Music of Ruth Crawford-Seeger, John J. Becker, Kenneth Gaburo, Pauline Oliveros, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Milton Babbitt, and more, with Astra Choir, Dec. 8


Dec 8 2019 - 5:00pm

The Astra Choir with soloists, conducted by music director, John McCaughey

5 pm, Sunday 8 December
St Heliers Street, Abbotsford, VIC (a suburb of Melbourne, Australia)

Unsettled choir scores
A terrain of spoken and sung music 1930–2019

Including works by: Ernst Toch, Ruth Crawford-Seeger, John J. Becker, Arnold Schoenberg, Kenneth Gaburo, Pauline Oliveros, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Milton Babbitt, Penelope Alexander, Eve Duncan, John Arthur Grant, Jena Capes, and Callum Mintzis.

The concert initiates the Astra Choir’s third CD-production of first-recordings with the venerable New York label New World Records. From Ernst Toch’s recently rediscovered speech-choruses of 1930, which transferred choral phonetics into a pioneering form of electronic manipulation, the program extends to the visionary harmony of Charles Ives's friend and contemporary, John J. Becker. From the succeeding generation, the unknown early choral creations of Kenneth Gaburo mark the start of his path to "compositional linguistics", which placed him among the foremost explorers of electronic and vocal composition.

Four works are premiered in this concert from a wide generational span in Australian music. These include a remarkable first hearing of three madrigals from 1955 by the Australian-American Peggy Glanville-Hicks. Previously unknown and unperformed, the manuscript of these deft and original settings of early Wallace Stevens poems was found in the Mitchell Library in Sydney, and made available by Melbourne scholar Dr Suzanne Robinson, author of a new biographical study of the composer, from the University of Illinois Press.

Astra was formed in 1951 as an orchestra of women musicians under the direction of Asta Flack, a violinist and conductor who had migrated to Australia from Lithuania. In 1958, George Logie-Smith became Musical Director, extending the orchestra to include male members and a larger wind section and founding the Astra Choir. Over a period of 20 years, he developed links with Australian composers as well as giving performance of choral and chamber orchestral repertoire rarely heard at that time (for example the Bach Passions, Stravinsky's Les Noces, works of Bartok, Britten, Penderecki.)

Since John McCaughey became Musical Director in 1978 (continuing to the present), the Astra Choir has provided the principal focus of concerts, joined by many of Australia's leading contemporary instrumental performers as guests.