“beautiful use of vocal colours and texture” —Glasgow Herald
“a most beguiling yet subtly dissonant language”—MusicWeb International
“Such is the nature of epiphanies.”—Los Angeles Times

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, “beguiling yet subtly dissonant language” (MusicWeb International) and “beautiful use of vocal colours and texture” (Glasgow Herald). Drawing inspiration from Renaissance and medieval polyphony, ancient Georgian music, 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.

The legendary Gothic Voices recently released Music for the Star of the Sea, Il nome del bel fior, Maria I, and Maria III on the group’s resplendent recording of early and contemporary music, Mary Star of the Sea. The ensemble, known for its pure unaccompanied harmonies, has sung Ms. Metcalf’s compositions at London’s Cadogan Hall, Musikfest Bremen, and the Spitalfields Winter Festival. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted Ms. Metcalf’s music for its “Italianate, flowing singability” while Choir and Organ praised the “glorious, delicately nuanced new works by the brilliant American Joanne Metcalf, including the magical Music for the Star of the Sea.

Ms. Metcalf’s current projects include the chamber opera In Your Dark House, a Gothic fairytale in collaboration with soprano Alisa Suzanne Jordheim; a new work for Germany’s Ensemble Amarcord; and You Are the Light of the Stars, commissioned by the thirty-five choirs of the American Choral Directors Association Women’s Choir Commission Consortium. 2017-18 will also bring LILITH’s CD release of Darkening of the Light on VIA Records; the premiere of The Vast Unknowable for soprano saxophone; and performances by Philadelphia’s Variant 6 and Elektra Women’s Choir.

Singer Pur, Germany’s pre-eminent vocal ensemble and Ms. Metcalf’s longtime artistic collaborators, will premiere Gold and Thorns, Fire and Ice in 2018 as part of its immense Musica Nova project. The sextet gave It is Enough its premiere in Norden, Germany last year, with subsequent performances at Mainz Sommermusik, Chorfestival Konstanz, and in Zurich, St. Blasien, and Erlangen. The widely-performed Ego dilecto meo, which Klassik called “a delicately woven composition in bittersweet shades,” was recorded on Singer Pur’s Das Hohelied der Liebe, a collection of early and contemporary settings from The Song of Songs.

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 been heard in 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; the Dresdner Kammerchor; and The Crossing, led by Donald Nally.

Earlier commissions include Shining Light, commissioned by Canty, Scotland’s premiere female vocal quartet, and recorded on their Carmina Celtica CD; the ten-part orchestral song cycle Doom-begotten Music, composed for 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 and is Associate Professor of Music at Lawrence University. Her compositions are recorded on the Linn Records, Oehms Classics, and ECM New Series labels.