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Out of the darkness: OBF Composers Symposium’s “Music of Hope and Resilience”

Biannual event moves online, produces virtual concerts to be released this month.


Music composed to inspire courage and perseverance during this time of social unrest and on-going global pandemic will be featured in February’s Music of Hope and Resilience festival. Fifty-five new pieces, written by participants in this past summer’s Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium, will be premiered and webcast world-wide over four weekends.

Portland’s Fear No Music Ensemble performs new music composed on the theme of Social and Racial Justice.
Portland’s Fear No Music Ensemble performs new music composed on the theme of “Social and Racial Justice.

It was evident, as the COVID pandemic entered a second year, that the 2021 biannual composers symposium could not be held in-person at the University of Oregon’s School of Music and Dance. Instead, symposium founder and director Dr. Robert Kyr envisioned a unique 17 day summer experience in which an international gathering of 76 composers would come together as a collaborative online community to celebrate the creation of new music through workshops, live streamed performances, and interactive presentations by guest artists and composers-in-residence.

Among the many options from which participants could choose was the Global Composition Project. This was designed to engage Instrumental composers in the writing of new works for performance by guest ensembles based on three themes related to the unprecedented challenges we face today. These included: Social and Racial Justice – a collaborative effort with the Fear No Music ensemble; Environment and Global Climate Change – Delgani String Quartet; and Bridging The Divisions in Society – 4×5 piano duo of Benjamin Krause and Christina Giuca.

Dr. Kyr told ArtsWatch, “My vision was to offer composers from around the world an opportunity to address these vital issues through their music, as both an individual and communal expression of their deepest convictions and concerns.”

A Global Composers Project participant shares a work in progress with colleagues during a Zoom workshop session.
A Global Composers Project participant shares a work in progress with colleagues during a Zoom workshop session.

The journey from seed idea to performance

It was understood from the beginning of the symposium that the Global Composition Project would involve participants and collaborative ensembles, in composing, rehearsing and performance activities beyond the summer’s two week session.

During June and July, participating composers from throughout the US and other countries ranging from Iceland to Argentina and Inner Mongolia to Russia, attended frequently scheduled Zoom sessions with Dr. Kyr and colleagues to discuss thematic ideas and to share musical drafts as they were being composed.


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In August, the composers submitted their scores and parts for distribution to the ensembles for rehearsal through late September. Online score reading sessions by the ensembles resulted in some composers tweaking their pieces to improve both the music and its performance.

4X5 Duo rehearse music composed on Bridging The Divisions in Society theme.
4X5 Duo rehearses music composed on “Bridging The Divisions in Society” theme.

The ensembles began recording their final performances in October using their own prefered video and sound engineers. This resulted in a unique look and sound for each.

The November timeline for editing was extended into the new year, due to an unexpected scheduling issue. Fortunately, this extension allowed Dr. Kyr additional time to think about how best to structure each concert video. He decided that instead of one ensemble being featured in a single concert, it might make for a richer experience to include two ensembles, or all three, while blending the relative themes and musical styles together like scenes in a film.

The final four videos offer the audience a diversity of short 3-5 minute pieces reflecting a variety of musical styles and cultural influences of the community in which each composer lives. “I hope that this creates a festival that offers our listeners a diverse range of music related to our three global themes,” Kyr told ArtsWatch. He added, “As an art that is common to all cultures, music has the potential to inspire people to be engaged with our most urgent issues, and in so doing, bring about meaningful and sustainable change on a local, national and global scale. When there is music, there is hope and resilience.”

Delgani string quartet performs music based on the theme of Environment and Global Climate Change.
Delgani String Quartet performs music based on the theme of “Environment and Global Climate Change.”

The webcasts will be presented on four consecutive Saturdays in February. Each concert will be streamed twice, first at 11:00 am and then at 8:00 pm Pacific. This scheduling accommodates concert viewing in the various time zones in which the Festival’s international community of composers reside.

The link for each screening will be posted the day before the concert on the Oregon Composers Forum Facebook page. All videos will be available for a limited period of time following each original webcast.

Dr. Kyr observed: “Our video concerts have emerged from the international collaboration of our composers and performers whose vision and creativity provides hope for the future.”


Portland Playhouse A Christmas Carol Portland Oregon

Concert schedule

Concert 1: Saturday, February 5

Features 13 premieres performed by Fear No Music (ensemble) and 4×5 Piano Duo.

Composers: Evan Blaché, Vlad Chlek, Veronica Jang, Joseph Jones, Sarah Jordan, Aaron Kirschner, Kevin Kopsco, Geli Li, German Lopez, Thomas Maceri, Helena Michelson, Stacey Philipps and Ethan Soledad.

Concert 2: Saturday, February 12

Features 12 premieres performed by Delgani String Quartet and 4×5 Piano Duo.

Composers: Sally Clark, Daniel De Togni, Alex Didier, Hannah Fulton, Joel Harrison, Abby Kellems, Jacob Lee, Max Mabry, Zachariah Mayberry, Kieran McLain, Serin Oh and Seth Stewart.


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Concert 3: Saturday, February 19

Features 15 premieres performed by Delgani String Quartet and Fear No Music (ensemble).

Composers: Stephen Adkisson, Alex Barsom, Deborah Carrillo Negron, Kei Wing Chan, Daniel Fawcett, William Hitel, Oswald Huỳnh, Max Johnson, Luis Alberto Mariño, Zachariah Mayberry, Vedran Mehinovic, John Summers, Laura Whitney-Johnson, Ian Wiese, Yangfan Xu and Yifeng Yuan.

Concert 4: Saturday, February 26

Features 15 premieres performed by 4×5 Piano Duo, Delgani String Quartet & Fear No Music (ensemble).

Composers: Byron Au Yong, Daniel Carpenter, Rongrong Chen, Kieran Cremins, Allium Letey-Moore, Gísli Magnússon, Joanne S. Na, Nathaniel Nyagol, OGA, Washington Plada, Kian Ravaei, Lincoln Sandham, Jonathan Sherpa, In-sil Yoo and Zheng Zhou.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Gary Ferrington is a University of Oregon Sr. Instructor Emeritus whose career spanned over 30 years as the College of Education’s Instructional Systems Technology program director. He has been, since retiring in 1998, actively involved in the Eugene arts community serving for nine years on the Board of Directors for the Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts Center where he also coordinated its online and print public relations efforts. Since the closing of the center during the Great Recession he has committed himself to advocating for the performance of contemporary music and dance. He is a volunteer with the Eugene Ballet Company and is an advocate for the UO School of Music and Dance programs in music composition, Intermedia Technology, and jazz studies. His articles for Oregon ArtsWatch, focusing primarily on music, dance and occasionally theatre in Eugene, can be found online at artswatcharticles.blogspot.com.

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