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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 7, 2005

Kantorei Concert Will Range From The Renaissance To A World Premiere Oct. 21

Kantorei, the top vocal ensemble from the University of Iowa School of Music, will present a world premiere and a Renaissance masterpiece as part of a free concert under conductor Timothy Stalter, at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

"This particular concert is weighted towards the Renaissance," Stalter said. That emphasis includes one major sacred work from the Renaissance that will open the concert, followed by three pairs of pieces, each featuring a Renaissance secular piece and a contemporary piece in the same language.

Part I of the concert will be the Mass in Five Voices by William Byrd. The pairs of works that make up Part II will be:

-- "Solo e pensoso" (Alone and thoughtful) by Italian Renaissance composer Luca Marenzio, which will be performed by a smaller ensemble from Kantorei, paired with "Il giardino di Afrodite?" (The garden of Aphrodite?) by 20th-century composer Ildebrando Pizzetti;

-- "Thule, the Period of Cosmography" by English Renaissance composer Thomas Weelkes, paired with the world premiere of "Echo's Song" by UI music faculty member Michael Eckert; and

-- "Le chant des oiseaux" (Song of the birds) by French Renaissance composer Clement Janequin, paired with "La blanche neige" (The white snow) by Francis Poulenc.

A devout Catholic, William Byrd lived in England in the 16th and early 17th centuries, after the founding of the Church of England by King Henry VIII. During this time there was little or no tolerance in England for Catholics and their beliefs, and Byrd was involved in constant conflict with the English government. Only his connection with the court, as a member of the Chapel Royal Choir, saved him from serious consequences.

Between 1592 and 1595, he wrote three mass settings, one each for three, four and five voices. Composed for secret Catholic Chapel services, they were bound as small books with no title page, in order to hide their identity. Although they were intended to be sung by amateurs from the parish, the music is complex, full of dense counterpoint and rich in detail. They are considered among the greatest of Byrd's works, as reflections of the fervency of his faith.

"The Mass for Five Voices demonstrates some of Byrd's finest writing and represents some of the finest late Renaissance counterpoint," Stalter said.

"The Renaissance secular songs in Part II represent some of the more unusual examples from that era, harmonically, textually and musically. Pairing these with contemporary compositions will suggest differences in the compositional styles separated by a great chasm of time. However, at the same time, the audience will be intrigued by the strong ties and similarities between the old and the new."

"Though the English language piece from the Renaissance contains extraordinary textual images, the premiere of Michael Eckert's composition will be more harmonically challenging for the ear. As in many contemporary pieces, any hint of a tonal center is fleeting. This very atonality aptly serves the text through its melancholy, liberally tearful motives and harmonic gestures."

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. He has research interests in teaching conducting to undergraduate and graduate students and historical music performance practices. An active member of the American Choral Directors Association, he frequently presents clinics and workshops in choral conducting around the United States.

In addition to conducting and teaching choral music, Stalter is active as a tenor soloist in the United States and abroad. A specialist in the music of the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical periods, he is known for his performances as the Evangelist in the Passions of J.S. Bach and Heinrich Schuetz. He has appeared as tenor soloist with Apollo's Fire, 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. He has recorded as tenor soloist with conductor Robert Shaw on two compact discs released on the Telarc label.

Prior to coming to the UI, Stalter was on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Goshen College in Indiana. He received a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, where he studied with renowned choral conductor Robert Fountain, and a master's degree from the University of Illinois, where he studied with Don Moses, who was UI director of choral activities in the 1980s.

Michael Eckert has taught music theory, counterpoint and composition at the UI School of Music since 1985. Before coming to the UI he taught at Colorado State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tulane University, and Antioch College.

Eckert's awards for composition include the Bearns Prize from Columbia University, a Charles E. Ives Scholarship from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, an NEA fellowship and the Music Teachers National Association Distinguished Composer of the Year Award. He is also active as a scholar, having published analytical articles on the music of Renaissance composer Johannes Ockeghem and 20th-century composer Luigi Dallapiccola.

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

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