“Fragmented notes and syllables, and airy half-step dissonances, slowly cohere into a complete statement, with fleeting moments of resolution amid the searching. Such is the nature of epiphanies.” —Los Angeles Times
“beautiful use of vocal colours and texture” —Glasgow Herald

BIOGRAPHY

 

The music of Joanne Metcalf, critically acclaimed as “music of great beauty” (Klassik-Heute) and “extraordinarily beautiful” (International Record Review), is known for its evocative lyricism, rhythmic extravagance, and “beautiful use of vocal colours and texture” (Glasgow Herald). Drawing inspiration from Renaissance and medieval polyphony, ancient Georgian folksinging, and contemporary extended vocal techniques, Ms. Metcalf has forged a compelling musical voice that “evoke[s] earlier musical forms” (The Globe and Mail, Montreal) yet is “unmistakably contemporary” (Glasgow Herald). Her chamber, orchestral, and vocal compositions have been commissioned, performed, and recorded by leading ensembles and soloists throughout the world.

Most recently, the legendary Gothic Voices released Music for the Star of the Sea and Il nome del bel fior on the group’s resplendent CD of early and contemporary music, Mary Star of the Sea. The ensemble, known for its pure unaccompanied harmonies, have sung Ms. Metcalf’s compositions at Musikfest Bremen, London’s Cadogan Hall, and the Spitalfields Winter Festival.

The 2016 season also brought two new commissions from Singer Pur, Germany’s pre-eminent vocal ensemble and Ms. Metcalf’s longtime artistic collaborators. The group gave It is Enough its premiere in Norden, Germany, with subsequent performances in St. Blasien and Mainz. Gold and Thorns, Fire and Ice, composed for Singer Pur’s immense Musica Nova project, will receive its world premiere in 2017. The widely-performed Ego dilecto meo, which Klassik called “a delicately woven composition in bittersweet shades,” was released on Singer Pur’s Das Hohelied der Liebe, a collection of early and contemporary settings from The Song of Songs.

Shining Light, commissioned by Canty, Scotland’s premiere female vocal quartet, was recorded on the Carmina Celtica CD and premiered at St. Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen. Elektra Women’s Choir will give the work its Canadian premiere in Vancouver in 2017.

Jointly commissioned by Singer Pur and the renowned Hilliard Ensemble, Il nome del bel fior has received some one hundred fifty performances worldwide. The Neue Zeitschrift für Musik noted the composition’s “melismatic invocations”; the Mittelbayerische Zeitung described it as a “highly sophisticated polyphonic latticework” and lauded the ten-part finale as “a crowning conclusion of exquisite harmony.” The work has seen performances at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, the Schwetzinger Festspiele, the Hannover Bienniale, and the Beethovenfest Bonn.

Longtime advocates of Ms. Metcalf’s music, the Hilliard Ensemble recorded Music for the Star of the Sea on its all-contemporary CD A Hilliard Songbook. Of the Hilliards’ performance of this work, the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Fragmented notes and syllables, and airy half-step dissonances, slowly cohere into a complete statement, with fleeting moments of resolution amid the searching. Such is the nature of epiphanies.” Other important choral ensembles that have performed her works include Scotland’s Cappella Nova, under the leadership of Alan Tavener; Phillip Swan and Cantala; Fuma Sacra; the Dresdner Kammerchor; and The Crossing, led by Donald Nally.

A longtime supporter of young and emerging ensembles, Ms. Metcalf composed Darkening of the Light for the contemporary chamber quintet LILITH’s inaugural performance in 2016. Earlier commissions include the ten-part orchestral song cycle Doom-begotten Music, commissioned by English tenor John Potter; and The Waters of Speech Are Silent, commissioned by a consortium of six CBDNA wind ensembles. Other important advocates of her music include conductor Christopher Lyndon-Gee, the Ciompi Quartet, Nancy Zeltsman, and violinist Monica Germino. Ms. Metcalf’s compositions have been heard at the Cheltenham International Festival of Music, York Festival of New Music, Washington National Cathedral, Glasgow Cathedral, and the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies.

Joanne Metcalf has received awards and fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, Copland House, the McDowell Colony, the Netherland-America Foundation, and the International Association of Women in Music. She studied composition with Scott Lindroth and Stephen Jaffe at Duke University and with Louis Andriessen as a Fulbright Fellow at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague. She holds a Ph.D. from Duke University. Her compositions are recorded on the Linn Records, Oehms Classics, and ECM New Series labels.