Nashville is experiencing a cultural renaissance as its demographics and values change in proportion to its population expansion. Classical music has been on the upswing here for many years, and the acoustic perfection of the Schermerhorn Hall seems to beckon grass-roots efforts to complete the classical circuit in Music City. One missing component has been a contemporary ensemble, typically a group of 20–30 players who specialize in small-to-medium sized works by living composers (Ensemble Intercontemporain and Speculum Musicae are good examples of such ensembles).
The prime mover of a bold effort to fill in that niche is Kelly Corcoran, eight-year director of the Nashville Symphony Chorus and founder of the Nashville Philharmonic. A Massachusetts native who studied music at Bloomington and in Boston, Corcoran has an impressive pedigree: she’s conducted over a dozen orchestras in America and abroad, and—importantly—has studied conducting with Leonard Slatkin and Pierre Boulez, both champions of new music.
Her new project is Intersection, a 15–20 player contemporary ensemble with a “Composer Ambassador”: an affiliated composer who will interface with local composers, musicians, and the concert-going public. Intersection will emphasize (1) innovative programming reflecting the stylistic range of living composers, (2) non-traditional, ever-changing performance venues, (3) collaborations with artists in related fields, such as dance or visual art, and (4) family concerts that expose young ears to new sounds. This fourth goal is perhaps the most important, as studies have proven that exposure to classical music at a young age—either by learning an instrument or by attending concerts—is the most important factor that determines whether someone is receptive to classical music as an adult.
For its inaugural season, Intersection is slated to perform two programs. The first, scheduled for March 26 at Platform Event Center, will include a mixed-ensemble-version of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, American composer Sean Shepherd’s Metamorphoses, British composer Johnathan Harvey’s Valley of Aoasta, Russian composer Sofia Gubaidalina’s Concordanza, and American composer Ned Rorem’s Eleven Studies for Eleven Instruments. The tonal Pärt is paralleled by the more dissonant Gubaidalina, as each is a meditative work that approaches the same spiritual state via different harmonic languages. Shepherd, an emerging young composer, will be present for the performance of his work, and therefore will be available for Q&A following the concert. Harvey’s work—a depiction of snowstorms, avalanches, and thunderstorms—will be complemented by corresponding film visuals selected by Zeitgeist Gallery. The program’s instrumental finale by Ned Rorem—one of the first openly gay American composers, and a composer better known and beloved for his art songs—will be complemented by interpretive dance by New Dialect dance company.
The second program, scheduled for June 7 at the Green Door Gourmet, is a family concert with activities before and after the show (including free samples of locally hived honey). The program begins with British composer Oliver Knussen’s Hums and Songs of Winnie the Pooh, for which maestro Corcoran will conduct the ensemble and sing the lead vocal role. This is followed by Italian composer Luciano Berio’s Opus Number Zoo, in which players alternate between playing their instruments and narrating charming animal stories. American composer Bruce Adolphe’s Tyrannosaurus Sue rounds out the program. Written for the Chicago Field Museum’s installation of “Sue,” the most complete T-Rex skeleton ever discovered, this work is a fanciful depiction of Sue’s life in the Cretaceous period. Like Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, the work is narrated, with instruments in the ensemble representing characters in Sue’s life story.
Funding for Intersection’s inaugural season is not yet complete. In fact, an ambitious campaign to raise the $35,000 needed for the first concert was being pursued via Indiegogo. The webpage includes an informative video introducing viewers to Corcoran and the people working alongside her to make Intersection a reality. At the time of this writing, just 32% of the necessary funds had been pledged by the December 29 deadline. Corcoran intends to pursue other methods of funding in the new year so that Intersection’s programs will take place as planned.
For full information about Intersection, visit www.intersectionmusic.org