Orchestra of St. Luke’s And Peak Performances @ Montclair Present the World Premiere Of An Original New Multimedia Work – In The Grace Of The World –

Performance combines music and videography in an artistic reflection of man’s interaction with nature – Saturday, October 6, 2007, in the Alexander Kasser Theater

On Saturday, October 6, 2007, at 8:00 PM at The Alexander Kasser Theater on the campus of Montclair State University, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and Peak Performances @ Montclair present the world premiere of an original multimedia work, In the Grace of the World – a concert production of music and video imagery woven together to create an artistic reflection of man’s interaction with nature, and how we integrate ourselves spiritually in the world around us. Taking its title and inspiration from the Wendell Berry poem “The Peace of Wild Things,” In the Grace of the World features three works by the Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks, much of whose music concerns itself with the relationship between man and nature, as well as works by Arvo Pärt, Toru Takemitsu, Alan Hovhaness, Charles Ives, and J.S. Bach.


Directed by Annie Loui, In the Grace of the World also features the work of Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz, lighting designer; Wes Skiles, nature cinematographer (from whom the Orchestra of St. Luke’s has commissioned new underwater images for this piece); Chris Welsby, film/video/new media artist; and Scott Snibbe, electronic media artist. Using these elements, co-creators Elizabeth Ostrow (Vice President, Artistic Planning for the Orchestra of St. Luke’s) and Annie Loui (director/choreographer and creator of intermedia performance) have made a work evoking man’s interaction with his surroundings and his search for spiritual meaning. The work highlights the virtuosity and flexibility of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s with a program ranging from full orchestral compositions to solo instrumental works featuring Elizabeth Mann, flute; Myron Lutzke, cello; and Carl Albach, trumpet.

Xian Zhang, the dynamic associate conductor of the New York Philharmonic, makes her first of two OSL appearances this season (the second will be her Carnegie Hall debut with the orchestra on February 8, 2008) conducting this premiere performance.

The central musical voice of In the Grace of the World belongs to Pēteris Vasks, three of whose works – Landscape with Birds for solo flute (1980); Cantabile for string orchestra (1979); and Message for orchestra (1982) – anchor the evening. Born in Latvia in 1946, Vasks has, according to the biography by his publisher, Schott Music, “included archaic folkloric elements of Latvian music in his compositions. Most of his works have programmatic titles which refer to natural occurrences. But what really matters to Vasks is not a poetic praise of nature or a landscape description as aesthetic ideal. The mutual relation between nature and man, the beauty of life and the threatening ecological and moral destruction of these values – these are the subjects that Vasks has taken up primarily in his latest works and set to music.”

Along with Vasks’s music, the program also features Arvo Pärt’s Fratres for woodwind octet and percussion (1977); Toru Takemitsu’s How Slow the Wind for orchestra (1991); Alan Hovhaness’s Khrimian Hairing for trumpet and strings (1944); Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question for trumpet, woodwinds and strings (1906); and J.S. Bach’s Solo Cello Suite No. 1, first movement (1720). The pieces will be performed continuously, with video images interwoven, on a stage whose lighting design will enhance the musicians’ presence.

While there have been many works which combine music and projected imagery, they have largely been devoted to a single piece or composer, or a specially-commissioned composition. In the Grace of the World creates a journey of eight musical works braided with imagery to evoke a single theme. “This project both fits us and stretches us,” says Elizabeth Ostrow. “The ease of movement throughout the musical repertoire is integral to who St. Luke’s is, and this piece, which combines solo, chamber, and orchestral repertoire in the same program, allows a few of our many terrific musicians to be featured as soloists. It also stretches everyone with the integration of staging and lighting. There is real excitement among the musicians about creating such works ourselves.”

With this work, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s is reaching a milestone in its creative evolution. In the Grace of the World speaks to both our strengths and our needs,” said OSL President and Executive Director Marianne Lockwood. “It is the fruition of a long-standing desire to help evolve the notion of concert presentation, in our own way. The close artistic exchange of ideas between our administration and musicians, the extraordinary flexibility, virtuosity, and adventurousness of those musicians, and the vision and commitment of Liz and Annie have resulted in something that is very much a product of the St. Luke’s culture of collaboration.”

The event is being presented as part of Peak Performances @ Montclair’s Acts of Engagement that take place in The Alexander Kasser Theater on the campus of Montclair State University. The program is critically acclaimed and is noted for producing and presenting world-class artists from a variety of disciplines. The concert will be preceded by a talk with composer Pēteris Vasks led by midday host of 96.3 FM WQXR, Annie Bergen, at 6:45 PM in University Hall on the campus of Montclair State University, which is free to ticketholders.

Tickets are $15. Montclair State University will provide a $5 round-trip shuttle bus for ticketholders (limited availability) from Manhattan to the theater. For tickets and further information, call 973-655-5112 or visit www.peakperfs.org.

This program is made possible in part by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Genesis of a New Work

The versatility of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s – which combines a high-profile series at Carnegie Hall, chamber music series at four museums, collaborations with such major music organizations such as Carnegie Hall, Collegiate Chorale, and the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and a thriving arts education program – makes it particularly well-equipped to address the general desire in the orchestra field to push the standard outlines of classical concert presentation. Participation in the Mellon Forum “Innovation Circle” (part of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Orchestra Program), whose goal was to challenge participating orchestras to “build artistic capacity,” coincided with discussions that the OSL had been having about creating a new kind of context for a concert, taking advantage of the creative potential and the excellent orchestral, chamber, and solo capabilities of its musicians.

Elizabeth Ostrow found that in further talks with concert presenters at universities and potential creative partners outside the field of music, both her own and their ideas coalesced around the theme of spirituality in the 21st century. The project began to take shape in formative talks with Jed Wheeler, Executive Director, Arts and Cultural Programming at Montclair State University. When Ostrow met with creative partner Annie Loui, their ideas crystallized around a program of music and imagery in which each element would not be dominated by the other but would, in Ostrow’s words, “have its own weight.”

After listening to much music, Ostrow found Pēteris Vasks. With his work as the core of the piece, the search then radiated out to include a variety of music spanning the 20th century, along with the final selection of Bach. “The intensity and musical flow of Vasks’s music, and the meaning it conveys, is the overarching element that grounds In the Grace of the World,” says Ostrow. “As Annie Loui began to conceptualize the visuals for the project, we discovered how much the Vasks and water imagery seemed meant for each other.” The two also found common ground in the piece’s inspiration; according to Ostrow, “in an early meeting in my office, we were talking about the place of spirituality in the piece and how the evening should end, and Annie pointed to a copy of Wendell Berry’s poem ‘The Peace of Wild Things’ that I had on my wall – it perfectly articulated the arc of our theme. There has been a definite sense of purpose to this project, and the synergies have come together in an amazing way.”

Marianne Lockwood and Elizabeth Ostrow foresee a potential life for In the Grace of the World that could end up serving OSL in more ways than one – both artistically and financially. The orchestra is in early discussions to take the work on tour, and plans to make it available for licensing to other orchestras. It is potentially the first of a series of such projects for St. Luke’s. According to Ostrow, “We have been talking with the musicians about developing a piece involving chamber music, animation, and film footage of the musicians performing.”

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

Annie Loui, Co-Creator

Annie Loui creates intermedia performance and works as a choreographer and director. She trained with dancer Carolyn Carlson at the Paris Opera and studied in France with Etienne Decroux, Ella Jarosivitcz, and Jerzy Grotowski. Original performances have been seen in France and Germany, and in the U.S. at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, among other venues. Favorite intermedia projects include her dance/animation performance Sympathetic Magic, shown at festivals in New Zealand and Wales; her dance/theater/animation work Alice’s Adventures, performed at the Monaco Danses Dance Forum; and the collaborative intermedia creation with neurobiologist James Fallon, Reading Frankenstein, premiered at the Beall Center for Art and Technology. Favorite directing projects include the world premiere of the Chuck Mee/Nathan Birnbaum play/opera War to End War, and the premiere of David Grae’s Moose Mating at H.E.R.E. in New York City, which was singled out in “Best Picks of the Year” in Backstage. Formerly the resident choreographer for the American Repertory Theater (ART), where she worked with directors Robert Wilson, André Serban, and David Wheeler, her theater choreography has also been seen off-Broadway at Signature Theater, and regionally at Trinity Repertory Theater and South Coast Repertory (California). She is a professor at the University of California, Irvine, teaching movement for the M.F.A. actor training program.

Elizabeth Ostrow, Co-Creator

Currently Vice President, Artistic Planning, of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Elizabeth Ostrow began with the orchestra as artistic advisor in 1996, becoming director of artistic planning several years later. Prior to coming to St. Luke’s she served as artistic administrator for the New York Philharmonic and vice president of artists and repertoire with both the Angel/EMI recording label and New World Records. As an independent record producer, she has made over 100 recordings, including four Grammy Award-winning discs, for labels including Sony, BMG, Deutsche Grammophon, Telarc, and Harmonia Mundi. She produced five discs with the Emerson String Quartet, and has recorded with André Previn, Sarah Chang, Plácido Domingo, Peter Serkin, Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic, Riccardo Muti and The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, among others. Her audio credits include several television operas for Great Performances (PBS), among them John Adams’ Nixon in China (world premiere), and the Emmy Award winning program Pavarotti and the Italian Tenor.

Pēteris Vasks, Composer

Pēteris Vasks was born in Aizpute (Latvia) in 1946. He attended the Riga Music Academy and the Lithuanian Music Academy in Vilnius where he studied double-bass with Vitautas Sereika until 1970. From 1973 to 1978 he studied composition with Valenzius Utkin at the Latvian Academy of Music in Riga. From 1963 to 1974 Vasks was member of various symphony and chamber orchestras such as the Lithuanian Philharmonic Orchestra (1966-69), the Latvian Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra (1969-70) and the orchestra of the Latvian Radio and Television (1971-74).

Vasks has included archaic folkloric elements of Latvian music in his compositions. Most of his works have programmatic titles which refer to natural occurrences. But what really matters to Vasks is not a poetic praise of nature or a landscape description as aesthetic ideal. The mutual relation between nature and man, the beauty of life and the threatening ecological and moral destruction of these values - these are the subjects that Vasks has taken up primarily in his latest works and set to music. In 1996 he was appointed main composer of the Stockholm Festival of New Music. In 1998 he was awarded the Latvian Music Prize for his violin concerto Distant Light. Since 1994 Pēteris Vasks has been an honorary member of the Latvian Academy of Sciences. In 2001 he was invited to become a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music founded by King Gustav III in Stockholm in 1771. Pēteris Vasks lives in Riga.

Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz, Lighting Designer

Lonnie Alcaraz has designed at various regional theater houses, such as Berkeley Repertory, The Arena Stage in Washington, DC, South Coast Repertory and Laguna Playhouse in southern California, Sierra Repertory, the Utah Shakespearean Festival, and the Alabama Shakespearean Festival. Select design credits include Culture Clash’s The Birds at both South Coast Repertory and Berkeley Repertory, along with their national touring show, Radio Mambo. Collaborative intermedia work with director Annie Loui includes Reading Frankenstein at the Beall Center for Art and Technology and Love for Three Oranges for the University of California, Irvine. Recent productions with The Cornerstone Theater Company include Lethe, Farewell to Manzanar, Waking Up in Lost Hills, and I Ask You, Ladies and Gentlemen. Lonnie Alcaraz is currently the resident designer for Ballet Repertory Theatre, and is an associate professor in the drama department of the University of California, Irvine.

Wes Skiles, Nature Cinematographer and Underwater Photographer

With over 100 specialty films on cave diving exploration, whales, white sharks, bird migration, alligators and crocodiles to his credit, Wes Skiles is widely known for his unique balance of diving experience and filming skills. Working with Bill Kurtis, Wes produced a series of award-winning episodes of the documentary series The New Explorers. A science exploration film, Most Dangerous Science, was awarded five first-place awards of filming excellence. In 1998 he worked as director and cameraman for the IMAX film Journey into Amazing Caves. Since 2000, his numerous projects with National Geographic have included a film Ice Island, which won “Best Exploration Film” in the Explorers Club annual film festival. Recently, Skiles has produced the popular PBS series titled Water’s Journey that focuses on teaching viewers about the intricate and important nature of water on our planet. His company, Karst Productions, specializes in filming and programming captured exclusively in hi-definition TV. He resides in High Springs, Florida, with his wife, Terri, and two children, Nathan and Tessa.

Scott Snibbe, Electronic Media Artist

Scott Snibbe creates electronic media installations that directly engage the body of the viewer in a reactive system. His works are designed to have specific social effects: to create a sense of interdependence, to promote friendly interaction among strangers, and to increase viewers’ concentration. Snibbe’s work has been shown internationally at venues including the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Artport, Eyebeam, and The Kitchen (New York); the InterCommunications Center (Tokyo); Ars Electronica (Austria); and The Institute of Contemporary Art (London). Snibbe was born in 1969 in New York City. He holds bachelor’s degrees in computer science and fine art, and a master’s in computer science from Brown University. Snibbe studied experimental animation at the Rhode Island School of Design and his films have been widely shown internationally. He has taught media art and experimental film at Brown University, San Francisco Art Institute, Rhode Island School of Design, and University of California, Berkeley. Snibbe has held research positions at Adobe Systems and Interval Research.

Chris Welsby, Film/Video/New Media Artist

Chris Welsby has been making and exhibiting work since 1969. His films and film/video installations have been exhibited internationally, at major galleries such as the Tate and Hayward galleries in London, the Musée du Louvre and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. Having studied at the Slade School of Art, the Chelsea School of Art, and the Central School of Art, all in London, he is currently professor of fine art at the School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver.

In his words, "In my single screen films and single channel videos the mechanics of film and video interact with the landscape in such a way that elemental processes—such as changes in light, the rise and fall of the tide or changes in wind direction—are given the space and time to participate in the process of representation. … The process of re-presenting the landscape in either the single screen works or the installations is not seen to be separate from nature or in any way objective, but is viewed instead, as part of a more symbiotic model in which technology and nature are both viewed as interrelated parts of a larger gestalt."

Xian Zhang, Conductor

Xian Zhang was named the first Arturo Toscanini Associate Conductor of the New York Philharmonic in February 2007. She has been Associate Conductor of the New York Philharmonic since 2005, having served as Assistant Conductor the preceding year. She made her Philharmonic debut leading a Young People’s Concert on February 7, 2004, and since has led numerous concerts with the Orchestra, including the 2006 annual free Memorial Day Concert at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, and a performance of Prokofiev’s complete score for Eisenstein’s film, Alexander Nevsky, which was screened simultaneously.

Ms. Zhang, who was a co-winner of the Maazel-Vilar Conductors’ Competition, made her Los Angeles Philharmonic debut in summer 2006; future North American engagements include appearances in Detroit, Toronto, Seattle, and with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Following her debut with the London Symphony Orchestra in May 2005, she was re-engaged for 2006 and 2008. Born in Dandong, China, Ms. Zhang made her professional conducting debut at the age of 20 leading Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro at the Central Opera House in Beijing. She trained at Beijing’s Central Conservatory, earning both her bachelor and master’s degrees, and served one year on its conducting faculty before moving to the U.S. in 1998.


The 2007-08 season marks the 33rd year of America’s foremost chamber orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. This unique musical organization began as a chamber ensemble in the Church of St. Luke in the Fields in New York’s Greenwich Village, and comprises the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, and the St. Luke’s Arts Education Program. St. Luke’s currently performs approximately 100 orchestral, chamber, and educational concerts throughout New York each year, all showcasing the hallmark collaborative spirit that has garnered consistent critical acclaim for vibrant music-making of the highest order.

Formed at the Caramoor International Music Festival in the summer of 1979, the Orchestra evolved from the St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble, with Ensemble members forming the Orchestra's artistic core as principal players. In addition to being presented by Carnegie Hall in an annual series in the Isaac Stern Auditorium, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s continues a more-than-20-year collaborative relationship with Carnegie Hall that currently includes participation in such Carnegie events as the Choral Workshop, Family Concerts, concert presentations of musical theater, including the recent presentation, recording, and telecast of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, and others. The Orchestra is also engaged throughout the year in a number of artistic collaborations that have recently included the U.S. premiere of Paul McCartney’s Ecce Cor Meum at Carnegie Hall, and the season-opening gala of the Paul Taylor Dance Company. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s serves each summer as the orchestra-in-residence at the Caramoor Festival.

In chamber music, St. Luke’s performs three concert series annually: a series in Gilder Lehrman Hall in the newly-renovated Morgan Library & Museum; a series at the Brooklyn Museum; and Second Helpings, a contemporary music series taking place both at the Chelsea Art Museum and at Dia:Beacon in upstate New York. The St. Luke’s Arts Education Program comprises free education performances and year-long in-school residencies supported by professional development for teachers and standards-based curriculum materials. Eighteen thousand New York City school children and their teachers are served by the program annually.

The Orchestra has released two critically-acclaimed recordings on its own label, St. Luke’s Collection: Mozart’s Symphonies 39 and 41 under the direction of Donald Runnicles, and Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, performed by the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble. These are the most recent additions to an already stellar and extensive discography numbering more than 70 recordings that includes three Grammy Award-winning discs. For the St. Luke's calendar of events, tickets, and more information, visit: www.OSLmusic.org.

Peak Performances @ Montclair

The Alexander Kasser Theater on the campus of Montclair State University opened in 2004 with a bold, inclusive building design that demanded a powerful new performance program in theater, dance and music. In its short history, Peak Performances @ Montclair has gained a stellar reputation for producing and presenting world-class artists from a variety of disciplines, such as: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jan Fabre, Trisha Brown, Susan Marshall, Meredith Monk, and Robert LePage. Bill T. Jones and Romeo Castellucci have also graced the Alexander Kasser stage with World Premieres that were among the most talked-about performances in the Tri-State area. The New York Times said, “Where can adventurous audiences go to find, large-scale, experimental theater? Would you believe Montclair, New Jersey?” Peak Performances @ Montclair will continue to offer audiences adventurous artists who expand their horizons in Peak Performances’ fertile soil. Adventurous audiences will be sure to join them.

Saturday, October 6, 2007, at 8:00 PM
The Alexander Kasser Theater
Montclair State University
Montclair, New Jersey

Peak Performances @ Montclair Presents:

Xian Zhang, Conductor

In the Grace of the World – World Premiere

A multimedia work produced by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s featuring the music of Pēteris Vasks, Arvo Pärt, Toru Takemitsu, Alan Hovhaness, Charles Ives, and J.S. Bach

Conceived and Created by Elizabeth Ostrow and Annie Loui

Director: Annie Loui
Lighting Designer: Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz
Nature Cinematographer and Underwater Photographer: Wes Skiles
Electronic Media Artist: Scott Snibbe
Film/Video/New Media Artist: Chris Welsby
Animation and Compositing: Katherine Trimble
Video Production Manager, Editor, Digital Compositing: Noah Cunningham

Tickets are $15. Montclair State University will provide a $5 round-trip shuttle bus for ticketholders (limited availability) from Manhattan to the theater. For tickets and further information, call 973-655-5112 or visit www.peakperfs.org.

Released: August 3, 2007