Symphony picks four to sing city praises

Young composers to vie for a place on CD tribute

April 15, 2007|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,Sun reporter

Four young composers have been chosen to capture the Annapolis spirit in music for the city's 300th birthday next year, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra has announced.

The three men and one woman, drawn from an international field of more than 100 applicants, each will create an Annapolis-inspired work to be performed by the orchestra during its 2007-2008 season.

Each will receive a $5,000 commission, and the composition judged best will be awarded an additional $5,000 and will be professionally recorded by the symphony for a CD celebrating the music of Annapolis.

The composers, who range in age from 25 to 33, are Jacob Bancks of Chicago; Daniel Visconti of Arlington, Va.; Narong Prangcharoen, a Thai composer who lives in Kansas City, Mo.; and Kristin Kuster of New York City.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said the music will make the celebration more meaningful.

"The symphony has chimed in in such a positive way," she said. "We're a small town, but with a core cultural community. This is where some of the first operas [in the United States] were performed, so we have a long tradition."

As a way to preserve the event for posterity, ASO officials said, each composer will inscribe the original score: "Annapolis Charter 300 Young Composers Competition."

The four were chosen last week by a jury that included the ASO music director, Jose-Luis Novo.

Novo suggested the competition as part of the cultural and historical events planned to mark the tricentennial of the city's 1708 charter. The city recently approved an outdoor mural exhibit for the celebration.

Novo, a native of Spain, said the competition has enhanced Annapolis' place on the musical map.

Choosing the winner will be inclusive, he said, with input from critics, audiences, ASO players and experts.

"This reflects the spirit of Charter 300 and democracy," Novo said at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, the symphony's venue. "We will engage everyone in decision-making, so everyone will have a voice.

"It's very telling, how a piece of music gets created. ... This will create momentum for the audience."

The applicants, required to be 35 or younger, were judged on a previously finished work, without the jury's knowing the composer's name, Novo said. Among struggling musicians, he said, composers work alone and often have the hardest time making a living.

Bancks, a 25-year-old doctoral student at the University of Chicago, said the competition was an unusual chance for talented young composers to be heard.

"To have four world premieres for young composers is remarkable," he said in a telephone interview.

He plans to visit the state capital to "soak in the atmosphere" to prepare for composing a piece. "I've never been to Annapolis, so I'm planning to make a trip," Bancks said. "I'm from the Midwest, so 300 years is really an amazing thing."

The deadline for the composers to submit a six-to-10-minute orchestral composition is Sept. 15. City arts grants funded the competition.

R. Lee Streby, the ASO president, said he had the pleasure of calling each of the final four with the happy news. The best part of the competition for the composers, he said, is that the winning work will be professionally recorded.

Annapolis symphony-goers will have a chance to meet each composer to make a better-informed choice.

Streby said of the composers, "We'd like them to be in residence for their own premiere and say a few word about their personal process."

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