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Release: Feb. 16, 2001

UI Kantorei will premiere piece by student composer Michael Cash March 2

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Kantorei, the premiere vocal ensemble of the University of Iowa School of Music, will present the world premiere of a piece by UI master’s degree student Michael Cash, as well as a group of Italian madrigals and other works, as part of a free concert at 8 p.m. Friday, March 2 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Timothy Stalter, who is director of choral activities in the School of Music, will conduct the concert. The complete program will be: "Missa Lunae Stellarumque" (Mass of the moon and stars) by Cash; Italian madrigals by Giovanni Gastoldi, Jacques Arcadelt and Claudio Monteverdi; a Magnificat by 18th-century composer Giacomo Antonio Perti; and three pieces from "Nonsense" by the 20th-century Italian composer Goffredo Petrassi.

Cash said he was inspired by Plato’s concept of the music of the spheres -- that there is a celestial harmony created by the rotation of the planets -- as well as scientific discoveries about the nature of the universe by Edwin Hubble, Albert Einstein and Benoit Mandelbrot.

"These ideas paint a picture of a possible universe where there is a place beyond time and space that mortals do not understand, where a Being which there is no greater dwells and controls and commands the laws of the cosmos with infinite, calculated subtlety and compassion," Cash said.

"In the spirit of these theories and philosophies I wrote ‘Missa Lunae Stellarumque,’" he said. "It is a collage of styles and techniques, from the old, time-honored traditions of the mass to the modern ideas of the present. This combination, for me, symbolizes the true tradition of the mass: one of adherence to tradition in conflict with desire to contribute sincere, original sentiment in honor of the One God."

Cash created the text for the "Missa Lunae Stellarumque" by writing his own text in Latin, which he added to texts taken from the standard liturgical text of the Mass. Thus, Cash’s work begins with a text he wrote, including the words "O Creator, master of the Universe, We awe at your singular, wondrous music set amidst the moon and stars." This section of the score is followed by a setting of the "Kyrie eleison" ("Lord have mercy), and other portions of the Mass.

"I wish that this music would vibrate the air around it in such a way that it starts a near infinite chain of reactions throughout the universe," Cash said. "‘That it would ripple through the ether with a near infinite wake of consequences to the outer boundary of space and time where the Greatest Being might hear it, and that the near infinite consequences of its journey might bring some small harmony and peace to the universe we all share and live in."

The Italian madrigal and its related genres flourished from the mid-16th century until the early 17th century. Composers of the time produced an astonishingly large number of madrigals, widely varying in style and affect. Beginning around 1550, composers began to focus closely on accurate text-setting, matching text accents to musical accents and literally depicting the meaning of the text in the music.

Of the madrigals to be performed by Kantorei, those by Arcadelt and Gastoldi mostly portray the overall mood of the text. In the third madrigal, however, Monteverdi literally depicts the flight, song and ardor of a bird by writing delicate, ornamental passages in imitation of birds’ songs.

Giacomo Antonio Perti was a famous and well-regarded composer of the early 18th-century, the friend and teacher of many prominent musicians of the time. His Magnificat in four parts was probably not composed for a major feast in the liturgical calendar, as it calls for only the modest forces of four-part chorus with two violins, viola and continuo.

Petrassi is considered one of the most significant Italian composers of the 20th century. After graduation from the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome, he spent most of his professional life teaching composition. Trained first as a choral singer performing the music of Renaissance masters, Petrassi discovered contemporary music when he went to work in a music store. According to the composer, the experience of Renaissance choral music retreated into limbo, but later was manifested alongside modernist influences from Stravinsky, Bartok and his Italian contemporaries.

Kantorei will perform three of the pieces from Petrassi’s "Nonsense," unaccompanied choral settings of Italian translations of English limericks by the Victorian poet and parodist Edward Lear. A serious artist who was once the drawing master to Queen Victoria, Lear also published numerous volumes of non-serious works, including "Book of Nonsense," "Nonsense Songs," "More Nonsense" and "Laughable Lyrics."

A native Iowan, Cash attended high school at College Community School Districts and studied music theory at the UI while still in high school. He received a bachelor’s degree in music composition from the UI in 2000. He has studied composition at the UI with Marc Weber, D. Martin Jenni, Michael Eckert and Lawrence Fritts.

Stalter joined the UI faculty as director of choral activities in 1999. He directs Kantorei, the premier choral ensemble of the School of Music, teaches graduate conducting courses, and administers the graduate program in choral conducting.

In addition to conducting and teaching choral music, Stalter is active as a tenor soloist in the United States and abroad and is especially known for his performances as the Evangelist in the Passions of J.S. Bach and Heinrich Schuetz. He has appeared as tenor soloist with the Newfoundland Symphony, the North Carolina Symphony, the Robert Shaw Festival Singers in France, the Robert Shaw Chamber Choir in Atlanta, the Classical Music Seminar and Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria, and the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts.

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