To the Editor:
Portsmouth’s well-known magnetism has attracted a new classical music series that is establishing a reputation as a major summer festival.
The Halcyon Music Festival is organized by Boston-based pianist Heng-Jin Park, whose love of Portsmouth is bringing these concerts to St. John’s Church “on the hill,’ with its beautiful space, fine acoustic and Steinway grand piano. The new festival is a gift for all of us who love live classical music, and a great addition to our community’s varied and rich cultural scene. I don’t intend to miss a note of it! Check it out online at Halcyon Music Festival.
Over 20 musicians from major symphony orchestras, established ensemble groups and prestigious conservatories and universities are making glorious music right in our downtown with three concerts left to go (Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week at 7:30 p.m.) in the inaugural season. I have never heard more spirited, joyful and thoughtful performances of major classical ensemble works. The ensemble format is chamber music in the best and most friendly sense: the audience is up close and personal in the room so that the artistic communication among the players may be fully enjoyed by the listeners.
The Halcyon family is finding collaborations with other community organizations, and is eager to become part of the Portsmouth fabric. Proceeds from a concert last week benefited the Seacoast Family Food Pantry in collaboration with “Music for Food.” The festival is partnering with PMAC to offer discounts to students, and is on the lookout for ways to entertain and inspire us. Welcome, Halcyon!
Portsmouth resident and Past President of the Portsmouth Athenaeum
By Robert Cinnante
Just mentioning the name Schoenberg is enough to send many listeners running, a name synonymous with the twelve-tone system that the composer and his contemporaries in the Second Viennese School pioneered in the early 20th century. But Verklärte Nacht, op. 4 (Transfigured Night), composed in 1899, pre-dates the composer’s use of organized atonality, and is regarded as one of his most important early works, and arguably one of the most spectacular in the standard chamber music repertory.
Schoenberg’s excursion to the Austrian Countryside in the fall of 1899 proved to be no vacation. In just three short weeks the composer completed this one movement work that seemingly embodies a lifetime. The six instruments seem to speak as one as they deliver the narrative of the poem by Dehmel of the same name, upon which Schoenberg based his composition. The story is of two lovers walking through a forest on a moonlit night. The distressed woman confesses that she is carrying the child of a man that preceded the one she is now with. The man ponders what he has been told, and finally reassures the woman that his love for her is strong enough that he will accept the child as his own. They embrace and continue on their journey.
It is astonishing to think that such an emotionally dense creation could be contained within a half hour. The work is separated into five sections, corresponding to the structure of the poem, but the inevitable spell that it casts upon the listener creates an utter sense of timelessness. Its captivating effect is probably best articulated by Dehmel in a letter written to Schoenberg after the Vienna premiere in which he said, “I had intended to follow the motives of my text in your composition, but soon forgot to do so, I was so enthralled by the music.”
To hear this work and others, join Halcyon Music Festival tonight, July 26th, at Portsmouth’s St. John’s Episcopal Church. For tickets, click here.
I would like to invite you to join me for the inaugural season of the Halcyon Music Festival. This exciting new endeavor is the realization of my lifelong dream to establish a chamber music festival that serves artists and audiences alike. It all begins on July 20th when world class and emerging young artists come together in a spirit of collaboration. The result is chamber music of the highest level for all to enjoy.
Halcyon takes chamber music out of the standard concert hall setting and makes its home in the beautifully resonant sanctuary of St. John’s Episcopal Church, set atop a hill in Portsmouth that overlooks the picturesque New Hampshire Seacoast.
Our inaugural concert is Thursday, July 24th; the last of the season is Saturday, August 2nd. Individual concert details can be found here. Advanced seating may be purchased via Brown Paper Tickets. Admission is also available at the door, with a $25 suggested donation.
Thank you, and I look forward to seeing many of you this summer!
Heng-Jin Park, Founder