Portrait of Aaron Jay Kernis

Ensemble 20/21 | March 25, 2023 8:00 p.m.

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Acclaimed by The New York Times for his “fearless originality [and] powerful voice,” the work of Pulitzer Prize- and Grammy Award-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis is eclectic in its scope and influences, drawing on a wide spectrum of inspirational sources, from cantorial music to jazz, salsa, hip-hop, and disco. His recent 2022 opus, Earth, was praised by Classical Voice North America as “a rich work whose urgency must be heard,” and Curtis is pleased to present the East Coast premiere as part of the final Ensemble 20/21 concert of the season. 

Created in collaboration with poet and agricultural researcher Kai Hoffman-Krull, with additional words by William Wadsworth, this lush, melancholic piece was written in response to the global environmental crisis. Through vignettes, Earth follows the life of a farmer as it explores how those who depend upon the land must adapt to the rapidly shifting threats of climate change. Opening with the line, “Why are seasons no longer the seasons of before?” Kernis’s work grapples with one of the most polarizing issues of our time. It draws the audience in, inviting listeners to contemplate a controversial, civilization-threatening topic, and reflect upon their daily actions, motivating positive and impactful environmental behavior. 

Christina Rossetti’s 1862 poem Goblin Market has long been analyzed, dissected, and discussed by literary and social critics alike. Contemporaries of the Victoria-era writer might have regarded her audacious poem as a simple fairy tale or moral fable. However, this inventive story about two sisters, Laurie and Lizzie, who find themselves propositioned by goblins and tempted with luscious, forbidden” fruit, continues to spark debate. As a composer, Kernis joins the throngs of interpreters across the ages with an inspired setting of the poem for narrator and chamber orchestra.

Join Ensemble 20/21, as they bring to life Kernis’s intoxicating score, one that captures the frightening bustle of the fruit seller’s market, the menacing, grotesque goblins, and the plight of the two sisters. Is this an allegory of protofeminism, an allusion to Genesis and the Garden of Eden, a critique of advertising in pre-capitalist England, a discussion about the psychology of the divided self, or a commentary on feminine sexuality in the nineteenth century? While the inspiration for Rossetti’s poem might remain somewhat of a mystery, its themes of desire and repression continue to resonate in the twenty-first century. 

Run time: Approximately 90 minutes, including a 15 minute intermission


Laurence Kilsby, tenor

Goblin Market

Ashley Marie Robillard, narrator

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  • Pulitzer Prize and Grammy-Award winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis draws inspiration from a vast palette of sources. He has been praised for his “fearless originality [and] powerful voice” (The New York Times).

    Among the most esteemed musical figures of his generation, Kernis is dedicated to “creating music which can be meaningful to other people’s lives, and extend communication among us to make an emotional connection with listeners – while frequently challenging audiences and performers alike.” (https://aaronjaykernis.com/)

  • The Music Director of Symphony Tacoma, Sarah Ioannides is the newly appointed Resident Conductor of NYOUSA, and maintains an extensive and international reputation as a guest conductor, speaker and adjudicator.

    Described by the New York Times as a conductor with “unquestionable strength and authority” and a conductor with “magic” (News Tribune), Sarah Ioannides’ has gained recognition for her passionate performances, multifaceted leadership and creativity in programming and multimedia productions.

    Internationally, Ioannides has conducted on six continents with orchestras including the Tonkünstler, the Royal Philharmonic, Orchestre Nationale de Lyon, Malmö Symphony Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony, the Flemish Radio, Bilbao Symphony, and some of the world’s greatest National Youth Orchestras, including the South African National Youth Orchestra, Andalusian Youth Orchestra and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra.

    The 22/23 Season includes conducting debuts with the Sarasota Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, the Hamilton Philharmonic, Santa Fe Pro Music and the Vermont Symphony. She also leads the Roanoke Symphony, National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain, National Youth Orchestra of USA, and the BachFest in Chelan. Ioannides also returns to conduct at the Jacobs School of Music and the Curtis Institute of Music.

    Sarah began her career with the Cincinnati Symphony, appointed Ioannides as the first woman appointed to a full-time conducting position and she has since conducted extensivelty in the United States including the Buffalo Philharmonic, Charleston Symphony, Hawai’i Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, North Carolina Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, Tulsa and the Toledo Symphony.

    A great advocate for new music, Sarah has conducted and curated over 60 World, North American and European orchestral premiers, recorded world premieres with Nordic Chamber Orchestra, Malmö Symphony and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. She has produced many original videos for live orchestral multimedia performances and digital productions and was previously an assistant, production coordination with composer/conductor Tan Dun. As Music Director her orchestras have received prestigious awards including ArtWorks grants for community projects, commissioning music and films spotlighting current issues. Equally at home with opera and choral repertoire, she has led many opera productions and conducted at festivals worldwide, including the European premiere of Stephen Paulus’ The Woodlanders, and Australian & Greek premieres of Tan Dun’s Water Passion after St. Matthew.

    Passionate about education, Sarah is the Founding Artistic Director of Cascade Conducting & Composing, now in its 6th year, which supports diversity on the podium through generous scholarships. Ioannides continues to conduct conservatory orchestras such as Yale University, the Jacobs School of Music and the Curtis Institute of Music. Appearing as guest speaker and on numerous advisory boards, she has served multiple times as a panelist for the US Government’s National Endowment for the Arts.

    Born in Australia, of Greek and Scottish descent, Sarah was raised in England, studied at Oxford University on an Instrumental Scholarship, attended the Guildhall School and The Juilliard School, earning two Master’s degrees. Ioannides came to the USA first as a Fulbright Scholar and graduated from The Curtis Institute of Music where she studied and was Assistant to the late Otto-Werner Mueller.

    Married to Scott Hartman, renowned trombonist, they have three children,Elsa and Karl (twins), and Audrey. An avid long-distance runner Sarah won first place overall woman Tacoma’s The Defiance (30k) in 2021 and qualifying for the Boston Marathon in 2022 with an average pace of 8:19.

    Learn more about Sarah’s work.

  • Noted in The Times as “a young singer to watch”, Laurence Kilsby is currently a member of the Académie at Opera National de Paris for the 2022/23 season. He was recently awarded first prizes at the 2022 Wigmore Hall/Bollinger International Song Competition and the 2022 Cesti Competition at the Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik. This season sees Laurence in a revival of L’incoronazione di Poppea at the Royal Opéra of Versailles, the Paris Opera Académie’s production of La Scala di Seta at the Théâtre Athénée, as well as various recitals in Paris, Venice, Heidelberg and Saarbrücken. An alumnus of the the Ravinia Steans Music Institute, Renée Fleming’s SongStudio at Carnegie Hall, the Curtis Institute of Music and the Royal College of Music (in which during his studies, he received the Kathleen Ferrier Society Bursary for Young Singers), he regularly studies under tenor, Jack LiVigni.

    Learn more about Laurence.

  • An alumna of the Meroal Opera Program, Wolf Trap Opera, and Opera Philadelphia’s Emerging Artist Program, Ashley Marie Robillard (Voice ’18, Opera ’20) received her Master of Music in Opera and Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from the Curtis Institute of Music in 2020 and 2018 respectively.

    Performance highlights at the Curtis Institute include Tatyana (Eugene Onegin), Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Musetta (La bohème), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), Bianca (La rondine), Lucia (The Rape of Lucretia), Barbarina (Le nozze di Figaro), Jessie (Mahagonny: ein Songspiel), and Pousette (Manon). She also presented many recitals in the Curtis Student Recital Series with repertoire ranging from Pallestrina to Rorem.

    Learn more about Ashley.

  • Ensemble 20/21’s repertoire features works from the 20th and 21st centuries. With bold collaborations and striking productions, Ensemble 20/21 embraces the cutting edge of contemporary classical music through the highest level of artistry.

Special Thanks

Generous support for Ensemble 20/21 is provided by the Daniel W. Dietrich II Foundation.

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