The Shakespeare Concerts

History and Artist Biographies

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History and Artist Biographies


Begun in 2003 with concerts in Massachusetts and the U.S. Virgin Islands, The Shakespeare Concerts presents recitals of music inspired by the immortal bard: from original English text settings to settings in translation by composers from the classical period to the 21st century. The mainstay of the series is the music of Joseph Summer, with premieres of two dozen of his sixty-odd Oxford Songs. In October 2006, The Shakespeare Concerts released its second CD, Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day, a collection of works premiered during the third and fourth seasons. The first Albany Records release, What A Piece Of Work Is Man, showcases eleven of the Oxford Songs, including five settings from Hamlet as well as sundry sonnets and songs from The Tempest and The Merchant of Venice. Future productions include a new CD: In The Old Age Black Was Not Counted Fair; next season's premiere of the Mousetrap Scene from Hamlet; Stravinsky's Three Shakespeare Songs and the premiere of Joseph Summer's three act opera, Hamlet.

Composer Joseph Summer, a devotee of The Bard, conceived The Shakespeare Concerts. He is an adherent to the "Oxfordian Heresy," which hypothesizes that Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, is the author known as William Shakespeare. Summer began setting Shakespeare texts in 1991 with To Be Or Not To Be for tenor and piano. His more than 60 Shakespeare songs for voice and chamber ensembles are contained in six books under the title The Oxford Songs. After completing two score Oxford Songs, his music came to the attention of the late Mattina Proctor, whose foundation encouraged him to create The Shakespeare Concerts. Every season the series premieres Summer's works as well as Shakespearean settings by Beethoven, Brahms, Berlioz, Prokofiev, Schubert, a plethora of British composers, and others. Albany Records has released two discs of Summer's Oxford Songs performed by the artists of The Shakespeare Concerts: What A Piece Of Work Is Man and Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day.

In addition to the songs, Summer recently completed Hamlet, a three act grand opera. He has also written three tragic operas, four comic operas (the four comedies based on Boccaccio's Decameron), and two cantatas, as well as numerous chamber works. His most recent composition, The Garden Of Forking Paths, is a string quartet based on short stories by Jorge Luis Borges, including a movement titled Shakespeare's Memory based on the story of the same name by the late great Argentinean author. After studying French horn as a boy, Summer was invited to attend Oberlin Conservatory at the age of fifteen where he majored in composition. Following graduation (at the age of twenty) he taught music theory at Carnegie Mellon University for one year, then left academia to pursue composing full time. Summer is married to the eminent music therapist, Lisa Summer, and they have one daughter, Eve, who recently directed A Midsummer Night's Dream at her alma mater, Assumption College.

John McGinn, Music Director

Miroslav Sekera, piano

Patrice Tiedemann, soprano

Kellie Van Horn, mezzo-soprano

Alan Schneider, tenor

Paul Soper, baritone

string quartet QX

Robert Nairn, bass

French horn players

The Shakespeare Concerts features music set to the text of the world's pre-eminent dramatist and poet, William Shakespeare.