< BLOG

Posts Tagged ‘International Contemporary Ensemble’

In Plain Air

Posted September 23rd, 2018
DescriptionAbout the ArtistsInterviews

“[International Contemporary Ensemble is] the nation’s preeminent new-music group.” The New York Times

“The organ is an ensemble with one master: a massive contraption tamed by the great skill of its organist, its builder, and its tuners.” Nathan Davis

A 3,000-pipe organ, centuries-old bells as they are heard in the belfry, an orchestra of pipe whistles, community-built music boxes: the sounds of In Plain Air carry the audience through the campus and history of one of the nation’s most historic sites.

As Christ Church installed its C.B. Fisk pipe organ — the latest in a 300-year history of grand church organs within the space — it invited members of acclaimed artist collective International Contemporary Ensemble to inaugurate the new instrument with a program of original compositions. Composers Phyllis Chen (known for her work with hand-wound music boxes and toy pianos) and Nathan Davis (a percussionist fascinated by the mechanics of instruments) immersed themselves in the sound-making possibilities of the church’s organ, bells, and open spaces, as well as the history and public role of the venerable institution.

The resulting multi-movement program unites the historic bell tolls of “The Nation’s Church,” the majesty of the intricately constructed organ, and the Ensemble’s characteristic focus on place and community into a one-of-a-kind sonic experience — a worthy welcome to an instrument that will continue to ring in the ears of visitors for the next 300 years.

Tickets free at the door. Limited seating available. Guaranteed seating, $2 advanced reservations.

Composed by Phyllis Chen and Nathan Davis Performed by International Contemporary Ensemble.

Photos by Plate 3 (unless otherwise indicated)

 

Major support for In Plain Air has been provided to Christ Church Preservation Trust by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation and Arthur Judson Foundation. 

 

In Plain Air commission and engagement activities are supported in part by OpenICE, a program made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, A.N. and Pearl G. Barnett Family Foundation, Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, Amphion Foundation, Pacific Harmony Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Casement Fund, BMI Foundation, as well as public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council for the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.


About Phyllis Chen

Phyllis Chen is a pianist, toy pianist, composer, educator, and curator, whose musical interests have led in numerous directions as a soloist and collaborative artist. She is dedicated to performing and promoting new works to engage audience in concerts and educational programs. Described as “a dazzling performer who wrings novel sounds from the humble toy piano,”(NY Times) and “a bold pianist with an excellent sense of color” (LA Times), Chen is the founder of the UnCaged Toy Piano, an annual toy piano composition competition and biennial festival in NYC. As a composer, She has received commissions and grants from the Singapore International Festival of the Arts, Fromm Music Foundation, NYSCA, New Music USA, Baryshnikov Arts Center, A Far Cry, Opera Cabal, and others. Chen has released five albums, including three solo albums. Her fifth album, Nature of Thingness(Starkland), featuring chamber works by Chen and Nathan Davis, won the 2016 Independent Music Award for best Contemporary Classical album.

About Nathan Davis

Nathan Davis “writes music that deals deftly and poetically with timbre and sonority” (NY Times). His opera/ballet “Hagoromo” premiered at the BAM Next Wave Festival produced by American Opera Projects, and Lincoln Center inaugurated its Tully Scope Festival with the premiere of “Bells,” a site-specific, electroacoustic piece for ensemble, multi-channel audio, and live broadcast to audience members’ mobile phones. Davis has received commissions from ICE and its members, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Steven Schick, Miller Theatre, Ojai Music Festival, the Calder Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, and Yarn/Wire, with premieres at Tanglewood, Park Avenue Armory, and Carnegie Hall.

The 2018 Aaron Copland Fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation, Davis has received awards/fellowships from the Camargo Foundation, Meet The Composer, Fromm Music Foundation, Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, MATA, and ASCAP. He and Phyllis Chen won an NY Innovative Theater Award for their score to Sylvia Milo’s play The Other Mozart. After serving on the faculty of Dartmouth College for eight years, Davis teaches composition and electronic music at Montclair State University. An active percussionist, he performs with ICE; appeared as a concerto soloist with the Seattle Symphony, Tokyo Symphony, and Nagoya Philharmonic; and has toured Russia, Bali, Turkey, and Cuba.

About International Contemporary Ensemble

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is an artist collective that is transforming the way music is created and experienced. As performer, curator, and educator, ICE explores how new music intersects with communities across the world. The ensemble’s 35 members are featured as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners, and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time. Works by emerging composers have anchored ICE’s programming since its founding in 2001, and the group’s recordings and digital platforms highlight the many voices that weave music’s present.

A recipient of the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, ICE was also named the 2014 Musical America Ensemble of the Year. The group currently serves as artists-in-residence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Mostly Mozart Festival, and previously led a five-year residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. ICE was featured at the Ojai Music Festival from 2015 to 2017, and at recent festivals abroad such as gmem-CNCM-marseille and Vértice at Cultura UNAM, Mexico City. Other performance stages have included the Park Avenue Armory, The Stone, ice floes at Greenland’s Diskotek Sessions, and boats on the Amazon River.

New initiatives include OpenICE, made possible with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which offers free concerts and related programming wherever ICE performs, and enables a working process with composers to unfold in public settings. DigitICE, a free online library of over 350 streaming videos, catalogues the ensemble’s performances. ICE’s First Page program is a commissioning consortium that fosters close collaborations between performers, composers, and listeners as new music is developed. EntICE, a side-by-side education program, places ICE musicians within youth orchestras as they premiere new commissioned works together; inaugural EntICE partners include Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and The People’s Music School in Chicago. Summer activities include Ensemble Evolution at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, in which young professionals perform with ICE and attend workshops on topics from interpretation to concert production. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for ICE. Read more at iceorg.org.

About Christ Church

Photo ©Jacques-Jean Tiziou

Christ Church, the birthplace of the American Episcopal Church, was founded in 1695 as a condition of William Penn’s Charter. Known as “The Nation’s Church,” it hosted members of the Continental Congress during the American Revolution and Presidents George Washington and John Adams in the first decade of the newly established Republic. Among early members were Benjamin and Deborah Franklin, Betsy Ross, John Penn (William Penn’s grandson), and signers of the Constitution and of the Declaration of Independence, including Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, and Francis Hopkinson.

At Christ Church, Absalom Jones, the nation’s first black priest, received his ordination, a school was created to educate slaves and over 25% of Philadelphia’s free and enslaved Africans were baptized. Dating to 1744, the current building has been cited as “our finest Early American church” and one of the finest Georgian structures in America. Its steeple (1754), financed by a lottery organized by Benjamin Franklin, is the work of Robert Smith, one of America’s earliest architects. For 56 years, the steeple made Christ Church the tallest structure in North America.

Christ Church is a privately managed historic site that is an official component of Independence National Historical Park. An active Episcopal parish, the church hosts daily historical talks and tours, and serves artists through the Neighborhood House theater and arts program.


Interview with Phyllis Chen

May 2018

FringeArts: How does this project fit into your larger career?

Phyllis Chen: I have been a pianist since I was five but this has been my first opportunity to explore the organ. As a composer I have gravitated towards cheap, miniature and small objects as musical instruments so working with this new state of the art organ has been a new direction for me, despite it being in the keyboard family. As I enjoy playing and composing for small instruments, finding the organ has begged me to think more about the place in which it lives and how it is part of its surroundings. This has led me to think of ways of incorporating the community and the performers into the space itself.

FringeArts: What creative opportunities did you find in composing for Christ Church’s new organ, its bells and its space?

Phyllis Chen: While touring the innards of the organ, we saw the various sizes and materials used in creating the pipe whistles.  I saw the opportunity to create some of the smaller pipe whistles and make a miniature mobile organ with ICE performing different pipe whistles by blowing in them. I collaborated with a long-time instrument-maker friend of mine, Ranjit Bhatnagar, where the two of us designed and experimented with different materials to create miniature pipe whistles.

FringeArts: What role does the audience play in the piece? What should they know coming in to fully open themselves up to the experience?

One of the things that was told to us early on was that this organ is really for the people. I found that to be very exciting and somehow different than what one would think of when hearing about a new organ going into a church. I can’t really say anything to calibrate anyone’s expectations, but for me, I find this event to be a celebration for its “birth” so to speak, and all the people it will bring together in the next century.

Excerpt. Read the full interview on the FringeArts Blog.

Interview with Nathan Davis

May 2018

FringeArts: How does this project fit into your larger career?

Nathan Davis: I have long been fascinated with instruments, such as the organ, that place intermediary mechanical steps between the performer and the sound production. Ten years ago I wrote a piece for Phyllis called “The Mechanics of Escapement” for toy piano and clock chimes that are played by pulling long cords. The organ is a vast mechanical instrument. My work here is partly on the components of the machine (air, bellows, valves, keys, etc.) and their correlation with the instruments that the organ emulates.

FringeArts: What creative opportunities did you find in composing for Christ Church’s new organ, its bells, and its space?

Nathan Davis: The organ is truly magnificent. And having the opportunity to see it evolve over a year gave me a perspective on its components and its voice that I wouldn’t have gotten any other way. Access to the bells has been very inspirational. I am exploring new ways of playing them, relating to my work as a percussionist. And the unusual overtone structures of the bells are providing melodic and harmonic pitch content for other instruments. Though the organ and bells are fixed, the space provides unique opportunities for placement of other instrumentalists, as well as the penetration of interior and exterior sonic spaces using the huge windows and the bell tower.

FringeArts: What should the audience know coming in to the piece?

Nathan Davis: The audience will begin to experience the music even before they arrive in the sanctuary.

The organ is itself an ensemble with one master: a massive contraption that is tamed by the great skill of its organist, its builder and its tuners. In combining the Fisk organ with ICE, we extend and explore musical and social relationships in ways that are both literal and metaphoric.

Excerpt. Full interview coming soon to the FringeArts Blog.

In Plain Air

Posted September 23rd, 2018
DescriptionAbout the ArtistsInterviews

“[International Contemporary Ensemble is] the nation’s preeminent new-music group.” The New York Times

“The organ is an ensemble with one master: a massive contraption tamed by the great skill of its organist, its builder, and its tuners.” Nathan Davis

A 3,000-pipe organ, centuries-old bells as they are heard in the belfry, an orchestra of pipe whistles, community-built music boxes: the sounds of In Plain Air carry the audience through the campus and history of one of the nation’s most historic sites.

As Christ Church installed its C.B. Fisk pipe organ — the latest in a 300-year history of grand church organs within the space — it invited members of acclaimed artist collective International Contemporary Ensemble to inaugurate the new instrument with a program of original compositions. Composers Phyllis Chen (known for her work with hand-wound music boxes and toy pianos) and Nathan Davis (a percussionist fascinated by the mechanics of instruments) immersed themselves in the sound-making possibilities of the church’s organ, bells, and open spaces, as well as the history and public role of the venerable institution.

The resulting multi-movement program unites the historic bell tolls of “The Nation’s Church,” the majesty of the intricately constructed organ, and the Ensemble’s characteristic focus on place and community into a one-of-a-kind sonic experience — a worthy welcome to an instrument that will continue to ring in the ears of visitors for the next 300 years.

Tickets free at the door. Limited seating available. Guaranteed seating, $2 advanced reservations.

Composed by Phyllis Chen and Nathan Davis Performed by International Contemporary Ensemble.

Photos by Plate 3 (unless otherwise indicated)

 

Major support for In Plain Air has been provided to Christ Church Preservation Trust by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation and Arthur Judson Foundation. 

 

In Plain Air commission and engagement activities are supported in part by OpenICE, a program made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, A.N. and Pearl G. Barnett Family Foundation, Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, Amphion Foundation, Pacific Harmony Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Casement Fund, BMI Foundation, as well as public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council for the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.


About Phyllis Chen

Phyllis Chen is a pianist, toy pianist, composer, educator, and curator, whose musical interests have led in numerous directions as a soloist and collaborative artist. She is dedicated to performing and promoting new works to engage audience in concerts and educational programs. Described as “a dazzling performer who wrings novel sounds from the humble toy piano,”(NY Times) and “a bold pianist with an excellent sense of color” (LA Times), Chen is the founder of the UnCaged Toy Piano, an annual toy piano composition competition and biennial festival in NYC. As a composer, She has received commissions and grants from the Singapore International Festival of the Arts, Fromm Music Foundation, NYSCA, New Music USA, Baryshnikov Arts Center, A Far Cry, Opera Cabal, and others. Chen has released five albums, including three solo albums. Her fifth album, Nature of Thingness(Starkland), featuring chamber works by Chen and Nathan Davis, won the 2016 Independent Music Award for best Contemporary Classical album.

About Nathan Davis

Nathan Davis “writes music that deals deftly and poetically with timbre and sonority” (NY Times). His opera/ballet “Hagoromo” premiered at the BAM Next Wave Festival produced by American Opera Projects, and Lincoln Center inaugurated its Tully Scope Festival with the premiere of “Bells,” a site-specific, electroacoustic piece for ensemble, multi-channel audio, and live broadcast to audience members’ mobile phones. Davis has received commissions from ICE and its members, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Steven Schick, Miller Theatre, Ojai Music Festival, the Calder Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, and Yarn/Wire, with premieres at Tanglewood, Park Avenue Armory, and Carnegie Hall.

The 2018 Aaron Copland Fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation, Davis has received awards/fellowships from the Camargo Foundation, Meet The Composer, Fromm Music Foundation, Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, MATA, and ASCAP. He and Phyllis Chen won an NY Innovative Theater Award for their score to Sylvia Milo’s play The Other Mozart. After serving on the faculty of Dartmouth College for eight years, Davis teaches composition and electronic music at Montclair State University. An active percussionist, he performs with ICE; appeared as a concerto soloist with the Seattle Symphony, Tokyo Symphony, and Nagoya Philharmonic; and has toured Russia, Bali, Turkey, and Cuba.

About International Contemporary Ensemble

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is an artist collective that is transforming the way music is created and experienced. As performer, curator, and educator, ICE explores how new music intersects with communities across the world. The ensemble’s 35 members are featured as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners, and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time. Works by emerging composers have anchored ICE’s programming since its founding in 2001, and the group’s recordings and digital platforms highlight the many voices that weave music’s present.

A recipient of the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, ICE was also named the 2014 Musical America Ensemble of the Year. The group currently serves as artists-in-residence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Mostly Mozart Festival, and previously led a five-year residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. ICE was featured at the Ojai Music Festival from 2015 to 2017, and at recent festivals abroad such as gmem-CNCM-marseille and Vértice at Cultura UNAM, Mexico City. Other performance stages have included the Park Avenue Armory, The Stone, ice floes at Greenland’s Diskotek Sessions, and boats on the Amazon River.

New initiatives include OpenICE, made possible with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which offers free concerts and related programming wherever ICE performs, and enables a working process with composers to unfold in public settings. DigitICE, a free online library of over 350 streaming videos, catalogues the ensemble’s performances. ICE’s First Page program is a commissioning consortium that fosters close collaborations between performers, composers, and listeners as new music is developed. EntICE, a side-by-side education program, places ICE musicians within youth orchestras as they premiere new commissioned works together; inaugural EntICE partners include Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and The People’s Music School in Chicago. Summer activities include Ensemble Evolution at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, in which young professionals perform with ICE and attend workshops on topics from interpretation to concert production. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for ICE. Read more at iceorg.org.

About Christ Church

Photo ©Jacques-Jean Tiziou

Christ Church, the birthplace of the American Episcopal Church, was founded in 1695 as a condition of William Penn’s Charter. Known as “The Nation’s Church,” it hosted members of the Continental Congress during the American Revolution and Presidents George Washington and John Adams in the first decade of the newly established Republic. Among early members were Benjamin and Deborah Franklin, Betsy Ross, John Penn (William Penn’s grandson), and signers of the Constitution and of the Declaration of Independence, including Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, and Francis Hopkinson.

At Christ Church, Absalom Jones, the nation’s first black priest, received his ordination, a school was created to educate slaves and over 25% of Philadelphia’s free and enslaved Africans were baptized. Dating to 1744, the current building has been cited as “our finest Early American church” and one of the finest Georgian structures in America. Its steeple (1754), financed by a lottery organized by Benjamin Franklin, is the work of Robert Smith, one of America’s earliest architects. For 56 years, the steeple made Christ Church the tallest structure in North America.

Christ Church is a privately managed historic site that is an official component of Independence National Historical Park. An active Episcopal parish, the church hosts daily historical talks and tours, and serves artists through the Neighborhood House theater and arts program.


Interview with Phyllis Chen

May 2018

FringeArts: How does this project fit into your larger career?

Phyllis Chen: I have been a pianist since I was five but this has been my first opportunity to explore the organ. As a composer I have gravitated towards cheap, miniature and small objects as musical instruments so working with this new state of the art organ has been a new direction for me, despite it being in the keyboard family. As I enjoy playing and composing for small instruments, finding the organ has begged me to think more about the place in which it lives and how it is part of its surroundings. This has led me to think of ways of incorporating the community and the performers into the space itself.

FringeArts: What creative opportunities did you find in composing for Christ Church’s new organ, its bells and its space?

Phyllis Chen: While touring the innards of the organ, we saw the various sizes and materials used in creating the pipe whistles.  I saw the opportunity to create some of the smaller pipe whistles and make a miniature mobile organ with ICE performing different pipe whistles by blowing in them. I collaborated with a long-time instrument-maker friend of mine, Ranjit Bhatnagar, where the two of us designed and experimented with different materials to create miniature pipe whistles.

FringeArts: What role does the audience play in the piece? What should they know coming in to fully open themselves up to the experience?

One of the things that was told to us early on was that this organ is really for the people. I found that to be very exciting and somehow different than what one would think of when hearing about a new organ going into a church. I can’t really say anything to calibrate anyone’s expectations, but for me, I find this event to be a celebration for its “birth” so to speak, and all the people it will bring together in the next century.

Excerpt. Read the full interview on the FringeArts Blog.

Interview with Nathan Davis

May 2018

FringeArts: How does this project fit into your larger career?

Nathan Davis: I have long been fascinated with instruments, such as the organ, that place intermediary mechanical steps between the performer and the sound production. Ten years ago I wrote a piece for Phyllis called “The Mechanics of Escapement” for toy piano and clock chimes that are played by pulling long cords. The organ is a vast mechanical instrument. My work here is partly on the components of the machine (air, bellows, valves, keys, etc.) and their correlation with the instruments that the organ emulates.

FringeArts: What creative opportunities did you find in composing for Christ Church’s new organ, its bells, and its space?

Nathan Davis: The organ is truly magnificent. And having the opportunity to see it evolve over a year gave me a perspective on its components and its voice that I wouldn’t have gotten any other way. Access to the bells has been very inspirational. I am exploring new ways of playing them, relating to my work as a percussionist. And the unusual overtone structures of the bells are providing melodic and harmonic pitch content for other instruments. Though the organ and bells are fixed, the space provides unique opportunities for placement of other instrumentalists, as well as the penetration of interior and exterior sonic spaces using the huge windows and the bell tower.

FringeArts: What should the audience know coming in to the piece?

Nathan Davis: The audience will begin to experience the music even before they arrive in the sanctuary.

The organ is itself an ensemble with one master: a massive contraption that is tamed by the great skill of its organist, its builder and its tuners. In combining the Fisk organ with ICE, we extend and explore musical and social relationships in ways that are both literal and metaphoric.

Excerpt. Full interview coming soon to the FringeArts Blog.

In Plain Air

Posted September 22nd, 2018
DescriptionAbout the ArtistsInterviews

“[International Contemporary Ensemble is] the nation’s preeminent new-music group.” The New York Times

“The organ is an ensemble with one master: a massive contraption tamed by the great skill of its organist, its builder, and its tuners.” Nathan Davis

A 3,000-pipe organ, centuries-old bells as they are heard in the belfry, an orchestra of pipe whistles, community-built music boxes: the sounds of In Plain Air carry the audience through the campus and history of one of the nation’s most historic sites.

As Christ Church installed its C.B. Fisk pipe organ — the latest in a 300-year history of grand church organs within the space — it invited members of acclaimed artist collective International Contemporary Ensemble to inaugurate the new instrument with a program of original compositions. Composers Phyllis Chen (known for her work with hand-wound music boxes and toy pianos) and Nathan Davis (a percussionist fascinated by the mechanics of instruments) immersed themselves in the sound-making possibilities of the church’s organ, bells, and open spaces, as well as the history and public role of the venerable institution.

The resulting multi-movement program unites the historic bell tolls of “The Nation’s Church,” the majesty of the intricately constructed organ, and the Ensemble’s characteristic focus on place and community into a one-of-a-kind sonic experience — a worthy welcome to an instrument that will continue to ring in the ears of visitors for the next 300 years.

Tickets free at the door. Limited seating available. Guaranteed seating, $2 advanced reservations.

Composed by Phyllis Chen and Nathan Davis Performed by International Contemporary Ensemble.

Photos by Plate 3 (unless otherwise indicated)

 

Major support for In Plain Air has been provided to Christ Church Preservation Trust by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation and Arthur Judson Foundation. 

 

In Plain Air commission and engagement activities are supported in part by OpenICE, a program made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, A.N. and Pearl G. Barnett Family Foundation, Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, Amphion Foundation, Pacific Harmony Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Casement Fund, BMI Foundation, as well as public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council for the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.


About Phyllis Chen

Phyllis Chen is a pianist, toy pianist, composer, educator, and curator, whose musical interests have led in numerous directions as a soloist and collaborative artist. She is dedicated to performing and promoting new works to engage audience in concerts and educational programs. Described as “a dazzling performer who wrings novel sounds from the humble toy piano,”(NY Times) and “a bold pianist with an excellent sense of color” (LA Times), Chen is the founder of the UnCaged Toy Piano, an annual toy piano composition competition and biennial festival in NYC. As a composer, She has received commissions and grants from the Singapore International Festival of the Arts, Fromm Music Foundation, NYSCA, New Music USA, Baryshnikov Arts Center, A Far Cry, Opera Cabal, and others. Chen has released five albums, including three solo albums. Her fifth album, Nature of Thingness(Starkland), featuring chamber works by Chen and Nathan Davis, won the 2016 Independent Music Award for best Contemporary Classical album.

About Nathan Davis

Nathan Davis “writes music that deals deftly and poetically with timbre and sonority” (NY Times). His opera/ballet “Hagoromo” premiered at the BAM Next Wave Festival produced by American Opera Projects, and Lincoln Center inaugurated its Tully Scope Festival with the premiere of “Bells,” a site-specific, electroacoustic piece for ensemble, multi-channel audio, and live broadcast to audience members’ mobile phones. Davis has received commissions from ICE and its members, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Steven Schick, Miller Theatre, Ojai Music Festival, the Calder Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, and Yarn/Wire, with premieres at Tanglewood, Park Avenue Armory, and Carnegie Hall.

The 2018 Aaron Copland Fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation, Davis has received awards/fellowships from the Camargo Foundation, Meet The Composer, Fromm Music Foundation, Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, MATA, and ASCAP. He and Phyllis Chen won an NY Innovative Theater Award for their score to Sylvia Milo’s play The Other Mozart. After serving on the faculty of Dartmouth College for eight years, Davis teaches composition and electronic music at Montclair State University. An active percussionist, he performs with ICE; appeared as a concerto soloist with the Seattle Symphony, Tokyo Symphony, and Nagoya Philharmonic; and has toured Russia, Bali, Turkey, and Cuba.

About International Contemporary Ensemble

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is an artist collective that is transforming the way music is created and experienced. As performer, curator, and educator, ICE explores how new music intersects with communities across the world. The ensemble’s 35 members are featured as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners, and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time. Works by emerging composers have anchored ICE’s programming since its founding in 2001, and the group’s recordings and digital platforms highlight the many voices that weave music’s present.

A recipient of the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, ICE was also named the 2014 Musical America Ensemble of the Year. The group currently serves as artists-in-residence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Mostly Mozart Festival, and previously led a five-year residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. ICE was featured at the Ojai Music Festival from 2015 to 2017, and at recent festivals abroad such as gmem-CNCM-marseille and Vértice at Cultura UNAM, Mexico City. Other performance stages have included the Park Avenue Armory, The Stone, ice floes at Greenland’s Diskotek Sessions, and boats on the Amazon River.

New initiatives include OpenICE, made possible with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which offers free concerts and related programming wherever ICE performs, and enables a working process with composers to unfold in public settings. DigitICE, a free online library of over 350 streaming videos, catalogues the ensemble’s performances. ICE’s First Page program is a commissioning consortium that fosters close collaborations between performers, composers, and listeners as new music is developed. EntICE, a side-by-side education program, places ICE musicians within youth orchestras as they premiere new commissioned works together; inaugural EntICE partners include Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and The People’s Music School in Chicago. Summer activities include Ensemble Evolution at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, in which young professionals perform with ICE and attend workshops on topics from interpretation to concert production. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for ICE. Read more at iceorg.org.

About Christ Church

Photo ©Jacques-Jean Tiziou

Christ Church, the birthplace of the American Episcopal Church, was founded in 1695 as a condition of William Penn’s Charter. Known as “The Nation’s Church,” it hosted members of the Continental Congress during the American Revolution and Presidents George Washington and John Adams in the first decade of the newly established Republic. Among early members were Benjamin and Deborah Franklin, Betsy Ross, John Penn (William Penn’s grandson), and signers of the Constitution and of the Declaration of Independence, including Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, and Francis Hopkinson.

At Christ Church, Absalom Jones, the nation’s first black priest, received his ordination, a school was created to educate slaves and over 25% of Philadelphia’s free and enslaved Africans were baptized. Dating to 1744, the current building has been cited as “our finest Early American church” and one of the finest Georgian structures in America. Its steeple (1754), financed by a lottery organized by Benjamin Franklin, is the work of Robert Smith, one of America’s earliest architects. For 56 years, the steeple made Christ Church the tallest structure in North America.

Christ Church is a privately managed historic site that is an official component of Independence National Historical Park. An active Episcopal parish, the church hosts daily historical talks and tours, and serves artists through the Neighborhood House theater and arts program.


Interview with Phyllis Chen

May 2018

FringeArts: How does this project fit into your larger career?

Phyllis Chen: I have been a pianist since I was five but this has been my first opportunity to explore the organ. As a composer I have gravitated towards cheap, miniature and small objects as musical instruments so working with this new state of the art organ has been a new direction for me, despite it being in the keyboard family. As I enjoy playing and composing for small instruments, finding the organ has begged me to think more about the place in which it lives and how it is part of its surroundings. This has led me to think of ways of incorporating the community and the performers into the space itself.

FringeArts: What creative opportunities did you find in composing for Christ Church’s new organ, its bells and its space?

Phyllis Chen: While touring the innards of the organ, we saw the various sizes and materials used in creating the pipe whistles.  I saw the opportunity to create some of the smaller pipe whistles and make a miniature mobile organ with ICE performing different pipe whistles by blowing in them. I collaborated with a long-time instrument-maker friend of mine, Ranjit Bhatnagar, where the two of us designed and experimented with different materials to create miniature pipe whistles.

FringeArts: What role does the audience play in the piece? What should they know coming in to fully open themselves up to the experience?

One of the things that was told to us early on was that this organ is really for the people. I found that to be very exciting and somehow different than what one would think of when hearing about a new organ going into a church. I can’t really say anything to calibrate anyone’s expectations, but for me, I find this event to be a celebration for its “birth” so to speak, and all the people it will bring together in the next century.

Excerpt. Read the full interview on the FringeArts Blog.

Interview with Nathan Davis

May 2018

FringeArts: How does this project fit into your larger career?

Nathan Davis: I have long been fascinated with instruments, such as the organ, that place intermediary mechanical steps between the performer and the sound production. Ten years ago I wrote a piece for Phyllis called “The Mechanics of Escapement” for toy piano and clock chimes that are played by pulling long cords. The organ is a vast mechanical instrument. My work here is partly on the components of the machine (air, bellows, valves, keys, etc.) and their correlation with the instruments that the organ emulates.

FringeArts: What creative opportunities did you find in composing for Christ Church’s new organ, its bells, and its space?

Nathan Davis: The organ is truly magnificent. And having the opportunity to see it evolve over a year gave me a perspective on its components and its voice that I wouldn’t have gotten any other way. Access to the bells has been very inspirational. I am exploring new ways of playing them, relating to my work as a percussionist. And the unusual overtone structures of the bells are providing melodic and harmonic pitch content for other instruments. Though the organ and bells are fixed, the space provides unique opportunities for placement of other instrumentalists, as well as the penetration of interior and exterior sonic spaces using the huge windows and the bell tower.

FringeArts: What should the audience know coming in to the piece?

Nathan Davis: The audience will begin to experience the music even before they arrive in the sanctuary.

The organ is itself an ensemble with one master: a massive contraption that is tamed by the great skill of its organist, its builder and its tuners. In combining the Fisk organ with ICE, we extend and explore musical and social relationships in ways that are both literal and metaphoric.

Excerpt. Full interview coming soon to the FringeArts Blog.

In Plain Air

Posted September 22nd, 2018
DescriptionAbout the ArtistsInterviews

“[International Contemporary Ensemble is] the nation’s preeminent new-music group.” The New York Times

“The organ is an ensemble with one master: a massive contraption tamed by the great skill of its organist, its builder, and its tuners.” Nathan Davis

A 3,000-pipe organ, centuries-old bells as they are heard in the belfry, an orchestra of pipe whistles, community-built music boxes: the sounds of In Plain Air carry the audience through the campus and history of one of the nation’s most historic sites.

As Christ Church installed its C.B. Fisk pipe organ — the latest in a 300-year history of grand church organs within the space — it invited members of acclaimed artist collective International Contemporary Ensemble to inaugurate the new instrument with a program of original compositions. Composers Phyllis Chen (known for her work with hand-wound music boxes and toy pianos) and Nathan Davis (a percussionist fascinated by the mechanics of instruments) immersed themselves in the sound-making possibilities of the church’s organ, bells, and open spaces, as well as the history and public role of the venerable institution.

The resulting multi-movement program unites the historic bell tolls of “The Nation’s Church,” the majesty of the intricately constructed organ, and the Ensemble’s characteristic focus on place and community into a one-of-a-kind sonic experience — a worthy welcome to an instrument that will continue to ring in the ears of visitors for the next 300 years.

Tickets free at the door. Limited seating available. Guaranteed seating, $2 advanced reservations.

Composed by Phyllis Chen and Nathan Davis Performed by International Contemporary Ensemble.

Photos by Plate 3 (unless otherwise indicated)

 

Major support for In Plain Air has been provided to Christ Church Preservation Trust by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation and Arthur Judson Foundation. 

 

In Plain Air commission and engagement activities are supported in part by OpenICE, a program made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, A.N. and Pearl G. Barnett Family Foundation, Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, Amphion Foundation, Pacific Harmony Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Casement Fund, BMI Foundation, as well as public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council for the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.


About Phyllis Chen

Phyllis Chen is a pianist, toy pianist, composer, educator, and curator, whose musical interests have led in numerous directions as a soloist and collaborative artist. She is dedicated to performing and promoting new works to engage audience in concerts and educational programs. Described as “a dazzling performer who wrings novel sounds from the humble toy piano,”(NY Times) and “a bold pianist with an excellent sense of color” (LA Times), Chen is the founder of the UnCaged Toy Piano, an annual toy piano composition competition and biennial festival in NYC. As a composer, She has received commissions and grants from the Singapore International Festival of the Arts, Fromm Music Foundation, NYSCA, New Music USA, Baryshnikov Arts Center, A Far Cry, Opera Cabal, and others. Chen has released five albums, including three solo albums. Her fifth album, Nature of Thingness(Starkland), featuring chamber works by Chen and Nathan Davis, won the 2016 Independent Music Award for best Contemporary Classical album.

About Nathan Davis

Nathan Davis “writes music that deals deftly and poetically with timbre and sonority” (NY Times). His opera/ballet “Hagoromo” premiered at the BAM Next Wave Festival produced by American Opera Projects, and Lincoln Center inaugurated its Tully Scope Festival with the premiere of “Bells,” a site-specific, electroacoustic piece for ensemble, multi-channel audio, and live broadcast to audience members’ mobile phones. Davis has received commissions from ICE and its members, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Steven Schick, Miller Theatre, Ojai Music Festival, the Calder Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, and Yarn/Wire, with premieres at Tanglewood, Park Avenue Armory, and Carnegie Hall.

The 2018 Aaron Copland Fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation, Davis has received awards/fellowships from the Camargo Foundation, Meet The Composer, Fromm Music Foundation, Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, MATA, and ASCAP. He and Phyllis Chen won an NY Innovative Theater Award for their score to Sylvia Milo’s play The Other Mozart. After serving on the faculty of Dartmouth College for eight years, Davis teaches composition and electronic music at Montclair State University. An active percussionist, he performs with ICE; appeared as a concerto soloist with the Seattle Symphony, Tokyo Symphony, and Nagoya Philharmonic; and has toured Russia, Bali, Turkey, and Cuba.

About International Contemporary Ensemble

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is an artist collective that is transforming the way music is created and experienced. As performer, curator, and educator, ICE explores how new music intersects with communities across the world. The ensemble’s 35 members are featured as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners, and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time. Works by emerging composers have anchored ICE’s programming since its founding in 2001, and the group’s recordings and digital platforms highlight the many voices that weave music’s present.

A recipient of the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, ICE was also named the 2014 Musical America Ensemble of the Year. The group currently serves as artists-in-residence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Mostly Mozart Festival, and previously led a five-year residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. ICE was featured at the Ojai Music Festival from 2015 to 2017, and at recent festivals abroad such as gmem-CNCM-marseille and Vértice at Cultura UNAM, Mexico City. Other performance stages have included the Park Avenue Armory, The Stone, ice floes at Greenland’s Diskotek Sessions, and boats on the Amazon River.

New initiatives include OpenICE, made possible with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which offers free concerts and related programming wherever ICE performs, and enables a working process with composers to unfold in public settings. DigitICE, a free online library of over 350 streaming videos, catalogues the ensemble’s performances. ICE’s First Page program is a commissioning consortium that fosters close collaborations between performers, composers, and listeners as new music is developed. EntICE, a side-by-side education program, places ICE musicians within youth orchestras as they premiere new commissioned works together; inaugural EntICE partners include Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and The People’s Music School in Chicago. Summer activities include Ensemble Evolution at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, in which young professionals perform with ICE and attend workshops on topics from interpretation to concert production. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for ICE. Read more at iceorg.org.

About Christ Church

Photo ©Jacques-Jean Tiziou

Christ Church, the birthplace of the American Episcopal Church, was founded in 1695 as a condition of William Penn’s Charter. Known as “The Nation’s Church,” it hosted members of the Continental Congress during the American Revolution and Presidents George Washington and John Adams in the first decade of the newly established Republic. Among early members were Benjamin and Deborah Franklin, Betsy Ross, John Penn (William Penn’s grandson), and signers of the Constitution and of the Declaration of Independence, including Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, and Francis Hopkinson.

At Christ Church, Absalom Jones, the nation’s first black priest, received his ordination, a school was created to educate slaves and over 25% of Philadelphia’s free and enslaved Africans were baptized. Dating to 1744, the current building has been cited as “our finest Early American church” and one of the finest Georgian structures in America. Its steeple (1754), financed by a lottery organized by Benjamin Franklin, is the work of Robert Smith, one of America’s earliest architects. For 56 years, the steeple made Christ Church the tallest structure in North America.

Christ Church is a privately managed historic site that is an official component of Independence National Historical Park. An active Episcopal parish, the church hosts daily historical talks and tours, and serves artists through the Neighborhood House theater and arts program.


Interview with Phyllis Chen

May 2018

FringeArts: How does this project fit into your larger career?

Phyllis Chen: I have been a pianist since I was five but this has been my first opportunity to explore the organ. As a composer I have gravitated towards cheap, miniature and small objects as musical instruments so working with this new state of the art organ has been a new direction for me, despite it being in the keyboard family. As I enjoy playing and composing for small instruments, finding the organ has begged me to think more about the place in which it lives and how it is part of its surroundings. This has led me to think of ways of incorporating the community and the performers into the space itself.

FringeArts: What creative opportunities did you find in composing for Christ Church’s new organ, its bells and its space?

Phyllis Chen: While touring the innards of the organ, we saw the various sizes and materials used in creating the pipe whistles.  I saw the opportunity to create some of the smaller pipe whistles and make a miniature mobile organ with ICE performing different pipe whistles by blowing in them. I collaborated with a long-time instrument-maker friend of mine, Ranjit Bhatnagar, where the two of us designed and experimented with different materials to create miniature pipe whistles.

FringeArts: What role does the audience play in the piece? What should they know coming in to fully open themselves up to the experience?

One of the things that was told to us early on was that this organ is really for the people. I found that to be very exciting and somehow different than what one would think of when hearing about a new organ going into a church. I can’t really say anything to calibrate anyone’s expectations, but for me, I find this event to be a celebration for its “birth” so to speak, and all the people it will bring together in the next century.

Excerpt. Read the full interview on the FringeArts Blog.

Interview with Nathan Davis

May 2018

FringeArts: How does this project fit into your larger career?

Nathan Davis: I have long been fascinated with instruments, such as the organ, that place intermediary mechanical steps between the performer and the sound production. Ten years ago I wrote a piece for Phyllis called “The Mechanics of Escapement” for toy piano and clock chimes that are played by pulling long cords. The organ is a vast mechanical instrument. My work here is partly on the components of the machine (air, bellows, valves, keys, etc.) and their correlation with the instruments that the organ emulates.

FringeArts: What creative opportunities did you find in composing for Christ Church’s new organ, its bells, and its space?

Nathan Davis: The organ is truly magnificent. And having the opportunity to see it evolve over a year gave me a perspective on its components and its voice that I wouldn’t have gotten any other way. Access to the bells has been very inspirational. I am exploring new ways of playing them, relating to my work as a percussionist. And the unusual overtone structures of the bells are providing melodic and harmonic pitch content for other instruments. Though the organ and bells are fixed, the space provides unique opportunities for placement of other instrumentalists, as well as the penetration of interior and exterior sonic spaces using the huge windows and the bell tower.

FringeArts: What should the audience know coming in to the piece?

Nathan Davis: The audience will begin to experience the music even before they arrive in the sanctuary.

The organ is itself an ensemble with one master: a massive contraption that is tamed by the great skill of its organist, its builder and its tuners. In combining the Fisk organ with ICE, we extend and explore musical and social relationships in ways that are both literal and metaphoric.

Excerpt. Full interview coming soon to the FringeArts Blog.

In Plain Air

Posted September 22nd, 2018
DescriptionAbout the ArtistsInterviews

“[International Contemporary Ensemble is] the nation’s preeminent new-music group.” The New York Times

“The organ is an ensemble with one master: a massive contraption tamed by the great skill of its organist, its builder, and its tuners.” Nathan Davis

A 3,000-pipe organ, centuries-old bells as they are heard in the belfry, an orchestra of pipe whistles, community-built music boxes: the sounds of In Plain Air carry the audience through the campus and history of one of the nation’s most historic sites.

As Christ Church installed its C.B. Fisk pipe organ — the latest in a 300-year history of grand church organs within the space — it invited members of acclaimed artist collective International Contemporary Ensemble to inaugurate the new instrument with a program of original compositions. Composers Phyllis Chen (known for her work with hand-wound music boxes and toy pianos) and Nathan Davis (a percussionist fascinated by the mechanics of instruments) immersed themselves in the sound-making possibilities of the church’s organ, bells, and open spaces, as well as the history and public role of the venerable institution.

The resulting multi-movement program unites the historic bell tolls of “The Nation’s Church,” the majesty of the intricately constructed organ, and the Ensemble’s characteristic focus on place and community into a one-of-a-kind sonic experience — a worthy welcome to an instrument that will continue to ring in the ears of visitors for the next 300 years.

Tickets free at the door. Limited seating available. Guaranteed seating, $2 advanced reservations.

Composed by Phyllis Chen and Nathan Davis Performed by International Contemporary Ensemble.

Photos by Plate 3 (unless otherwise indicated)

 

Major support for In Plain Air has been provided to Christ Church Preservation Trust by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation and Arthur Judson Foundation. 

 

In Plain Air commission and engagement activities are supported in part by OpenICE, a program made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, A.N. and Pearl G. Barnett Family Foundation, Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, Amphion Foundation, Pacific Harmony Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Casement Fund, BMI Foundation, as well as public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council for the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.


About Phyllis Chen

Phyllis Chen is a pianist, toy pianist, composer, educator, and curator, whose musical interests have led in numerous directions as a soloist and collaborative artist. She is dedicated to performing and promoting new works to engage audience in concerts and educational programs. Described as “a dazzling performer who wrings novel sounds from the humble toy piano,”(NY Times) and “a bold pianist with an excellent sense of color” (LA Times), Chen is the founder of the UnCaged Toy Piano, an annual toy piano composition competition and biennial festival in NYC. As a composer, She has received commissions and grants from the Singapore International Festival of the Arts, Fromm Music Foundation, NYSCA, New Music USA, Baryshnikov Arts Center, A Far Cry, Opera Cabal, and others. Chen has released five albums, including three solo albums. Her fifth album, Nature of Thingness(Starkland), featuring chamber works by Chen and Nathan Davis, won the 2016 Independent Music Award for best Contemporary Classical album.

About Nathan Davis

Nathan Davis “writes music that deals deftly and poetically with timbre and sonority” (NY Times). His opera/ballet “Hagoromo” premiered at the BAM Next Wave Festival produced by American Opera Projects, and Lincoln Center inaugurated its Tully Scope Festival with the premiere of “Bells,” a site-specific, electroacoustic piece for ensemble, multi-channel audio, and live broadcast to audience members’ mobile phones. Davis has received commissions from ICE and its members, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Steven Schick, Miller Theatre, Ojai Music Festival, the Calder Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, and Yarn/Wire, with premieres at Tanglewood, Park Avenue Armory, and Carnegie Hall.

The 2018 Aaron Copland Fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation, Davis has received awards/fellowships from the Camargo Foundation, Meet The Composer, Fromm Music Foundation, Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, MATA, and ASCAP. He and Phyllis Chen won an NY Innovative Theater Award for their score to Sylvia Milo’s play The Other Mozart. After serving on the faculty of Dartmouth College for eight years, Davis teaches composition and electronic music at Montclair State University. An active percussionist, he performs with ICE; appeared as a concerto soloist with the Seattle Symphony, Tokyo Symphony, and Nagoya Philharmonic; and has toured Russia, Bali, Turkey, and Cuba.

About International Contemporary Ensemble

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is an artist collective that is transforming the way music is created and experienced. As performer, curator, and educator, ICE explores how new music intersects with communities across the world. The ensemble’s 35 members are featured as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners, and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time. Works by emerging composers have anchored ICE’s programming since its founding in 2001, and the group’s recordings and digital platforms highlight the many voices that weave music’s present.

A recipient of the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, ICE was also named the 2014 Musical America Ensemble of the Year. The group currently serves as artists-in-residence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Mostly Mozart Festival, and previously led a five-year residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. ICE was featured at the Ojai Music Festival from 2015 to 2017, and at recent festivals abroad such as gmem-CNCM-marseille and Vértice at Cultura UNAM, Mexico City. Other performance stages have included the Park Avenue Armory, The Stone, ice floes at Greenland’s Diskotek Sessions, and boats on the Amazon River.

New initiatives include OpenICE, made possible with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which offers free concerts and related programming wherever ICE performs, and enables a working process with composers to unfold in public settings. DigitICE, a free online library of over 350 streaming videos, catalogues the ensemble’s performances. ICE’s First Page program is a commissioning consortium that fosters close collaborations between performers, composers, and listeners as new music is developed. EntICE, a side-by-side education program, places ICE musicians within youth orchestras as they premiere new commissioned works together; inaugural EntICE partners include Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and The People’s Music School in Chicago. Summer activities include Ensemble Evolution at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, in which young professionals perform with ICE and attend workshops on topics from interpretation to concert production. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for ICE. Read more at iceorg.org.

About Christ Church

Photo ©Jacques-Jean Tiziou

Christ Church, the birthplace of the American Episcopal Church, was founded in 1695 as a condition of William Penn’s Charter. Known as “The Nation’s Church,” it hosted members of the Continental Congress during the American Revolution and Presidents George Washington and John Adams in the first decade of the newly established Republic. Among early members were Benjamin and Deborah Franklin, Betsy Ross, John Penn (William Penn’s grandson), and signers of the Constitution and of the Declaration of Independence, including Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, and Francis Hopkinson.

At Christ Church, Absalom Jones, the nation’s first black priest, received his ordination, a school was created to educate slaves and over 25% of Philadelphia’s free and enslaved Africans were baptized. Dating to 1744, the current building has been cited as “our finest Early American church” and one of the finest Georgian structures in America. Its steeple (1754), financed by a lottery organized by Benjamin Franklin, is the work of Robert Smith, one of America’s earliest architects. For 56 years, the steeple made Christ Church the tallest structure in North America.

Christ Church is a privately managed historic site that is an official component of Independence National Historical Park. An active Episcopal parish, the church hosts daily historical talks and tours, and serves artists through the Neighborhood House theater and arts program.


Interview with Phyllis Chen

May 2018

FringeArts: How does this project fit into your larger career?

Phyllis Chen: I have been a pianist since I was five but this has been my first opportunity to explore the organ. As a composer I have gravitated towards cheap, miniature and small objects as musical instruments so working with this new state of the art organ has been a new direction for me, despite it being in the keyboard family. As I enjoy playing and composing for small instruments, finding the organ has begged me to think more about the place in which it lives and how it is part of its surroundings. This has led me to think of ways of incorporating the community and the performers into the space itself.

FringeArts: What creative opportunities did you find in composing for Christ Church’s new organ, its bells and its space?

Phyllis Chen: While touring the innards of the organ, we saw the various sizes and materials used in creating the pipe whistles.  I saw the opportunity to create some of the smaller pipe whistles and make a miniature mobile organ with ICE performing different pipe whistles by blowing in them. I collaborated with a long-time instrument-maker friend of mine, Ranjit Bhatnagar, where the two of us designed and experimented with different materials to create miniature pipe whistles.

FringeArts: What role does the audience play in the piece? What should they know coming in to fully open themselves up to the experience?

One of the things that was told to us early on was that this organ is really for the people. I found that to be very exciting and somehow different than what one would think of when hearing about a new organ going into a church. I can’t really say anything to calibrate anyone’s expectations, but for me, I find this event to be a celebration for its “birth” so to speak, and all the people it will bring together in the next century.

Excerpt. Full interview coming soon to the FringeArts Blog.

Interview with Nathan Davis

May 2018

FringeArts: How does this project fit into your larger career?

Nathan Davis: I have long been fascinated with instruments, such as the organ, that place intermediary mechanical steps between the performer and the sound production. Ten years ago I wrote a piece for Phyllis called “The Mechanics of Escapement” for toy piano and clock chimes that are played by pulling long cords. The organ is a vast mechanical instrument. My work here is partly on the components of the machine (air, bellows, valves, keys, etc.) and their correlation with the instruments that the organ emulates.

FringeArts: What creative opportunities did you find in composing for Christ Church’s new organ, its bells, and its space?

Nathan Davis: The organ is truly magnificent. And having the opportunity to see it evolve over a year gave me a perspective on its components and its voice that I wouldn’t have gotten any other way. Access to the bells has been very inspirational. I am exploring new ways of playing them, relating to my work as a percussionist. And the unusual overtone structures of the bells are providing melodic and harmonic pitch content for other instruments. Though the organ and bells are fixed, the space provides unique opportunities for placement of other instrumentalists, as well as the penetration of interior and exterior sonic spaces using the huge windows and the bell tower.

FringeArts: What should the audience know coming in to the piece?

Nathan Davis: The audience will begin to experience the music even before they arrive in the sanctuary.

The organ is itself an ensemble with one master: a massive contraption that is tamed by the great skill of its organist, its builder and its tuners. In combining the Fisk organ with ICE, we extend and explore musical and social relationships in ways that are both literal and metaphoric.

Excerpt. Full interview coming soon to the FringeArts Blog.

Happy Hour on the Fringe: Phyllis Chen & Nathan Davis talk In Plain Air

Posted September 21st, 2018

FringeArts’ signature podcast series Happy Hour on the Fringe is back with International Contemporary Ensemble‘s Phyllis Chen and Nathan Davis.

Phyllis Chen at an In Plain Air workshop.

During a residency at Christ Church, composers Chen (known for her work with hand-wound music boxes and toy pianos) and Davis (a percussionist fascinated by the mechanics of instruments) immersed themselves in the sound-making possibilities of the church’s newly installed organ, bells, and open spaces, as well as the history and public role of the venerable institution. The resulting compositions form In Plain Air, presented this weekend in partnership with Christ Church Preservation Trust as part of the 2018 Fringe Festival.

In this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, the pair chat with hosts Zach and Katy about In Plain Air, the organ that will outlive us all, and Nathan’s security record.

Listen to the episode here.

Performances of In Plain Air will take place on September 22nd at 1pm, 3:30pm, and 6pm, and on September 23rd at 3:30pm and 6pm. Tickets are available at FringeArts.com or through the FringeArts app.

Fringe Picks for Closing Weekend

Posted September 20th, 2018

Be not troubled, for all things must pass but the end has not yet come. We’ve all had a great Fringe so far and the fun continues. Though many shows have already concluded, some are just beginning.

Here’s so picks for what to see on the Fringe’s final weekend!

manger
Boris Charmatz
Whet your appetite with manger, a delectable work by French choreographer Boris Charmatz (Levée des conflits, 2016 Fringe Festival) that implores audiences to examine the nature of eating, of digesting information, of consuming. In manger (French for “to eat”), he sets bodies in motion not with the eyes, or with the limbs, but with the mouth.
Presented in partnership with Westphal College of Media Arts & Design as part of Philadelphia Museum of Dance.
September 22 + 23 at 8pm
More info + tickets

in plain airIn Plain Air
International Contemporary Ensemble
A 3,000-pipe organ, centuries-old bells as they are heard in the belfry, an orchestra of pipe whistles, community-built music boxes: the sounds of In Plain Air carry the audience through the campus and history of one of the nation’s most historic sites.
Presented in partnership with Christ Church Preservation Trust
September 22 at 1pm, 3:30pm + 6pm
September 23 at 3:30pm + 6pm
More info + tickets

ear whisperedear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury
Tania El Khoury
Working between Lebanon and the United Kingdom, Tania El Khoury meticulously crafts innovative performances and installations that engage the audience in multi-sensory interaction. Unlike more conventional theater and performance, El Khoury’s live art work comes alive through the audience’s interaction with it. An extensive survey of El Khoury’s art, ear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury presents five pieces at locations in Old City and at Bryn Mawr College, all of which have performances or gallery hours this weekend.
Presented in partnership with Bryn Mawr College
More info + tickets

Company
EgoPo Classic Theater
Bring your blanket and pillow for a Beckett slumber party. EgoPo remounts their 2009 Fringe hit, which sold out in five cities. An immersive sensory experience, you are blindfolded on your back in the dark, the haunting text whispered in your ear. Free cookies and milk.
September 20 +21 at 7pm + 9pm
September 22 at 3pm, 5pm + 8pm
September 23 at 3pm + 5pm
More info + tickets

Circadium Presents: Autopilot & Galactic Garden Party
Circadium
Double bill: Autopilot is a circus-based examination of how life’s instructions are given, taught, or learned, and how we navigate life with and without those instructions. Galactic Garden Party utilizes juggling, dance, scientific lectures, and theater to show the wonders of Earth, and what lies beyond the atmosphere in the cosmos.
September 21-23 at 8pm
More info + tickets

a PRACTICAL DEMONSTRATION (of the EFFECTS of KINESTHETIC OCULAR NEURO-PSYCHOLOGY and its POTENTIAL as an AID in the DISCOVERY of SELF)
Fred Brown / Philly Improv Theater
Your eyes are your window to the world. They are also the world’s window to you. Enter a world of seeing your own mind, as Dr. Rhampon Stietger—using music to keep time—introduces kinesthetic neuropsychology as a tool to unlock deeply imprinted images, feelings, associations, and fantasies.
September 20 + 21 at 7pm
September 22 at 3:30pm + 7pm
More info + tickets

Pillow Talk
The Footlights International Tour Show, Pillow Talk brings together the brightest stars of student comedy, whose assembled forces deliver fresh, witty and downright funny sketches, monologues and songs. You can expect free-flowing hilarity, excellent original writing and side-splitting character comedy, so don’t miss your chance to see this inventive new offering from the group that launched many comedy greats, including Stephen Fry, Sue Perkins, David Mitchell, Richard Ayoade and Mel Giedroyc.
September 20 +21 at 8pm
More info + tickets

Heightened Sight
Heighten your senses with Leslie Elkins of foursome performance and Tap Team Two. Leslie Elkins of foursome performance will accentuate transitional spaces in Embracing the Liminal. Tap Team Two utilizes Hoofing, the original style of tap dance, as a means to educate audiences on the history of tap. Hoofing is an American art form that evolved from the roots of Irish clogging, African dance, and street and social dances of the early 20th century. Tap Team Two will showcase vibrant sounds in Cadence of Color. Get ready to feel provocative images, see in-between states, and hear color spectra.
September 22 at 4pm + 7pm
More info + tickets

Paprika Plains Natalie Fletcher / Jessica Noel
Sisters Natalie Fletcher and Jessica Noel will take you back in time to tell a story of love, loss, and bargaining with the universe inspired by Joni Mitchell’s 1977 album Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter. Told through live body painting and dance-theater, with lighting design by John Noel and music by Joni Mitchell. Philly PACK is an artistic home for dance- and theater-loving children and adults, located in South Philadelphia. Philly PACK is proud to welcome visiting artist Natalie Fletcher. Natalie is a Portland-based body-painter who won Skin Wars season 1.
September 21+22 at 8pm
More info + tickets

Darlings Kill Us Please
Good Good Comedy Theatre
The first Fringe production from Good Good Comedy Theatre, Philadelphia’s home for mercilessly unpredictable independent comedy. Darlings: Kill Us Please guts the innards of a full year’s worth of shows from Darlings, Good Good Comedy Theatre’s monthly, fast-paced comedy shit show featuring brand new bits, live music and special guests, and leaves in only the juiciest bits and chunks.
September 20 at 8pm
September 21 at 8pm, 10pm + midnight
September 22 at 2pm, 8pm + 10pm
More info + tickets

Metal & Kind’s Indestructible Flowers
Lily Kind and Mark “Metal” Wong
Metal is unexpectedly soft. Kind is unabashedly sharp. Together, they present a collage of new solo work designed for folks secretly underwhelmed by new solo work. Metal and Kind are both multidisciplinary powerhouses working in and around social and folk dance, devised dance theater, and experimental storytelling.
September 22 + 23 at 7pm
More info + tickets

Shelter
Drip Symphony
Shelter is the story of a group of artists living together in an abandoned theater, brought together by a shared sense of artistic integrity. It follows their lives as they create prolifically while their dreams and delusions grow wild inside their home. The show explores the value of art, the nature of creation, and the power of physical boundaries to shape our realities. Presented by Drip Symphony and Plays & Players, Shelter uses an immersive design where the entire theater is transformed into performance space, and the audience, seated on stage and scattered throughout the house, lives among the action.
September 20-22 at 8pm
More info + tickets

Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline (Music for Children and Other Curious People in the Fringe Guide)
Ants on a Log
Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline tells the musical story of Clio and her sibling Taylor as they strive to organize their town. With the help of a songful community, a dancing pencil, and you, dear audience, they strive for big change, even in the face of some bigger, more powerful people.
September 22 at 11am
More info + tickets

A New Kind of Whole
Paige Zubel & Eleanor Sofer
Written by Paige Zubel and directed by Claris Park, A New Kind of Whole is a surrealistic exploration of identity through sexuality and the relationship between the mind and the body. As Lea navigates the line between what is real and what is a projection of her deteriorating mental health, reality distorts and blurs.
September 20 at 7pm
September 21 at 8pm
September 22 at 3pm
More info + tickets

Tango, Tarantella and Tutus
The Rock School for Dance Education
Exciting, energetic young talent from around the world perform classical and contemporary vignettes that will keep you on the edge of your seat! Alumni from The Rock School go on to join the most prestigious dance companies worldwide. See the dance stars of tomorrow, today!
September 22 at 1:30pm
More info + tickets

In Plain Air Will Close the Fringe Festival on a High Note

Posted September 19th, 2018

The 2018 Fringe Festival signs off this weekend on a high note. And a low note. And all varieties of notes in between. A free multi-movement program by International Contemporary Ensemble, In Plain Air takes listeners around the historic Christ Church campus in five daytime performances September 22 and 23.

Created by composers Phyllis Chen and Nathan Davis, In Plain Air celebrates the installation of the brand new C.B. Fisk pipe organ at Christ Church. It features work performed on the impressively huge new instrument, the centuries-old church bells, and all manners of other instruments. It’s the perfect project for Davis, a percussionist fascinated by the mechanics of instruments, whose work brings out the acoustics of sound-making devices and the physicality of playing them. Davis talked to FringeArts about the pieces that make up In Plain Air and the process leading to this weekend’s performances.

FringeArts: How does this project fit into your larger career?

Nathan Davis: I have long been fascinated with instruments, such as the organ, that place intermediary mechanical steps between the performer and the sound production. Ten years ago I wrote a piece for Phyllis called “The Mechanics of Escapement” for toy piano and clock chimes that are played by pulling long cords. And other pieces of mine explore the relationship of distance, separation, and communication. This project takes that one step further: the organ is a vast mechanical instrument. My work here is partly on the components of the machine (air, bellows, valves, keys, etc.) and their correlation with the instruments that the organ emulates.

FringeArts: How does it fit into International Contemporary Ensemble’s mission?

Nathan Davis: The project is closely tied to its multiple missions of creating and commissioning new work, building new audiences, and connection with place.

Read More

2018 Festival Spotlight: FREE Fringe (part one)

Posted August 29th, 2018

Art should never be out of reach. In addition to our full slate of free digital offerings, this year’s Festival features nearly twenty shows—curated and independently produced—that are free or pay what you want, leaving the door to contemporary performance art open to all.

This is just a segment of the array of FREE Fringe offerings. See the rest of the list tomorrow.

Airport Opened
Brian Shapiro Presents
Airports are endlessly fascinating places—intersections of almost every imaginable personality with logistical challenges galore. Based upon interviews conducted with airport personnel globally, Airport Opened offers an opportunity to bear witness to an airport’s human side through the perspectives of people who actually work there.
More info and tickets here

An Unofficial, Unauthorized Tour of LOVE Park
Rose Luardo / Kate Banford
An interactive, questions-encouraged tour of LOVE Park with a completely legitimate, highly respected, and 100% real tour company. At each stop on this mind-bending guided walk through the park, facts will be manipulated and reality will melt. Maybe a bush will talk to you? And maybe that bush invented love. Presented by Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation with support from ArtPlace America.
More info and tickets here

Read More

Thinking Out Of The Music Box: Phyllis Chen on In Plain Air

Posted July 2nd, 2018

Christ Church recently completed the installation of a state-of-the-art C.B. Fisk pipe organ in its historic home, one of the oldest buildings in the nation. In a world premiere performance at this year’s Fringe Festival, musicians from International Contemporary Ensemble will explore the physicality of the grand organ, the lasting power of its sustained notes, and the tangibility of its vibration throughout the space.

In Plain Air is composed by Phyllis Chen and Nathan Davis. A founder of International Contemporary Ensemble, Chen has worked extensively with toy pianos and other miniature mechanical objects, but the massive organ presents new challenges due to its enormous size and complex mechanics. Chen spoke to FringeArts about the inspiration behind the piece, the distinctive quality of the Christ Church organ, and the significance of working inside one of Philadelphia’s most historic buildings.

One portion of this work will be made entirely from crowd-sourced music box compositions created at a music box-making session this weekend, July 8, at the Philadelphia Magic Gardens. Chen will guide Philadelphians as they create their own music box piece by punching out holes in a paper strip. These compositions will then be joined from end to end (exquisite-corpse style), creating a grand music box composition to be unveiled in the Christ Church courtyard prior to entering the church as part of In Plain Air. 

FringeArts: How does this project fit into your larger career and to International Contemporary Ensemble’s mission?

Phyllis Chen: I have been a pianist since I was five but this has been my first opportunity to explore the organ. I can still remember the first time Parker (the Christ Church organist) walked us through the innards of the organ while it was still being constructed…all the pulleys, levers and Rube Goldberg-esque design that took such engineering and craftsmanship to create. As a composer I have gravitated towards cheap, miniature and small objects as musical instruments, so working with this new state of the art organ has been a new direction for me, despite it being in the keyboard family.

As a pianist, the organ has always been a bit like a mythical instrument to me for its large range and coloristic possibilities. For example, there are low sounds of the instrument that can be physically felt in the space for its powerful vibrations. As I enjoy playing and composing for small instruments, finding the organ has begged me to think more about the place in which it lives and how it is part of its surroundings. This has led me to think of ways of incorporating the community and the performers into the space itself.

Read More