Specializing in works for voices by living composers, KC VITAs Chamber Choir presents its summer series – KC STUDIO
KC VITAs Chamber Choir, now in its eighth year, specializes in performing works by living composers. (photo by Mary Vanhooser)
August concerts will include works by composers-in-residence Kota Hayton and JD Daniel
Now in its eighth year, KC VITAs Chamber Choir continues to excel in presenting eclectic new works for voice.
“The lineup is all over the map,” said Jackson Thomas, founder and artistic director, of the set’s high-profile performances. “The listener is transported on a journey, because everything is new.”
KC VITAs stands for Kansas City Vibrating Internal Thyroarytenoids. This somewhat intimidating name (thyroarytenoids are muscles of the larynx) plays on the fact that the ensemble only performs works by living composers, breathing life into their music.
Thomas was new to Kansas City when he recognized a need in the community. Although Kansas City was “saturated” with large choral ensembles, he said, “an element of that was really missing for new music . . . (ensembles) that really championed the works of living composers . . . not necessarily the composer of the day.
He formed the all-volunteer ensemble for a one-off summer concert in 2015. “Literally, I got a group of friends together and said, ‘Let’s do this. “”
More than 400 people attended the first concert. “It was a clear indicator that we had something here, and we have a lot of people in Kansas City who want to be part of this new music scene,” he said.
“Our organization doesn’t just perform choral music, it does all vocal music. . . It’s a great way for us to show the extent of what composers do for voice.
Jackson Thomas, Founder and Artistic Director, KC VITAs Chamber Choir
Along with his work with KC VITAs, Thomas is currently pursuing a doctorate in music at the University of Kansas and is the director of choral activities at the University of Central Missouri.
The organization has now expanded to a year-round concert series, featuring three to four concerts as well as collaborations with other organizations. This also allows them more variety in the programming: great works, chamber works and scholarly songs.
“Our organization doesn’t just perform choral music; he does all the vocal music. . . It’s a great way for us to show the extent of what composers do for voice,” said Thomas.
The ensemble’s Summer Series concert stays true to those roots, with a mixed program in a multitude of styles, what Thomas calls a potpourri.
As of mid-spring, the program for this summer’s show was still being finalized, selected from the organization’s latest call for scores. Choosing what to perform is a huge boost: they received nearly 300 choral works and nearly 350 art songs. Submissions came from all 50 states and more than 15 countries.
Thomas’ goal, when selecting the pieces, is to create a cohesive and accessible program for the audience, allaying fears that the term “new music” automatically – and only – insinuates “atonal”. There is so much more.
“It’s not going to burn everyone’s ears. We will pace (the concert) with all the different styles and different genres,” he said.
It will, however, include works by the organization’s two composers in residence, Kota Hayton and JD Daniel.
Hayton’s work, “Passing trees, far and near”, is a world premiere. This textured, minimalist piece musically represents that feeling of being in a car, looking at the “parallax of motion” of the trees one experiences when speeding past.
For the past few years, Hayton has focused on solo electronic projects and songwriting. With a KC VITAs world premiere in April, these are the first performances of his compositions in over two years. “Now that live music is coming back. . . I’m re-exploring my composing voice,” he said.
In addition to performing never-before-seen work, KC VITAs also brings new material to Kansas City audiences, with local and regional premieres. Daniel’s piece, “May I Be At Ease”, written in 2020, is both personal and healing and is inspired by the poem “Assurance” by James Oppenheim.
“We live in a time of great uncertainty, and I don’t think we can ever really be absolutely certain of anything, but I do know that we can still be reassured, connected, healed and transformed,” he said. written in the description of the work. .
For Hayton and Daniel, the value of the set lies not just in their personal involvement, but in how this mission serves the wider compositional community. “It’s so important for composers to be able to hear their work performed live. Music isn’t really music until it’s materialized into an experience — ideas and written ‘music’ are just abstract cues to help us create that experience,” Daniel said.
Both composers are also longtime performers with the ensemble, Hayton on tenor and Daniel on bass. As creators, performers and curators (they help Thomas with the selection of scores), they bring a holistic perspective to the process.
“Being one of the performers puts me in a naturally empathetic and sympathetic position,” Daniel said. “I want singers to be able to perform what I write without too much stress or apprehension.” (As a low-voiced singer, however, Daniel indulges in low-note writing.)
Daniel described their involvement as “a joy. In KC VITAs I find my niche as a performer and composer.
KC VITAs mission, as always, is to serve composers. They professionally record each concert and freely share these recordings with composers. “We’re able to send them something they can be really proud of,” Thomas said. “It allows us to have a bigger impact in the songwriting community, not just in Kansas City.” KC VITAs also shares many performance recordings on its YouTube channel.
It’s this community support, Hayton said, that is the most rewarding aspect.
This summer, they will create another dozen plays, world and regional premieres. Last April, the organization presented its 62nd world premiere.
It’s a testament to Thomas’ vision: “This model has lasted and it’s been great. »
Thomas believes that the organization will reach a milestone very soon. “I would love to hit 100 world premieres by our 10th year,” he said.
KC VITAs performs at 7 p.m. August 5 and 3 p.m. August 7 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 6401 Wornall Terrace. For more information, kcvitas.org.