The Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) pays tribute to founder Portia Sonnenfeld with a 35th anniversary season celebrating the creativity of women. Upcoming concerts highlight music by two composers with strong Princeton ties: 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Music winner Caroline Shaw, occasional section violinist with the PSO while pursuing doctorate studies at Princeton University; and Princeton resident Sarah Kirkland Snider, composer of critically acclaimed song cycles Penelope and Unremembered and a former student of Ms. Sonnenfeld.
Friends as well as professional colleagues, each is contributing a work co-commissioned by the PSO for its 2015-’16 season. According to PSO Music Director Rossen Milanov, “They reflect the unmistakable burst of talent that women composers are contributing to the field of classical music.”
A native of North Carolina, Ms. Shaw began playing the violin and composing music at a young age. She received a bachelor of music degree from Rice University and a master of music degree from Yale University in violin performance. She won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Partita for 8 Voices, written for the Grammy Award-winning acapella group Roomful of Teeth of which she is a member.
Ms. Shaw will perform her composition Lo for Violin and Orchestra at the PSO’s Sunday, March 13, concert, Beholding Brahms. The PSO joins the North Carolina and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestras in supporting the commission of this work for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW Festival.
Ms. Snider was born and raised in Princeton and played in the Princeton High School Orchestra under Portia Sonnenfeld’s baton. She received a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University and a master’s degree and artist diploma from the Yale School of Music, where she studied with Martin Bresnick, Aaron Jay Kernis, Ezra Laderman, and David Lang. Roomful of Teeth recorded The Orchard by Ms. Snider on their eponymous Grammy Award-winning album.
Her work Hiraeth, co-commissioned by the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra and the PSO, recalls childhood visits to beloved grandparents in Salisbury, North Carolina. The multi-media composition, incorporating visuals by Mark DeChiazza, will be spotlighted at the PSO’s Sunday, May 15, Passion & Affection concert.
The PSO’s work with Ms. Shaw and Ms. Snider garnered support from the Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy. Founded in 2008, WPA builds upon the achievements of The Women’s Philharmonic (1980-2004) by advocating for the performance of compositions by women.
Further support for community programs centered on Ms. Snider’s Hiraeth comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, which awarded the PSO a 2016 ArtWorks grant. Among the planned events are meet-the-composer talks at the Princeton Public Library, the Arts Council of Princeton, and Richardson Auditorium.
A performance of Ms. Snider’s Penelope will take place at the Princeton High School’s Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, May 17, and will feature vocalist Carla Kihlstedt with members of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra.
Tickets for all events can be ordered via princetonsymphony.org or 609-497-0020.