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Lisa Bielawa: Neumark Dances

June 27, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

Lisa Bielawa

Photo by Phil Mansfield

On Friday, June 27 at 2:30pm, organist Bruce Neswick will perform the world premiere of composer Lisa Bielawa’s Neumark Dances: Chorale Prelude on Wer nur den lieben Gott, a work for solo organ commissioned by the American Guild of Organists 2014 National Convention in Boston.

The concert is titled PsalmFest!, and includes a selection of organ works and improvisations that feature Psalms, performed by Neswick and organist Pamela Reiter- Feenstra. Lisa Bielawa Neumark Dances will open the concert, and following each work on the program, the audience will be invited to join in the singing of the original hymn.

Of Neumark Dances, Lisa Bielawa says, “When I was a child, I sang in the children’s choir at an Episcopalian church under the direction of my mother, who is an organist and a lifetime champion of contemporary organ music. I often heard her playing playful, rhythmic fantasies (sometimes composed by my father) created from the raw stuff of the hymn tunes we sang every week from the Hymnal 1940. My intellectual and emotional development as a musician was molded, year after year, by that book and by those experiences. I always knew which melodies haunted me the most, but as I grew up I gained cognitive awareness of the melodic logic of these hymn tunes, and I came to understand the architecture of my own emotional responses to them. Neumark – which I remember as ‘If thou but suffer God to guide thee’ – has the charisma of an oscillation between natural and harmonic minor, along with melodic cells that encourage us to hear contours echoed upside-down. These properties, combined with the strange words that I didn’t quite understand (who was suffering? who was guiding?) made me feel a combination of yearning and excitement. In this chorale prelude I wanted to accentuate,deepen and explore these properties, and these feelings. I also wanted to find as many canons within the melody as I could, at different speeds, some of the upside-down.”

When & where
Friday, June 27, 2014 @ 2:30pm
Old South Church, 645 Boylston Street
Boston, Massachusetts

Event of the AGO National Convention's PsalmFest
Admission $20 online

About the concert’s theme, the AGO explains, “From their inception, Psalms were sung. Psalms express the gamut of human experience. Psalms dress in diverse costumes around the world through each era. For these reasons, we chose to feature Psalms in this PsalmFest: Organ improvisation featuring metrical Psalmody and robust singing. In the first half of the program, we explore Psalms that speak of God’s guidance through the ages, culminating with musical instruments and ‘Hallelujahs’ in the Jewish folksong setting of Psalm 150. In the second half of the program, we begin with Psalm responses to the Exodus, enter the paradox of praise and despair in the world, and paint vivid pictures of creation. We conclude by remembering lifetimes of music sounding, honoring how our music-making leads us to ‘that new world we glimpse through song.’”

Composer-vocalist Lisa Bielawa is a 2009 Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition. She takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. Gramophone reports, “Bielawa is gaining gale force as a composer, churning out impeccably groomed works that at once evoke the layered precision of Vermeer and the conscious recklessness of Jackson Pollock,” and The New York Times describes her music as, “ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart.”



June 27, 2014
2:30 pm
Event Category:


Old South CHurch
645 Boylston STreet
Boston, MA United States
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