At the helm of this fearless ensemble was Shira Cion, who is not only the current music director of Kitka, but has been the ensembleâ€™s executive director for most of her professional career.Â She not only sings in the group, but corrals nearly everyone and everything behind the scenes to make â€œKitkastanâ€� run smoothly.Â Shira writes the grants, arranges the venues, coordinates the volunteers, publicizes like a fiend, moves the chairs, feeds the hungry, comforts the bothered, takes flak from the â€œtalentâ€� (myself included), and does it all with an enviable amount of grace.Â I donâ€™t know if Kitka would survive without Shira, but I donâ€™t want to imagine such a dire scenario.Â She is the earth-mother of the ensemble, and I was honored and inspired to work with her every day.Â Thank you, Shira, for believing in my work and in my process enough to hand over your ensemble to me.Â It meant everything to me.
Until 10 June, our rehearsals were quite intense, in preparation for my five day hiatus in which I flew to the East Coast for the Chorus America conference in Washington DC.Â On my way to the capitol city, I stopped over for a night in Atlanta to attend a rehearsal of the Atlanta Young Singers, directed by my â€œbig sisterâ€� Paige Mathis, as they were preparing Peace and quiet for their upcoming tour to Riga to compete in the World Choir Games.Â After rehearsal, I spent the night with my friend Ginny Thompson, the executive director of AYS, and her husband Bill.Â The next day, I was off to Chorus America (on the same flight as Iris Levine and Lesili Beard!) where I was able to spend time with so many of my colleagues and friends â€" Mark Shapiro, Steven Sametz, Peter Rutenberg, Arlene Williams, Dominick DiOrio, Jordan Å ramek, John and Lynn Muehleisen, Michael Miller, Martin Benvenuto, Bob Geary, Barbara Heroux, and Rhonda Juliano to name a few.Â Of course, there was also time with Paige and Ginny, my favorite otter Brandon Brack, and my â€œsoul sisterâ€� Justin Montigne â€" and thereâ€™s never a dull moment when these four are around.
After the craziness of the conference, I jetted back to the Bay for the big push toward concert week.Â There were many interview with the local press, lots of posting of poems on Facebook, and nightly rehearsals to get in as many repetitions as possible â€" with a work as long as this one, muscle memory is everything.Â Finally, the concerts were upon us â€" two performances at the wonderful St Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church (where my friend Sanford Dole is the music director), and one at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland.Â The concerts were a whirlwind of emotion and energy for us all â€" and they were very well received!Â Several of my closest friends came down from Seattle to hear the premiere, including my beloved David, Mary and Meridithe, Linda and Merideth, and Samantha.Â My friend Nick even came up from Phoenix to hear the piece twice.Â As well, so many of my Bay Area friends came to support me â€" Jim, Doug, Brandon, Justin, Christa, Danya, Bob, Mark, and Barbara â€" it meant so much to me to see so many of you in the audience.
All in all, my residency with Kitka
has been both career-affirming and life-changing.Â It was an intense musical experience with an ensemble that I had never worked with before.Â Due to the subject matter and the degree to which we were all vulnerable, these eight women became my friends pretty quickly â€" and our level of intimacy and trust was truly inspiring.Â In addition to my time with Kelly, Caitlin, Corrine, Michele, Janet, Kristine, Natalie, and Shira
, I was able to spend a fair amount of time with Jim Meehan, my most accommodating host at One Rincon Hill.Â I
loved our evening chats, and helping him prepare for his choir tour to Paris to sing the DuruflÃ© Requiem at St Etienne du Mont.Â Who wouldnâ€™t enjoy that?
After the sessions in Berkeley
were over on 27 June, I needed to get back to Seattle and get ready to go to Riga!Â However, the story of I will remember everything isnâ€™t yet over.Â Throughout this entire project, Shira
had been fundraising toward a goal of $20,000 that would match the NEA grant that Kitka
had been awarded, and Kitkaâ€™s campaign was racing to the end of the groupâ€™s fiscal year on 30 June.Â With a few hours to spare, Kitkaâ€™s donors met this goal!Â And on the following day, we received word that this piece had been awarded $10,000 from New Music USA â€" out of 1,179 grant applications, 57 projects got funded (thatâ€™s only 4.8%)!Â So, weâ€™re not exactly sure what is next for my little composition.Â (Shira keeps talking about taking it on tour to Russia!)Â I certainly hope that more audiences will have the chance to hear it and learn about the courageous life and inimitable love of Sophia Parnok.
After winning last monthâ€™s Copland and NEA grants, Shira Cion (Kitkaâ€™s director) and I engaged in several weeks of discussion, and decided that I would create a work around the lesbian affair between Marina Tsvetaeva and Sophia Parnok, two Russian poetesses.Â This affair began in the summer ofÂ 1914, exactly a century before the planned premiere date, which would be part of the National Queer Arts Festival in San Francisco.Â I was already familiar with the work of Tsvetaeva because I had composed Vitam impendere vero to honor the slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.Â So, I decided to begin my research for this piece by looking into the work of the â€œunderdog,â€� the less famous of the two poetesses, Sophia Parnok.
While I percolated on the puzzle of this Verge Ensemble commission, I was putting finishing touches on Peace and quiet, my 8-minute double-chorus (SMA/SMA) piece for the Atlanta Young Singers.Â As well, The Esoterics were gearing quickly up for their two series of BRITTEN centennial concerts, both before and after Thanksgiving.Â In the midst of this fire, the news came from Shira Cion (the director of Kitka in Oakland) that our Russian project had received funding from both the Copland Fund for New Music AND from the National Endowment for the Arts.Â While the grant was not entirelyÂ funded, it was certainly enough to get started on the piece â€" once I was finished with everything else.
There was so much going for me last month - many irons in the fire - East Coast travel, intense rehearsals toward imminent concerts, pieces percolating, and other pieces near completion. Â However, after this call from Shira, I knew that David andÂ I would be spending a "Russian" holiday in Paris, and that I had more than usual to be thankful for on the last Thursday of the month, as we celebrated with our beloved chef Whitney and all of our friends.