Monday, October 21, 2013

Happy 100th, Benjamin Britten!

Composer, conductor and pianist Benjamin Britten was born in Suffolk, England, on November 22, 1913, which means we are a month away from the 100th anniversary of his birth. That anniversary is being celebrated worldwide by orchestras, children's choirs, vocalists and filmmakers from England to Sweden, from Newport Beach, California to New York, New York.

One of the most complete celebrations is happening right here in Bloomington-Normal, as Illinois State University offers a four-day centenary symposium. There's a conference bringing together Britten scholars from all over the world as well as a full slate of performances, including War Requiem Op. 66, a "monumental undertaking" for orchestra, chamber orchestra, soloists, choir, boys’ choir, and organ, featuring solos by Illinois State University faculty Michelle Vought, soprano, Justin Vickers, tenor, and John Koch, baritone; Fanfare for St. Edmundsbury conducted by James Major, Dean of the College of Fine Arts; the American premiere of a filmed version of the opera Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach; a recital called "Benjamin Britten & the Art of Song" that brings together faculty soloists from Illinois State University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois Wesleyan University; "Britten's Choral Delights," a national workshop with members of the American Choral Directors Association; two free box-lunch recitals; an exhibition of art at the University Galleries and Milner Library; "Britten's Ballet & More," spotlighting dance performed to live chamber music; and a play about Britten by British playwright Alan Bennett called The Habit of Art, with Assistant Professor Sonja Moser from the Department of Theatre directing a cast that includes U of I's Robert G. Anderson, IWU's Thomas Anthony Quinn, and ISU's Lori Adams, David Ian Lee and Kim Pereira. Most of these events take place in the Center for the Performing Arts, with The Habit of Art in the Kemp Recital Hall in Centennial East at 1 pm on Sunday the 27th.

And that is a whole lot of Benjamin Britten!

You may be wondering why all of this is happening in Illinois. Here is a partial answer: "The significance of a Britten centenary event in the State of Illinois rests squarely on the foundation of Britten’s career in the United States: for on January 15, 1940, Britten made his American debut in the U.S. première of the composer’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in D for piano and orchestra with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra in Chicago. Britten was at the piano. And with that, his reputation -- and career -- was catapulted throughout the U.S."

For all the details on these events, visit the Centenary Symposium homepage or the event's Facebook page.

1 comment:

  1. Hurray! Benjamin Britten is my favorite of all composers, as I've said here before, and this is a splendid event in his honor. How I wish I could be there!