Kitka premieres Eric Banks' I WILL REMEMBER EVERYTHING
The Bay Area's trailblazing and internationally acclaimed women's vocal ensemble, Kitka, is pleased to announce the world premiere of I Will Remember Everything. Performing an original score by award-winning composer and choral conductor Eric Banks, Kitka gives voice to the long-censored love poems of "Russia's Sappho", Sophia Parnok. I Will Remember Everything is co-presented by the National Queer Arts Festival, with two concerts June 20 and 22 at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, and a program of excerpts on Saturday, June 21 at New Music Bay Area's Garden of Memory Festival at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland.
Born to a Jewish intellectual family in 1885, Sophia Parnok was Russia's first openly lesbian poet. Though today she is largely forgotten, Parnok authored five volumes of poetry, numerous translations, and the libretti of several operas, one of which became a major hit at the Bolshoi Theater. Parnok was also for a time the lover of Marina Tsvetaeva, one of Russia's most cherished poets. Their passionate affair is recorded in Parnok's first book of verse, published in 1916, presenting "the firstlesbian desiring subject ever to be heard in a book of Russian poetry," writes Diana L. Burgin, Parnok's biographer. It took 12 more years of frankly drawn lesbian love before Soviet censors deemed Parnok's voice unlawful. Unable to publish after 1928, and without the support of Russia's literary establishment, Parnok fell into oblivion.
With the world premiere of I Will Remember Everything, Kitka is proud to help bring to light the career of "Russia's Sappho". In a series of sumptuous and intimate musical settings by composer Banks, I Will Remember Everything tells Parnok's story through the poems she wrote to the women she loved, including Tsvetaeva.
"It has been an honor to work with Kitka on this project," says Banks. "After exhaustive research into Parnok's life and literary output, I chose 28 poems and verse fragments to stand as the libretto. Together they form a nearly chronological narrative of the poet's life, from 1903 to 1933. I also took pains to translate the poems, and I Will Remember Everything will be sung in both Parnok's mother tongue and in English. Finally, as a nod to Parnok's heritage, I chose to set Parnok's poetry in four Russian Jewish musical modes. With this piece I hope to convey something of the beauty, intensity and tragedy of Parnok's life and to give belated recognition to the poet's substantial literary gifts."
"Kitka has deep ties to the Black Sea region where Parnok lived, and has traveled there several times over the years to perform and collect traditional repertoire," says Shira Cion, executive artistic director of Kitka. "But since the launch of our New Folksongs commissioning project in 2000 we have also demonstrated a serious commitment to supporting new music and the voices of living composers. Kitka has been privileged to work with more than 30 composers over the last decade and a half, including luminary artists such as David Lang, Chen Yi, Pauline Oliveros, Mariana Sadovska, Richard Einhorn, and Meredith Monk and it is now our extreme delight to count Eric Banks among them."
"On the occasion of this co-presentation with the National Queer Arts Festival, Kitka also stands as a devoted ally of the rights of women and sexual minorities. Russia's recent anti-LGBT propaganda law and the following surge in hate crimes against the LGBT community are a disturbing reminder of the vital work that remains to be done before Parnok's example of free and unabashed expression is celebrated instead of punished."
The National Queer Arts Festival (NQAF), now celebrating its 17th year, is a month-long festival of music, dance, theater, film, and the literary and visual arts featuring hundreds of queer artists appearing in over  venues throughout San Francisco. At the conclusion of this year's festival, The Queer Cultural Center, the producer of the NQAF, will have showcased the work of nearly  individual artists since its inception in 1998. For more information including the complete calendar of Festival events, visit queerculturalcenter.org.
I Will Remember Everything is supported, in part, by The National Endowment for the Arts, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The City of Oakland Cultural Funding Program as well as numerous individual donors.
Kitka is an American women's vocal arts ensemble inspired by traditional songs and vocal techniques from Eastern Europe. The Oakland-based octet has earned international recognition for its distinctive sound, exploring a vast palette of ancient yet contemporary- sounding vocal effects. The ensemble's earthy to ethereal timbres evoke an astonishing range of subtle to extreme inner states, instincts, and emotions. Kitka's commitment to presenting traditional song as a living and evolving expressive art form has led to adventurous collaborations with some of the world's most exciting indigenous musicians and contemporary composers ranging from Le Mystères des Voix Bulgares to Meredith Monk. Currently celebrating its 34th season, Kitka began as a grassroots group of amateur singers from diverse ethnic and musical backgrounds who shared a passion for the stunning dissonances, asymmetric rhythms, intricate ornamentation, and resonant strength of traditional Eastern European women's vocal music. Since its informal beginnings, the group has evolved into an award-winning touring ensemble known for its artistry, versatility, and mastery of the demanding techniques of regional vocal styling, as well as for its innovative explorations in new music for women's voices. Kitka's wide-ranging performance, teaching, and recording activities have exposed millions to the haunting beauty of their unique repertoire. Kitka is Kelly Atkins, Caitlin Tabancay Austin, Kristine Barrett, Natalie Bartlett, Shira Cion, Janet Kutulas, Michele Simon and Corinne Sykes.
About Eric Banks
Composer, conductor, translator, linguist, vocalist, and ethnomusicologist Eric Banks has garnered international acclaim for his creative direction, and his unwavering commitment to new music for voices. Eric earned his BA in Composition (1990) at Yale University, and his Master's and Doctoral degrees in Music Theory and Choral Studies at the University of Washington. In 1997, Banks was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm. In 1992, Banks founded the chamber chorus, The Esoterics. Now in its 21st season, Seattle's most innovative chorus has drawn international praise for performing rarely heard compositions of contemporary music, for infusing elements of the literary, theatrical, and visual arts into the typical concert experience, and for performing settings of poetry, philosophy, and spiritual writings from around the world. To date, The Esoterics have performed over 400 concerts, commissioned and premiered over 200 new choral works in dozens of languages, and released 16 critically acclaimed CDs. In recognition for their innovation, The Esoterics have been honored four times with the ASCAP/Chorus America Award for Adventurous Programming. Banks has also been recognized for his work with commissions from Chorus America and the American Composers Forum, the Boston Children's Chorus, Cantori New York, Clerestory, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Seattle Opera, the Singapore Youth Ensemble, Voces Nordicæ, in addition to Kitka Women's Vocal Ensemble.
St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church (View)
500 De Haro St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
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