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Famed Composer Meredith Monk to Perform Two Quartet Concerts with Vocal Ensemble

Eleanor Davis

Image Credit: Photo by John Edward Mason

“She may loom even larger as the new century unfolds, and later generations will envy those who got to see her live.”The New Yorker. 

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.— Composer/performer Meredith Monk has been deemed “a magician of the voice” and “one of America’s coolest composers,” amazing audiences across the globe with her genre-spanning compositions for more than 45 years. The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, New Albion Records, and The House Foundation for the Arts present Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble on Friday, November 9 and Saturday, November 10 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45, $35, $25, and $15, and can be ordered online at or by calling the box office at 845-758-7900.

Monk’s groundbreaking exploration of the voice as an instrument, as an eloquent language in and of itself, expands the boundaries of musical composition. “Well before just about every choreographer on the planet declared their allegiance to multidisciplinary work,” proclaims the New York Times, “Meredith Monk was creating pieces that defied characterization in their use of song, speech, movement, film, and images.”

Monk and her acclaimed Vocal Ensemble—some of the finest and most adventurous performers active in new music — will offer two quartet concerts showcasing Monk’s range as a composer and her pioneering exploration of the human voice. Founded in 1978 to further expand Monk’s musical textures and forms, the Ensemble has received multiple awards and critical acclaim, including a 2008 GRAMMY nomination for impermanence.

The program for Quartet Concert I on Friday, November 9, includes multiple solo selections from Juice (1969); Songs from the Hill (1977); Light Songs (1988); selections from Facing North (1990); Music for Voice and Piano: Gotham Lullaby (1975), Travelling (1973), last song (2004); Music for Voice, Keyboard and Woodwinds: Choosing Companions, from ATLAS: an opera in three parts (1991), Waltz in 5’s, from The Politics of Quiet (1996), Scared Song (1986), clusters 3, from Songs of Ascension (2008), Panda Chant I and Memory Song, from The Games (1984), masks, from mercy (2001), and between song, from impermanence (2004/2006). Concert # 1 will be performed by Theo Bleckmann, voice and piano; Katie Geissinger, voice; Bohdan Hilash, woodwinds; and Meredith Monk, voice and piano.

The program for Quartet Concert II on Saturday, November 10, includes Music for Unaccompanied Voice, with selections from Juice (1969), Songs from the Hill (1977), and Light Songs (1988); Music for Voice and Piano: Gotham Lullaby (1975), Travelling (1973), and Madwoman’s Vision (1988); and Music for Voice, Keyboard and Woodwinds: Choosing Companions, from ATLAS: an opera in three parts (1991), Hips Dance, from Volcano Songs: Duets (1993), Prayer II, from The Politics Of Quiet (1996), Scared Song (1986), epilogue and woman at the door, from mercy (2001), clusters 3, from Songs of Ascension (2008), Panda Chant I and Memory Song, from The Games (1984), masks, from mercy (2001), and between song, from impermanence (2004/2006). Concert #2 will be performed by Allison Sniffin, voice and piano; Katie Geissinger, voice; Bohdan Hilash, woodwinds; and Meredith Monk, voice and piano.

Lighting design for this program is by Elaine Buckholtz, and sound design by Jody Elff.

All program information may be subject to change. For more information about these concerts contact the box office at 845-758-7900, or go to

About the Performers: 

Meredith Monk is a composer, singer, director/choreographer and creator of new opera, music-theater works, films and installations. A pioneer in what is now called “extended vocal technique” and “interdisciplinary performance,” Monk creates works that thrive at the intersection of music and movement, image and object, light and sound in an effort to discover and weave together new modes of perception. Her groundbreaking exploration of the voice as an instrument, as an eloquent language in and of itself, expands the boundaries of musical composition, creating landscapes of sound that unearth feelings, energies, and memories for which there are no words. Over the last five decades, she has been hailed as “a magician of the voice” and “one of America’s coolest composers.” Celebrated internationally, Monk’s work has been presented by BAM, Lincoln Center Festival, Houston Grand Opera, London’s Barbican Centre, and at major venues in countries from Brazil to Syria. Among her many accolades, she was recently named 2012 Composer of the Year by Musical America, a 2012 Doris Duke Artist, and one of NPR’s 50 Great Voices. She also received a 2011 Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award for the Arts.

In 1968 Monk founded The House, a company dedicated to an interdisciplinary approach to performance. In 1978 she founded Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble to expand her musical textures and forms. As a pioneer in site-specific performance, she has created such works as Juice: A Theatre Cantata in 3 Installments (1969) and Ascension Variations (2009) for the Guggenheim Museum, and American Archeology #1: Roosevelt Island (1994).  Monk’s award-winning films, including Ellis Island (1981) and her first feature, Book of Days (1988), have been seen throughout the world. Her music can also be heard in films by such directors as Jean-Luc Godard and the Coen Brothers. In addition to her numerous vocal pieces, music-theater works and operas, Monk has created vital new repertoire for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and solo instruments, with commissions from Michael Tilson Thomas/New World Symphony, Kronos Quartet, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and Los Angeles Master Chorale, among others.

Since graduating Sarah Lawrence College in 1964, Monk has received numerous honors including the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, three “Obies” (including an award for Sustained Achievement), two Villager Awards, and two “Bessie” awards for Sustained Creative Achievement. She holds honorary Doctor of Arts degrees from Bard College, the University of the Arts, The Juilliard School, the San Francisco Art Institute and the Boston Conservatory. Monk has made more than a dozen recordings, most of which are on the ECM New Series label, including the 2008 Grammy-nominated impermanence. In October 1999 Monk performed A Vocal Offering for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama as part of the World Festival of Sacred Music in Los Angeles. Monk’s 40th year of performing and creating new music was celebrated in 2005 by a four-hour marathon at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. In February she honored with a remix and interpretations CD, MONK MIX, featuring 25 artists from the jazz, pop, dj and new music worlds. In March, she premiered her newest piece for six voices and mixed ensemble, Realm Variations, commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony and performed in John Cage’s Song Books as part of the Symphony’s American Mavericks Festival. Monk is currently developing a new music-theater work, On Behalf of Nature, to premiere in 2013.

A singer and new music composer of eclectic tastes and prodigious gifts, Grammy nominated and ECHO award recipient Theo Bleckmann makes music that is accessibly sophisticated, unsentimentally emotional, and seriously playful, leading his work to be described as “from another planet” (New York Times), as “magical, futuristic,” (AllAboutJazz), “limitless” (Citypaper, Philadelphia) “transcendent” (Village Voice) and “brilliant” (New York Magazine). Bleckmann has released a series of gorgeous and irreverent albums on Winter & Winter, including recordings of Las Vegas standards, Berlin Kabarett, and popular “bar songs” (all with pianist Fumio Yasuda); a recording of newly arranged songs by Charles Ives (with jazz/rock collective Kneebody); his acoustic solos for voice titled I dwell in possibility; and his latest project: Hello Earth—the music of Kate Bush. Bleckmann has additionally collaborated with musicians and composers, including Laurie Anderson, Uri Caine, Philip Glass, John Hollenbeck, Sheila Jordan, Phil Kline, David Lang, Kirk Nurock, Ben Monder, Michael Tilson Thomas, Kenny Wheeler, John Zorn, the Bang on a Can All-stars, and, most prominently, Meredith Monk, with whom Bleckmann worked as a core ensemble member for 15 years. He has recently been interview by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air and appeared on the Letterman show with Laurie Anderson.

Katie Geissinger has been singing with Meredith Monk since the 1990 Houston Grand Opera production of ATLAS (ECM), and was a recent soloist in WEAVE for Two Voices with the St. Louis Symphony and Los Angeles Master Chorale.  She premiered Bang on a Can’s Obie-winning The Carbon Copy Building (Canteloupe), and sang in the world tour of Glass/Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach (Elektra Nonesuch), recently revived in concert at Carnegie Hall, where she has also soloed in Bach's Magnificat and played the Witch in Honegger's Le Roi David.  Other appearances include Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (Jonathan Miller, dir.) at BAM, and Coram Boy and La Boheme (Baz Luhrmann, dir.) on Broadway.  Katie recently premiered Monk’s Realm Variations with the San Francisco Symphony American Mavericks Festival. 

Clarinetist and multi-instrumentalist Bohdan Hilash joined the Vocal Ensemble in 2002. As part of his diverse career he has performed on four continents throughout the world as a performer of orchestral and chamber music, opera, contemporary music, jazz, musical theatre, and as a soloist. Hilash has appeared as a chamber and orchestral musician and as a soloist at many of the world’s preeminent concert venues and music festivals including those of Bayreuth, Spoleto, Tokyo, Evian, Lincoln Center, Rome, and Aspen. As an orchestral musician, Hilash has performed with some of the world’s leading orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic with conductors including Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta, Alan Gilbert, and Leonard Slatkin among many others. He is particularly active in the field of contemporary music and has worked with many of its leading practitioners including Speculum Musicae, Bang on a Can, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He has performed with jazz artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Phil Woods, Dave Holland, Lee Konitz, and Kenny Wheeler among many others. In the theater Hilash has worked as a featured performer in collaboration with several leading theater companies, playwrights, and directors of the New York stage including Arthur Miller and Lee Breuer.  Hilash’s recordings may be heard on the ECM, Chandos, RCA Victor, CRI, Mode, CBC, Finlandia, RCA, New World, CCNC, TBM, Capstone, and RP labels.

Allison Sniffin (Saturday night only), a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and composer, has been a member of Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble since 1996, performing in The Politics of Quiet, A Celebration Service, Magic Frequencies, mercy, Turtle Dreams, Book of Days, impermanence, and Songs of Ascension. She has engraved, edited, and orchestrated several of Monk’s works, including Basket Rondo, Possible Sky, Stringsongs, Night, WEAVE for Two Voices, Chamber Orchestra and Chorus, and the recent Realm Variations. Sniffin has won awards for her compositions from Meet the Composer and Concert Artists’ Guild; her Prelude for Horn and String Orchestra was performed at the 2011 International Alliance for Women in Music Congress, and Punch! for Marimba and Piano is pending publication.

New Albion Records was launched in San Francisco in the mid 1980s and has since involved itself with the art of musical composition, notably the most experimental, iconoclastic work it can find. The destination of New Albion’s journey has been to keep traveling, to keep looking for the most curious and beautiful work that appears to it. Following the obsolescence of the record industry, New Albion has been involved in concert production and licensing projects.

Incorporated in 1971, The House Foundation for the Arts provides production and management services for Meredith Monk, Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble, and The House Company. 

The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, an environment for world-class artistic presentation in the Hudson Valley, was designed by Frank Gehry and opened in 2003. Risk-taking performances and provocative programs take place in the 800-seat Sosnoff Theater, a proscenium-arch space, and in the 220-seat LUMA Theater, which features a flexible seating configuration. The Center is home to Bard College’s Dance Program and Theater and Performance Program, and host to two annual summer festivals: SummerScape, which offers opera, dance, theater, operetta, film, and cabaret; and the Bard Music Festival, which celebrated its 23rd year in August with “Saint-Saëns and His World.” The 2013 festival will be devoted to Igor Stravinsky, with a special weekend focusing on the works of Duke Ellington.

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This event was last updated on 10-26-2012