May Festival News
By Melissa Knueven
May Festival news
Prior to the start of the 2017 May Festival, Matthew Swanson, Community Engagement Coordinator and Assistant Conductor of the Youth Chorus, led three public conversations that provided historical context and insight into this year’s Dream Project. “These programs are largely unrelated, with the exception of one connection: they are about dreams. These pieces will give the audience the opportunity to consider what dreams are while giving the performers the chance to decode and interpret dreams,” said Swanson. He wanted to provide the community with the opportunity to learn about and discuss the pieces before they heard them performed.
The first talk, titled “Listen In! It’s All a Dream,” took place on April 22 at the St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center at the University of Cincinnati. Presented by Matthew Swanson and Dr. Jeffrey Zalar, Conway Chair in Catholic Studies at UC, this talk focused on the inspiration behind The Dream of Gerontius. Attendees learned how composer Edward Elgar interpreted and enhanced John Henry Newman’s poem. Newman was a prominent writer and cardinal in the Catholic Church, and many universities have “Newman Centers” in his honor.
On April 24 at First Presbyterian Church in Glendale, the audience learned about the tradition of the May Festival in “Listen In! Mirth and Mystery.” Swanson provided insight into the season’s music selections and how they fit within the creative vision, as well as the May Festival’s historical timeline. For instance, Elgar conducted The Dream of Gerontius in 1906 in Cincinnati—only six short years after the piece was written.
The St. Thomas Episcopal Church hosts monthly lectures and performances by the Bach Vespers—an ensemble dedicated to Bach’s music. So, in “Listen In! Bach to Basics,” which took place on May 1, attendees were delighted to learn from Swanson and musicologist Douglas Easterling why J.S. Bach composed his B Minor Mass and its importance within music history.
2017 is an exciting year for the May Festival, and the opportunity to share the historical impact and inspiration of music is pivotal to the May Festival’s mission.