MINNEAPOLIS, MN (October 16, 2023) —The Minnesota Orchestra continues its Listening Project, grown out of a musician-led initiative to spotlight the music of historically underrepresented composers, with a concert on November 3. As with the 2022 iteration of the ongoing project, the concert will be conducted by Kensho Watanabe and hosted by Dr. Louise Toppin, a renowned performer and scholar who will again provide deeper context around each of the program’s pieces. All of the works on the program will be recorded to aid and encourage future programming of this music by other orchestras, and to familiarize musicians and audiences with this rarely heard music.
The program will be performed at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis on Friday, November 3, at 8 p.m., with tickets at $40. Choose Your Price tickets are available to all concertgoers for select seating sections ($5 minimum ticket price). Free tickets are available to young listeners under the age of 18 thanks to the Orchestra’s Hall Pass program.
The first iteration of the Listening Project took place in 2021 when, under the direction of guest conductor Scott Yoo, the Orchestra made the first-ever professional recordings of five contemporary and historic works. In 2022, the initiative was expanded to include a subscription concert for audiences. The Orchestra will again collaborate with YourClassical MPR to record the November 3 concert; YourClassical MPR will rebroadcast the performance in February 2024, and will play these works on-air through its regional radio network in the future. Additionally, recordings from the performance will be shared with the African Diaspora Music Project, a repository of music that encourages the research, exploration and performance of music by composers of the African diaspora.
Repertoire includes selections from 20th-century and contemporary composers, with an emphasis on works that have not been professionally recorded due to systemic injustices and racial discrimination in the recording industry and the orchestral field more broadly. The concert will feature two works from vital American composers of the last century. It opens with Julia Perry’s Short Piece for Orchestra, which showcases the rhythmic complexities and ingenuity of the late Lexington, Kentucky-born composer’s oeuvre; the concert’s second half will begin with Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s harmonious Mop/Mop: A Symphonic Sketch, which was written in honor of Bebop musician Max Roach.
Emphasizing the Orchestra’s goal of collaborating with a broader group of living composers, the concert features four works by composers active today: Errollyn Wallen’s The World’s Weather highlights the composer’s wide musical influences and ability to shift between moods and sensations; Brian Raphael Nabors’ Pulse contemplates “our deep connection as living beings to everything within, over, under and around us”; written the year after Rodney King’s violent beating by Los Angeles police officers, Alvin Singleton’s 56 Blows (Quis Custodiet Custodes?) forms a musical response to abuses of power; written for orchestra and mezzo-soprano, Carmen Brouard’s Trois monologues d’Émilie reimagines the life of poet Emily Dickinson. Making her Orchestra Hall debut, acclaimed mezzo-soprano Catherine Daniel will perform the vocal line of Brouard’s composition.
About Kensho Watanabe
Kensho Watanabe has quickly established himself internationally as an artist known for his collaborative leadership and intelligently crafted performances. Recently recognized as a recipient of a Career Assistance Award by the Solti Foundation U.S., he held the position of assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 2016 to 2019. Following successful debut performances at the Metropolitan Opera last season with Kevin Puts’ The Hours and Terrence Blanchard’s Champion, Watanabe returns to the Met this season to conduct the full revival run of The Hours. In addition to his work with the Met, Watanabe has led performances of La bohème at Spoleto Festival USA in 2022 and will open his 2023-24 season by making his Detroit Opera debut with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Recent highlights include Watanabe’s debuts with the London Philharmonic and Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestras, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Turku Philharmonic and Filarmonia Szczecin. Watanabe has also enjoyed collaborations with the Houston Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Brussels Philharmonic, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival and Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal. More: askonasholt.com, kenshowatanabe.com.
About Catherine Daniel
Canada-based mezzo Catherine Daniel has earned acclaim for her performances in opera, symphonic concerts and recitals. Her career highlights include singing Emelda Griffiths in Grammy Award-winner Terence Blanchard’s opera Champion with l’Opéra de Montréal; debuting Klytemnestra in Edmonton Opera’s production of Elektra; singing Elisabetta in Knoxville Opera’s production of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda; and debuting at Carnegie Hall as a soloist in Haydyn’s Mass in Time of War. Daniel debuted the role of Katie Ellen in the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Omar at the Spoleto Festival in 2022. She reprised the role twice: at the Carolina Performing Arts Center in Chapel Hill and with Boston Lyric Opera in 2023. She sang in two world premieres in 2023: La Flambeau by David Bontemps and Pomegranate by Kye Marshall. She looks forward to major projects overseas in the upcoming season. Daniel studied voice with Coluratura soprano Tracy Dahl. She was a member of the Atelier Lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, and later became a member of the Opera Studio Nederland in Amsterdam. She recently completed her master’s in vocal performance with Canadian tenor John Tessier. More: catherinedaniel.com, randsman.com.
About Dr. Louise Toppin
Dr. Louise Toppin has received critical acclaim for her operatic, orchestral, oratorio and recital performances worldwide. Her 19 CDs include Ah love, but a day; La Saison des fleurs; and Songs of Love and Justice, Vol. I, a collection of songs by Adolphus Hailstork. She has edited nine anthologies and a choral work published by Classical Vocal Reprints and Hildegard Press, including Rediscovering Margaret Bonds and An Anthology of African and African Diaspora Songs. Her recent performances include co-curating and singing at a festival on Black Music in Hamburg, Germany, with Thomas Hampson, Leah Hawkins and Larry Brownlee; a solo appearance with the Experiential Orchestra in New York City; a recital for the Oxford Lieder Festival in England; a residency with Duke University as a scholar/artist; the 150th anniversary celebration of the ratification of the 13th amendment for Congress and President Obama at the U.S. Capitol; and Masters of the Spirituals at Lincoln Center. She serves on the education committee for the Denyce Graves Foundation and on the boards of Opera Ebony and The Hampsong Foundation. She is co-founder and director of the George Shirley Vocal Competition and Videmus, and founder/editor of the African Diaspora Music Project. She is also a professor of music (voice) at the University of Michigan. More: louisetoppin.com.