February 23, 2019 | 45° F

Choir to perform student’s repertoire


Michael Seth Cudd, a graduate student at Mason Gross School of the Arts spent his summer composing a music piece for Ekmeles Vocal Ensemble — a nationally renowned chorus group from New York City — that performs freshly composed classical music.

Cudd, who served as a high school band director for six years, had the opportunity to compose for a vocal ensemble for the first time.

Ekmeles Vocal Ensemble, a choir known for their performances of exclusively composed music, according to ekmeles.com. They will be performing Saturday at Rutgers’ Schare Recital Hall, located in the Marryott Music Building on Douglass campus.

Rutgers Composer’s Forum and the Graduate Student Assembly are organizing the concert, said Liza Sobel, president of the Rutgers Composer’s Forum. Robert Aldridge, director of the Mason Gross Music Department, played a significant role in making the concert possible.

Sobel said the six singers in the choir would be singing 10 pieces, all composed by Rutgers students studying composition at Mason Gross.

A graduate student at Mason Gross, Sobel said she has also composed a piece called “Hidden Messages.” Each composition reflects a very different style of music.

“What’s exciting is that each piece is very different,” Sobel said. “At the concert, you will hear such a variety of music and composition styles.”

The Department of Music at Mason Gross informed the composers about the concert in the summer, Cudd said, whose composition is called “Leviathan.” The composers had until beginning of the semester to submit their pieces.

Cudd said each composer wrote their own piece and Ekmeles helped the composers in enhancing the piece by improving their communication to the performers.

“Ekmeles offered advice on methods for notating certain ideas and in some cases, they had advice on how to specify certain vocal techniques,” he said.

The composers have already had one rehearsal with the ensemble group, said David Wolfson, a graduate student at Mason Gross. At the rehearsal, the composers sat with the singers and gave them feedback wherever it was necessary.

Wolfson, whose piece is called “Alleluia,” said although he has written professionally before, he was thrilled at the opportunity and wanted to make optimum use of it.

“For me, it was just two words: Wow. Cool,” he said. “You don’t normally get a chance to write for a group of several singers like that.”

This composition helped the composers to extend their skills beyond the background they come from, Sobel said.

“Some of these composers are film composers, some are classical and yet others come from a pop or musical theater background,” she said. “What’s exciting … is that each of these different composers wrote for the same six singers.”

While some composers make references to old tradition in their works, others have been departing from the traditional classical style, Sobel said. Ekmeles Vocal Ensemble brings together all styles that allow the composers to experiment with their writing.

“This choir can handle anything,” she said. “You can write whatever you want and not worry about the choir.”

Although he never wrote for a vocal ensemble before, he was enthusiastic to try it since Ekmeles is known for performing new and rare music, Cudd said. It was also a learning experience for him.

“They specialize in new music, so it was not only an honor but also an educational experience,” Cudd said.

Sobel said she is keenly looking forward to the concert, as it is their chance to see the fruit of the labor they have put in since summer and also show it to their colleagues and friends.

Sobel said Rutgers students should attend the concert, as they have the unique opportunity to see a nationally acclaimed choir perform. They also have the privilege to watch the composers, who are their fellow students and friends at college.

“This concert displays the relevance and meaning of classical music,” Sobel said. “It’s a great Saturday night, you get to interact with the composers and on top of it, it’s free.”


By Vaishali Gauba

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