“The 45-voice ensemble might be setting a record of sorts; it’s not every day you find a choir – or any classical ensemble – rolling out four commissioned works in one concert.” – Caliente, April 24, 2014
Read Dr. Jeffry A. Jahn’s notes about Voices at an Exhibition in Conductor’s Corner
Read the Voices at an Exhibition Program Notes
Watch Arizona Public Media interview with Music Director, Jeffry A. Jahn and ARS singer/artist, Sheryl Holland.
Celebrating 30 years of choral excellence, Voices at an Exhibition features an exclusive musical and artistic multimedia presentation with commissioned compositions that demonstrate the relationship between choral music, written text and visual media. The concerts will also include audience favorites performed by ARS through the years.
“To premiere four pieces of music and four pieces of art at once – you won’t find that being done anywhere else in the nation,” said ARS Music Director Jeffry A. Jahn. “We are very excited to be part of something unique.”
Inspired by “Pictures at an Exhibition,” a Russian composition depicting a tour of an art collection, ARS has commissioned four original art-inspired choral compositions for Voices at an Exhibition. The artwork that inspired the music is by ARS singers who are also artists: Sheryl Holland, abstract painter; David Neve, U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. and photographer; Jan Sturges, photographer; and Ingrid Williams, casein painter. (See more below)
“I wanted to show the diversity of talent in this group for our 30th anniversary,” Jahn said. “We have a lot to celebrate and we wanted to do a lot to celebrate it.”
Experienced composers Ray Braswell and Dave Plank and accomplished young composers Anthony Constantino and Grant Jahn each wrote an original choral composition inspired by a different piece of art. The composers all have a connection to ARS so, while the lyrics and styles vary, each piece is a great fit.
“When you get the opportunity to rehearse a piece that no one has ever sung and perform a piece that no one has ever heard, it’s tremendously cool – and it becomes personal and emotional,” Jahn said.
Photograph by David Neve
David Neve has been a military photographer for 19 years. His primary photographic duty at the Arizona Air National Guard is photojournalism, but also covers studio portraiture, investigative documentation and public affairs. In his free time, Neve prefers the classic outdoor landscape and enjoys singing in ARS.
“I have been a member for only three years, but my involvement has given me the greatest musical fulfillment that I’ve experienced in decades,” Neve said. “Having been given the chance to combine one of my most personal photographs with the choir that I cherish is a once-in-a-lifetime honor for me.”
Artist Statement: The image was photographed in September of 1997 at The Gettysburg National Military Park and Battlefield. I was able to combine two of my passions: photography and the Civil War.
Choral Composition by Anthony Constantino
Born and raised in Tucson, Anthony Constantino, 19, is pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Composition at the Manhattan School of Music where he also sings with the Manhattan School of Music Chamber Choir.
In 2011, while he was singing with ARS, the ensemble premiered Constantino’s Beauty Has the Coldest Heart at its Spring concerts. In May of the same year, Constantino received a commission from Carnegie Hall for his piece Thus it Was as part of the Carmina Burana Choral Project, which premiered February 2012. He participated in the Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s Young Composer’s Project for three years and TSO featured his Vesuvius in six educational concerts in May 2012.
In October 2013, Constantino was selected as a YoungArts Winner and invited to YoungArts Week 2014 in Miami, where his Duo for Clarinet and Bassoon was performed at the New World Center by members of the New World Symphony.
Artist Statement: I was attracted to the poem “The Trumpet” by Edward Thomas because of the title’s correlation to the artwork. I wanted to use a text I could imagine the angel saying, and a call to rise up seemed most appropriate. The music is born completely from the text — no preconceived compositional techniques were used in the process of writing. I simply allowed myself to follow my instinct and write what I heard in an improvisational style. I hope to present the audience with an inspirational call to arms — not to war with others but to battle with their inner selves in order to filter the clutter we all deal with, and to find what sparks true passion in the soul.
The Bloom – Painting by Sheryl Holland
Sheryl Holland taught art and humanities in Michigan public schools before retiring to Arizona where she developed a joy and passion for painting large abstracts. Holland loves the spontaneous process of moving vivid colors on canvas, forming unexpected images and shapes. Her process is unpredictable and full of surprises, but design principles are paramount. “I rarely start with an idea in mind and can never predict the outcome,” she said. “The image constantly changes and I constantly chase it, trying to see where it wants to go, what it wants to be.”
Holland has been a dedicated member of ARS for 20 years. “It’s in my blood, along with painting. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to express the art of beauty in both sound and color.”
Artist Statement: For this painting, I chose bold colors that I love, deep purples and golds. The energy of these opposites are palpable and lend themselves to the big, bold strokes made with large brushes. It is a long process of painting in and painting out to discover a composition that is unified and alive.
Choral composition and text by Grant Jahn
Composer and clarinetist Grant Jahn was raised in a musically rich Tucson household; his father, Dr. Jeffry A. Jahn, is the ARS music director, and his mother taught vocal music in Tucson schools and sings soprano in ARS. In 2011, during his junior year at University High School, Jahn was selected to participate in the Young Composers Project, which resulted in the Tucson Symphony Orchestra premiering his orchestral work Lament and Escape. While a student at the University of Arizona School of Music, Jahn’s Rhapsody for Solo Bb Clarinet, Chatter for flute and oboe and O magnum mysterium for mixed chorus premiered in 2012 (the last by ARS), and the first two movements of Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, with Grant as clarinet soloist, premiered in 2013. Jahn is now majoring in Music Composition at Arizona State University where he also performs and composes in the clarinet studio.
This painting inspired a flood of creative thought that inspired my accompanying text. The painting made me think of the constant eternal struggle to emerge from death. In this struggle, there is optimistic hope and sad remembrance for all things that have passed. Eventually we all return to the Earth, and that is exactly what I hoped to convey through my interpretation of this amazing painting.
Photograph by Jan Sturges
Jan Sturges graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree from Denison University and toured with the international performing and educational organization, Up With People, as a cast music director. She received her Master’s of Education Degree in Counseling and Guidance from the University of Arizona in 1986 and has had a 28-year management career in health care and aging, including at the UA as an elder care specialist. “The experience of singing with such talented singers in ARS under the incomparable and passionate musicianship of Dr. Jeffry Jahn is a privilege that has enriched my life beyond measure!,” she said. “I am humbled and honored that Dr. Jahn selected my photo for Voices at an Exhibition and equally flattered by Ray Braswell’s thoughtful composition.”
Artist Statement: Photography is a life-long passion of mine. I attempt to create both feeling and metaphor for the viewer in my photos. I am grateful to Ray Braswell for reverently capturing the evocative mood and message in song and text of what I wanted to communicate, that when we rely on God’s presence and He opens a door before us, we are beckoned to step across that threshold and leave the momentary comfort of a shaded patio for the bright light of promise and opportunity that lies just beyond – and the hope that is ours for the ‘asking.’
Choral Composition by Ray Braswell
Ray Braswell received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina and has been a church choir director and band director ever since.
Braswell completed a doctorate in education from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. His band, choral and orchestral compositions have been performed across America and in the United Kingdom. His musical style is contemporary romanticism, with melodic passages and accessible harmonies.
Artist Statement: “Ask” is based upon the Biblical passages from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, which speaks of opening doors for those who ask. It is simple in meaning, yet profound in the concept that prayer uplifts man and draws him closer to God, when he seeks knowledge and strength through prayer. The second section, based on Matthew 7:13-14, describes the journey one must take to seek the kingdom of God.
I was extremely honored that Dr. Jahn asked me to write this composition for ARS. Having sung with the group for several years while I lived in Tucson, I know that ARS has a reputation for choral performances that are highly demanding, emotionally thrilling and outstanding in quality and musicianship.
Painting by Ingrid Williams
Ingrid Williams has been painting with casein since 1978 and has shown at galleries around the nation. Last winter, Zuzi Dance Troup chose her water paintings to accompany its Solstice Poetry of Water show and her “Portable Monsoon” exhibit displayed in Tucson at the main library and at the airport. Her work is currently at Violante and Rochford Design in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Williams has sung with ARS since 2005.
“Painting makes my eyes come alive, just like singing makes my ears come alive,” she said. “Resounding together in harmony is how we exist here on earth.”
Artist Statement: “Sunrise” was an easy choice for ARS’ Voices at an Exhibition; it’s my most recent work, an attempt at painting snow and ice with a Chinese character for “Snow” and a mini-snow storm above it. The sun is dark. Strange shapes loom. Dave Plank has captured the essence of the painting with the idea that we may wish for an easier road, but move forward anyway, guided by a higher power.
Choral Composition by David L. Plank
David L. Plank received a Master’s in Education from the University of Arizona and taught in Tucson public schools for more than 20 years. He also served on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin/ Madison Summer Music Clinic for 10 years, both as a performer/clinician and teacher of composition, arranging and improvisation. Plank has written many choral works for Tucson area high school choirs as well as the UA. He has had choral works published by Shawnee Press, Aberdeen Music, Kendor Music, and Curtis Music Press as well as a jazz band series published by Kjos West. The Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Tucson Pops Orchestra, Queensland Australia Pops Orchestra and the Southern Arizona Symphonic Winds have performed his instrumental works. Plank has performed at jazz festivals in the Southwest United States as well as the International Cervantino Festival in Mexico. Plank has also worked with entertainers including Liberace, Debbie Reynolds, Bob Hope and Steve Allen.
Artist Statement: My daughter, Lori Green, sings in ARS and I was delighted when Jeffry Jahn asked me to write a composition based on Ingrid William’s incredible painting. As I studied it, I felt that the white areas in the painting represented hope, even in the face of danger and despair. In looking for suitable text about hope, I found a poem written by the ancient Greek playwright Euripides. Then I created music that reflected what I perceived to be the appropriate mood.