By George Basler
Composer and pianist Courtney Bryan has been called “one of the most exciting composers in America today” for producing works that embody the jazz and gospel traditions of her native New Orleans.
Earlier this month, the Tulane University assistant professor was awarded a 2023 “genius grant” — one of the most prestigious honors in academia and the arts and sciences — by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The Southern Tier community will have the opportunity to hear her work when the Binghamton Community Orchestra performs her Requiem at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at Maine-Endwell Middle School. The performance is part of the orchestra’s concert “Sunset and Requiem,” which also features the Romantic Era music of Johannes Brahms, Hugh Wolf and Richard Strauss. A pre-concert chat will begin at 6:15 p.m.
Bryan’s Requiem debuted in 2021 on a program with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The performance received prominent reviews, including ones in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune.
The Requiem focuses on death “not as an end but a step in a larger cycle,” said BCO Music Director Evan Meccarello. Bryan, in composing it, drew on a broad range of influences, including death rituals from the Anglican Church, the Tibetan Book of the Dead and New Orleans jazz funerals, as well as text from the Bible and Roman Catholic Mass.
“I find it a really wonderful piece that has a special intimacy to its beauty,” Meccarello said.
Performing Requiem with the Binghamton Community Orchestra will be the Quince Ensemble, an all-female vocal ensemble that specializes in contemporary classical music. The group has toured extensively across the United States and performed with the Chicago Symphony when the orchestra debuted Bryan’s Requiem.
Meccarello connected with the ensemble when he worked with two of its members on BCO’s “Music Outside the Box” virtual festival in 2021. The festival involved more than 60 high school student musicians from Broome County sharing music live over the internet during the COVID pandemic.
The Quince Ensemble is made up of four “extraordinary guest artists,” Meccarello said. The four singers will be accompanied by four brass instruments and percussion when they perform Bryan’s Requiem. The ensemble also will perform other selections during the concert.
Bryan’s Requiem is a deeply engaging and layered work that “has a glistening aspect to it,” Meccarello said. Performing it with prominent guest artists is “a big deal for us” and the music community of Broome County, he emphasized.
The concert is “more about magic and mystery than death,” he concluded.
IF YOU GO: The Binghamton Community Orchestra will perform the concert “Sunset and Requiem” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at Maine-Endwell Middle School, 1119 Farm to Market Road, Endwell. It will be preceded by a pre-concert chat at 6:15 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door. Children 12 and under are free.