you are familiar with obscure Russian literature, you have probably never heard of Sophia Parnok. Born in 1885 in Taganrog, on the shores of the Black Sea, Parnok was the daughter of a Jewish pharmacist. Her lifelong frailty resulted from the neurological disorder known as Graves' disease. She also survived a horrific train crash, owned a pet monkey, and was (most notably) Russia’s first openly-lesbian poet. After establishing her reputation in the early 1920s, Russia’s “Silver Age,” Sophia chose to live openly and write about her relationships with eight women – to each of whom she dedicated several poems. Parnok’s decision to “come out” rendered her “lawless,” and as a result, publishers refused to print her work after 1928. After being silenced, Sophia was barely able to scrape together a living as a translator. For several years she was homeless – too proud to rely on anyone else. When Parnok finally succumbed to her illness in 1933, three of her lovers were at her bedside, and her funeral procession of friends and fans that extended 75 kilometers outside of Moscow was nothing short of legendary. In 2012, Eric Banks was commissioned to compose a “lyric biography” based Parnok’s verse for Kitka, the Bay Area Balkan women’s octet. Banks’ concert-length work, "I will remember everything," recounts Parnok’s life story through a series of her poems, fragments, and letters. This work will enjoy its Seattle premiere by eight women of The Esoterics. In addition to this work, Banks has composed a “song cycle” for 32-voice chorus and soloists that sets another nine of Parnok’s poems. This piece, "On this disappearing day," will be performed in the same concert. In both pieces, which will be woven together without interruption, Parnok’s Russian verses will be sung in tandem with Banks’ translations, to create a 96-minute choral odyssey: one that celebrates Parnok’s forbidden love, her extraordinary lyric, and her imperturbable courage.
The Esoterics presents SYBILLA, the complete Hildegard motets by American composer Frank Ferko (b 1950). Ferko’s motets, composed between 1993 and 2012, set texts by the 12th-century mystic Hildegard of Bingen. Ferko has had a long relationship with Hildegard and her visions, and has written both instrumental and choral music inspired by her work. The texts of Ferko’s motets come from Hildegard’s Symphonium celestium revolationum, a cycle of more than seventy poems that she composed for use throughout the church year. In his realization of Hildegard’s visionary texts, Ferko employs organ-like textures and harmonies that evoke the music of Messiaen and Poulenc. An accomplished organist and composer for organ, Ferko is a scholar on the music of Messiaen, on whom he has lectured extensively. In his motets, Ferko’s lavish harmonies are juxtaposed with acerbic phrases of Medieval counterpoint. For information, please click the image above.
The Esoterics is proud to be a founding member of The Greater Seattle Choral Consortium, the non-profit organization that sponsors the Seattle Sings! Choral Festival. The GSCC is comprised of over sixty choral ensembles in the Puget Sound region each of whom have a unique mission, but a common love of singing and choral music. Please visit our "neighbor" choirs and see what the GSCC is doing for advocacy and support of choral music in our community at www.seattlesings.org.