PREMIERES (Michigan)

Hailed by The New York Times as a “bold ensemble” that “set the standard for contemporary-classical saxophone quartets,” PRISM Quartet presents a program of new music from an extraordinary collection of composers, including world premieres of works by  Hannah KendallAndrew Litts, Renee Baker, and David Bennett Thomas, plus the Midwest premieres of Marcos Balter‘s “Yarn,” and PRISM’s first performance of Carlos Simon‘s “Elegy: A Cry from the Grave.”

Joining PRISM as special guest artists are saxophonists Robert Young (University of North Carolina School of the Arts) and Matthew Koester (University of Wisconsin-Madison).

About the Music

The program features the world premiere of Gilt by Hannah Kendall, a doctoral fellow in composition at Columbia University and winner of the Hindemith Prize and the Ivor Novello Award. Ms. Kendall writes, “Gilt, a play on the word Guilt, takes its title from Hew Locke’s 2022-2023 façade commission for The Metropolitan Museum of Art: four super-sized, gold, trophy-like sculptures that were displayed on the front of the building. Inspired by artifacts within The Met’s collection, the sculptures are wonderfully curious, unrecognizable, striking objects. Locke describes them as ‘a façade on the façade,’ as whilst they look like gloriously opulent, reimagined articles, they are in fact propped up by poles from behind.  Like me, Locke is British and of Guyanese heritage, where gold mining is prevalent and resources are rich. At the same time, it is also a place still affected by its history of slavery, colonialism, and indentureship.”

Marcos Balter is the Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia University whose work has been praised by The Washington Post as “dark and deeply poetic.” Mr. Balter describes his new work, Yarn: “The type of fiber and the tightness of the thread dictate a yarn’s character. While thicker and tighter yarns are more durable, a quality yarn is typically loose and lightweight; fragility and exquisiteness are intrinsically correlated, where the ultimate price of refinement is ephemerality.” The work’s title is an anagram of saxophonist Ryan Muncy’s first name; Yarn is dedicated to his memory.

Elegy: A Cry from the Grave by Carlos Simon is, in the composer’s words, “dedicated to those who have been murdered wrongfully by an oppressive power; namely Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The stimulus for composing piece came as a result of prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch announcing that a selected jury had decided not to indict police officer Daren Wilson after fatally shooting an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The piece draws on strong lyricism. A recurring ominous motif represents the cry of those struck down unjustly. While the piece is predominantly sorrowful and contemplative, there are moments of hope represented by bright consonant harmonies.” Mr. Simon is the Composer-in-Residence for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and was nominated for a 2023 GRAMMY award for his album Requiem for the Enslaved.

Composer Renee Baker is the founding music director and conductor of the Chicago Modern Orchestra Project, a polystylistic orchestra that grew from the plums of both classical music and jazz. A practicing Sannyasi, she contributes a new adaptation of her work, Second Threnody, to the program. In describing the piece, she writes, “Each day we try to walk the straightest path to our intended destinies. Fate often detached us from those dreams and we move in a dhutanga-like manner. To what end, we know not … but purpose is the most intangible and untouchable of all desires.” Second Threnody was inspired by a poem of the same name by Dutch writer MIEP Geeson. The poem captures, in the poet’s words, “the essence of human struggle, loss, and the quest for meaning in the face of life’s uncertainties.”

Andrew Litts, a Philadelphia composer of acoustic and electronic and film music, describes Voler [to fly (Fr.)]: “Looking up, I see an airplane make its way across the sky. Bernoulli’s principle, lift, drag…all that I know about the physics of flight is forgotten. Perhaps it’s nostalgia for watching airplanes from my childhood home, or perhaps it’s my own love of travel…but watching airplanes fly overhead never ceases to incite a child-like wonder in me. Who are these people sitting in fast-moving chairs in the sky? Where are they going?”

Composer, author, jazz pianist, and teacher, David Bennett Thomas is Associate Professor, at the University of the Arts School of Music. He describes You Know Me as “textural, with washy minimalistic cells rubbing against each other while transforming in colorful ways, often accompanying broad melodies. You may also notice some jazz style block-chord soli writing. And an adagio that brings the piece to a close. When I compose, I try to use all that the idiom has to offer to construct something tight and cohesive that hopefully draws the listener in and takes them somewhere.”

Hannah Kendall

David Bennett Thomas

Renee Baker

Carlos Simon

Andrew Litts

Marcos Balter

Gilt by Hannah Kendall (world premiere)
Yarn by Marcos Balter (Midwest premiere)
Second Threnody by Renee Baker (world premiere, new arrangement)
Elegy: A Cry from the Grave by Carlos Simon
Voler by Andrew Litts (world premiere)
You Know Me by David Bennett Thomas (world premiere)

Program subject to change

Tickets are $25 general admissions, $20 seniors/students with ID (all fees included). A limited number of free tickets are available courtesy or Meridian Winds, the official pro shop of the PRISM Quartet. Once gone, use the discount code for advance online purchases: PRISM5 for $5 off each ticket!

This program is presented with generous support from the Michigan Arts and Culture Council, the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, and Meridian Winds.

PRISM Quartet welcomes all individuals to our concerts, and provides a variety of accommodations for those with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. For specific accommodations, please contact or 215.438.5282.

PRISM selects only wheelchair accessible performance venues with dedicated seating locations for wheelchairs. Ramps and an elevator (access on Emmett St.) are permanent at The First Presbyterian Church. For any guest who requires a paid Personal Care Attendant (PCA), PRISM will provide a PCA Pass at no cost with a paid admission. Any guests with disabilities who require a PCA and wish to purchase advance tickets should contact PRISM at 215.438.5282 of to request a PCA Pass with the ticket.

Meridian Winds

First Presbyterian Church of Ypsilanti
300 N. Washington St., Ypsilanti, MI

January 21, 2024
7 PM

$25 general admissions, $20 seniors/students with ID (all fees included). A limited number of free tickets are available courtesy or Meridian Winds. Once gone, use the discount code for advance online purchases: PRISM5 for $5 off each ticket!