Recent News

Voices of Change, the new music ensemble of Dallas, is joining with a stellar group of national chamber music ensembles to implement the Rapido! 14-day Composition Contest for the Southwest Region of the United States. Created and designed by Atlanta Chamber Players and The Antinori Foundation, the competition originated with partner ensembles Boston Musica Viva, and Fifth House Ensemble (Chicago), and now Rapido! goes coast to coast for the 2012 competition cycle.

Rapido! A 14-Day Composition Contest was founded by the Atlanta Chamber Players & The Antinori Foundation in 2009 to promote new chamber music compositions. Rapido! begins a third cycle in 2012, presented by the Atlanta Chamber Players and The Antinori Foundation, with partner ensembles Boston Musica Viva, Fifth House Ensemble (Chicago), Voices of Change (Dallas) and Left Coast Chamber Ensemble (San Francisco).

The Rapido Contest challenges composers of all ages from 48 US states to submit an original short work in just 14 days: musical form and instrumentation are specified. Regional finalist works compete at regional concerts, followed by a National Finals Concert with the national finalist from each of 5 regions competing. First prize is a $5000 Commission to expand the winning work for premiere performance by all 5 partner ensembles in their home cities the following season.

The 3rd cycle of the Rapido Contest will be adjudicated by Atlanta Chamber Players for the Southeast region, Boston Musica Viva for the Northeast region, Fifth House Ensemble of Chicago for the Midwest, Voices of Change for the Southwest, and Left Coast Chamber Ensemble for the West.

Rapido! 2012 Dates:
April & May 2012 for Contest Registration
June 2012 for the 14 Day Composition Period. ---- Youtube documentary: "Rapido! A Look at the 2010-2011 Cycle"

Rapido! Composition Contest Calendar:

2011 Autumn: Premiere performances of the 2010-11 completed Commission by John Elmquist
October 23, 2011 Atlanta Chamber Players
October 24 & 28, 2011 Fifth House Ensemble
November 18, 2011 Boston Musica Viva

2012 Spring: The next Rapido! Contest cycle begins, with 5 ensembles participating to cover 48 states.
April-May 2012 - Contest Registration
June 2012 - 14-Day Composition Period

Rapido! Watch interviews & performance videos at:
NEW! documentary now on YouTube: "Rapido! A Look at the 2010-2011 Cycle"

Recent Reviews

Voices of Change comes alive like a jungle at sunrise

CLASSICAL REVIEW: Rice composer's piece grabs the ears at Voices of Change

12:00 AM CST on Monday, March 3, 2008
By SCOTT CANTRELL / The Dallas Morning News

The music was really contemporary – none more than two years old – for Voices of Change's Sunday-evening concert at Southern Methodist University's Caruth Auditorium. On first hearing, none of the four works leapt out as deathless art. But later and wiser counsels may decide otherwise, and each offered listening pleasure.
The highest-profile name on the program was John Adams, whose Son of Chamber Symphony was getting only its second performance since its November 2007 premiere in San Francisco. But the piece that most grabbed my ears was the two-year-old Shu Shon Key (Remembrance) by Taiwan-born Shih-Hui Chen, who's on the faculty of Rice University in Houston.
Dr. Chen's piece, which exists in two versions, was given in an edition for solo viola and six other instrumentalists (winds, strings, piano and percussion). The dreamy opening suggests late Debussy with Asian accents, and more "advanced" harmonies. Then, over string pluckings, flute and clarinet weave long-breathed melodies, after which the whole ensemble comes alive, like a jungle at sunrise.
Barbara Sudweeks dispatched the solo part – more a first among equals – with aplomb. Voices artistic director Joe Illick conducted the capable-sounding ensemble.
Both of the world premieres arguably outstayed their inspiration. From SMU professor Simon Sargon came a Fantasy on "The Miller's Tears," a song by the Yiddish composer, poet and performer Mark Warshawsky. The song's upward-spreading intervals are a unifying gesture, as the music speeds up into cheery then frenzied dances. After a shrieking climax, the gentler opening mood returns. The piece was performed by clarinetist Paul Garner and cellist Kari Nostbakken, with Mr. Illick as pianist.
Seeker, by University of North Texas undergraduate Kris Peysen, is a neoclassicism-meets-minimalism affair, cheerful chirpings and pulsings framing contrapuntal exchanges. Scored for three winds, violin, viola and marimba, it was conducted by Jamie Allen.
For the Adams, Voices of Change bulked up to a 16-person ensemble, again conducted by Mr. Illick. In recent years, Mr. Adams has veered away from the diddle-diddle minimalism that was his early signature, but Son of Chamber Symphony seems a regression.
The rhythms are more jagged than in earlier years, and more complex in combination. Melodic lines soar sweetly on high, and there's even a bluesy little episode for the brass. But it does go on, and although the players were some of the area's best, the performance sounded a rehearsal away from absolute assurance.

Voices of Change celebrates composer William Bolcom

CLASSICAL REVIEW: Voices of Change celebrates composer and his embrace of popular idioms

12:00 AM CST on Monday, January 14, 2008
By SCOTT CANTRELL / The Dallas Morning News

Gleefully mingling modernism with nostalgia, high art with earthy ditties, William Bolcom just may be the true heir of Charles Ives. Or an American musical version of James Joyce.
Voices of Change, Dallas' modern-music ensemble, got a jump on Mr. Bolcom's 70th birthday (which doesn't happen until May 26) with a captivating Sunday-evening concert mainly devoted to his music. Mr. Bolcom, one of the most-performed living American composers, was in the audience, and he spoke in a pre-concert interview with program annotator Laurie Shulman.
The concert, at Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church, mainly featured vocal music. But Mr. Bolcom's 1973 Duo Fantasy for violin and piano was provocatively paired with a violin-and-piano suite by another composer, Lera Auerbach, born in 1973 in the former Soviet Union but now living in the U.S.
Mezzos Wendy Boyce and Virginia Dupuy shared selections from two very different sets of songs, ably accompanied by pianist Dale Dietert. From Mr. Bolcom's 1990 cycle I Will Breathe a Mountain came poems by Marianne Moore, Gwendolyn Brooks and Emily Dickinson, delivered in wide strides, glissandos, chest voice and even speech.
Mr. Bolcom's embrace of popular idioms came to the fore in four of the marvelous Cabaret Songs, to texts by the late Arnold Weinstein. Ms. Boyce, with a voice of impressive clarity and evenness, made "Amor" deliciously sexy and "Song of Black Max" deliciously naughty. Ms. Dupuy brought darker, smokier tones to the spiritual-like "Waitin'" and the mischievous "Toothbrush Time" (about, shall we say, a sex partner of convenience).
Jeanine Thames' radiant soprano and vivid delivery made a touching case for Let Evening Come, to poems about death by Dickinson, Maya Angelou and Jane Kenyon. A viola counterpoint, beautifully played by violist Barbara Sudweeks, often seemed to inhabit a parallel universe, but the piano part, again played by Mr. Dietert, tied all together.
The violin-and-piano pieces were played with panache by Emanuel Borok and Andrey Ponochevny. After a gently balletic start, Mr. Bolcom's Duo Fantasy cycled through violin slithers and harmonics over tolling chords, a diabolical hoedown and what sounded like a Fritz Kreisler sendup of a Stephen Foster tune.
The 10 movements of Ms. Auerbach's Oskolki (Broken Pieces) were similarly varied, though more Eastern European in flavor. Again, wispy harmonics were used to telling effect, vibratoless against piano tinklings and tollings. Elsewhere both instruments had mad scurries, but the piece ended without quite reaching the expected note. Beneath generic Italian tempo designations one sensed a complex emotional life.
Completing the program was a "hit" number, "New York Lights," from Mr. Bolcom's 1997 opera A View from the Bridge.
Allan Glassman's beefy tenor fit the blue-collar milieu, but he should have relied more on the score and less on his memory. Voices artistic director Joe Illick accompanied.

Voices of Change opens season with gentle 'Memory'

09:46 AM CDT on Monday, September 17, 2007
By SCOTT CANTRELL / Classical Music Critic

A piece memorializing drowning victims might seem a strange way to open a concert and a concert season. But David Dzubay's new chamber work titled All Water Has a Perfect Memory was a hauntingly beautiful curtain-raiser Sunday evening for Dallas' modern-music ensemble Voices of Change. The Indiana University professor, who has a growing profile as a composer, was in the audience at Southern Methodist University's Caruth Auditorium.
You might expect mighty rushing waters, but this is mostly gentle shimmer and eddy, waters blended in a soft-focus kaleidoscope. A set of variations on a hazy theme introduced by clarinet, it also parcels out soloistic writing throughout a string quartet.
The first violin gets the one patch of high anxiety, but the second violin gets a high-flown keening. The latter, in fact, may be the piece's high point, after which the epilogue seemed unnecessary padding.
The piece got a finely focused, exquisitely shaded performance from clarinetist Paul Garner, violinists Maria Schleuning and Kaori Yoshida, violist Cornelia Demian and cellist Kari Nostbakken.
The same group of five was joined by flutist Helen Blackburn in a similarly engaging account of Osvaldo Golijov's Lullaby and Doina , arranged from the Argentine composer's music for the 2001 film The Man Who Cried. The music progressed from sleepy Yiddish lullaby to haunting Gypsy lament to wild Gypsy dance.
The whole of the concert's second half was devoted to Dr. Golijov, who was to have attended but was called away by a family emergency. Just one day after the composer's song "Lúa descolorida" was performed in Fort Worth by soprano Angela Turner Wilson, it was fascinating to hear it sung very differently by Gina Browning. Ms. Wilson made it sunnily radiant; Ms. Browning made it more aptly moonlit, mysterious, and so deeply touching that at least one pair of eyes filled with tears.
Rounding out the Golijov lineup was Levante, a bang-up tango based on a chorus from the composer's St. Mark Passion. It was tossed off with great panache by Voices artistic director Joe Illick.
The program's other Voices commission and world premiere was Mary Alice Rich's Letters From the Fallen. Inspired by last letters from soldiers killed in Iraq, it's essentially a set of five songs without words for cello and piano. Though doubtless deeply sincere, the music feels like a warmed-over mélange of a little Vaughan Williams, a little Aaron Copland and more than a little new age. It was beautifully played, though, by Ms. Nostbakken and Mr. Illick.

Dreamy 'Sail' engages at Voices of Change concert

02:06 PM CDT on Tuesday, March 27, 2007
By SCOTT CANTRELL / Classical Music Critic

Of the seven pieces performed Sunday evening by Dallas' new-music ensemble Voices of Change, at Caruth Auditorium, only one predated the 21st century, and by only a decade.

Tihda Vongkoth (left) and Aaron Nix sang and played the vibraphone during I Refuse to Mourn at Caruth Auditorium.
The most intellectually engaging piece was the one-year-old Sail Away by Chien-Wen Cheng, a doctoral candidate in composition at the University of North Texas. This was an appealing essay in sounds and ideas drifting in and out, as in a dream, with sophisticated interactions of clarinet (Brent Buemi), violin (Lisamarie Vana), cello (Gayané Manasjan Fullford) and piano (Voices artistic director Joe Illick). Mr. Cheng was presented Voices' annual Russell Horn Young Composers Award.
At the other end of the stylistic spectrum was the dreamily pretty Equinox by Jason E. Ballmann, winner of the Voices/Dallas Symphony Orchestra Young Composers Project High School Award. For flute (Helen Blackburn), cello (Ms. Fullford) and piano (Mr. Illick), this suggested one of those French-influenced early 20th-century English composers but with less imaginative piano writing.
Mr. Illick's five-minute Fantasy for violin and piano, with some mix of Ravel and Prokofiev in its DNA, was beautifully written and beautifully played. His spare Union, for soprano (Elizabeth Racheva), horn (Gregory Hustis) and piano (Mr. Illick), setting fragments from Thoreau and Emerson, did capture a bit of the transcendentalist spirit. Ms. Racheva sang stirringly, phrasing eloquently.
Of three works for all or mostly percussion, two stood out. Anne Strickland's 2005 Fascinating Notions, for xylophone, vibraphone, two marimbas and snare drum, began with gentle undulations, tremolos, tinklings and clanks, then worked in lively dovetailings and counterpoints. Jon Lee conducted members of the Southern Methodist University Percussion Ensemble. Bob Becker's 1990 Mudra alternated hypnotic ruminations and tollings for vibraphone and marimba with more animated writing, drummings sometimes lending a militant air.
Jenny Olivia Johnson explained that her I Refuse to Mourn grew out of earlier wrestlings with anxiety. With a whole troupe of SMU percussionists doubling as amplified singers, the piece was a 15-minute essay in insistent patterns ratcheted higher and louder. Beyond that, perhaps the less said the better.

Scott Cantrell, The Dallas Morning News
"In an age when most music is composed at computers, Augusta Read Thomas still stands at a drafting table and puts pen to lined paper.
"Ms. Thomas isn't one of the easy-listening American composers who in recent decades have seduced audiences by recycling established musical gestures.
"Although she says she carefully plots out the proportions of her pieces, they have the visceral impact of something created by hand and sung by a live voice. Sensuous pleasures are inextricable from intellectual challenges.
"...a logical connection: Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Both pieces are brightly scored, and both make much of jazzy figures."

Voices of Change on the Top 10 List in Dallas
Santa Fe New

December 2007

Soprano Virginia Browning and conductor-pianist Joseph Illick received a nice notice from Scott Cantrell, music critic of the Dallas Morning News, in his recent roundup of the top 10 Dallas-area music performances of 2007. Speaking of contemporary music group Voices of Change, which Illick directs, Cantrell noted, "Two one-act, one-woman mini-operas got riveting performances from sopranos Lauren Flanigan (in Thomas Pasatieri's Before Breakfast) and Gina Browning (in Poulenc's La voix humaine). Joe Illick accompanied so deftly on piano that one hardly missed the original orchestrations."
Browning and Illick divide their time between the DFW Metroplex, where Illick is music director of Fort Worth Opera, and their longtime home in Santa Fe. Also on Cantrell's list, by the way, were performances by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Dallas Opera, the great pianist Radu Lupu, and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Good company!

A short 1984 piano piece by Mr. Biscardi, Incitation to Desire: Tango, was a delicious send-up of grand romanticism. And Mr. Bray [of Voices of Change] played it accordingly. Mr. Bray had the happy idea of having it danced. Doug Hopkins, from the Bruce Wood Dance Company, supplied deft, provocative counterpoint of his own.
Scott Cantrell, The Dallas Morning News (2003)

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