Performance Friday, February 27, 2015 | 7:30 PM

American Composers Orchestra

Orchestra Underground: Sins and Songs

Zankel Hall
Cited for “consistently champion[ing] contemporary music with consistent excellence” (The New York Times), the American Composers Orchestra showcases world premieres by daring young composers and a classic by Weill, who called his Seven Deadly Sins—his last collaboration with playwright Bertolt Brecht—a “ballet in song,” filled with memorable songs cast in the popular styles of the day.

Part of My Time, My Music.


  • American Composers Orchestra
    George Manahan, Music Director and Conductor
  • Shara Worden / My Brightest Diamond, Vocals
  • Khari Joyner, Cello
  • Hudson Shad
    ·· Mark Bleeke, Tenor
    ·· Timothy Leigh Evans, Tenor
    ·· Eric Edlund, Baritone
    ·· Peter Becker, Bass


  • SCHNYDER draKOOL (US Premiere)
  • MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND Collected Songs
    ·· "We Added it Up" (orch. Molly Joyce, Steven Hackman, and Shara Worden)
    ·· "Looking at the Sun" (orch. Shara Worden and Molly Joyce)
    ·· "Whoever You Are" (orch. Shara Worden and Molly Joyce)
  • SARAH KIRKLAND SNIDER Selections from Unremembered (orch. by Sarah Kirkland Snider; World Premiere)
    ·· "The Swan"
    ·· "The Witch"
  • CARMAN MOORE MADIBA for Solo Cello and Orchestra (World Premiere)
  • WEILL The Seven Deadly Sins

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


  • American Composers Orchestra

    Now in its 38th season, American Composers Orchestra is the only orchestra in the world dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation of music by American composers. ACO makes the creation of new opportunities for American composers and new American orchestral music its central purpose. Through concerts at Carnegie Hall and other venues, recordings, internet and radio broadcasts, educational programs, New Music Readings, and commissions, ACO identifies today's brightest emerging composers; champions prominent established composers as well as those lesser-known; and increases regional, national, and international awareness of the infinite variety of American orchestral music, reflecting geographic, stylistic, and temporal diversity. ACO also serves as an incubator of ideas, research, and talent; as a catalyst for growth and change among orchestras; and as an advocate for American composers and their music.

    To date, ACO has performed music by more than 700 American composers, including nearly 300 world premieres and newly commissioned works. Among the orchestra's innovative programs have been SONiC: Sounds of a New Century, a nine-day citywide festival in New York of music by more than 100 composers age 40 and under; Sonidos de las Américas, six annual festivals devoted to Latin American composers and their music; Coming to America, a program immersing audiences in the ongoing evolution of American music through the work of immigrant composers; Orchestra Tech, a long-term initiative to integrate new digital technologies in the symphony orchestra; Improvise!, a festival devoted to the exploration of improvisation and the orchestra; coLABoratory: Playing It UNsafe, a new laboratory for the research and development of experimental new works for orchestra; and Orchestra Underground, ACO's entrepreneurial cutting-edge orchestral ensemble that embraces new technology, eclectic instruments, influences, and spatial orientation of the orchestra, new experiments in the concert format, and multimedia and multidisciplinary collaborations.

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    George Manahan

    In his fifth season as music director of the American Composers Orchestra, George Manahan has had a wide-ranging and esteemed career, embracing everything from opera to the concert stage, the traditional to the contemporary. In addition to his work with ACO this season, Manahan continues his commitment to working with young musicians as director of orchestral studies at the Manhattan School of Music and as guest conductor at the Curtis Institute of Music. Portland Opera welcomed George Manahan as its music director in 2012.

    Manahan served as music director at New York City Opera for 14 seasons. There he helped envision the organization's groundbreaking VOX Contemporary Opera Lab, a series of workshops and readings that provided unique opportunities for numerous composers to hear their new concepts realized, and introduced audiences to exciting new compositional voices. In addition to established composers such as Mark Adamo, David Del Tredici, Lewis Spratlan, Robert X. Rodriguez, Lou Harrison, Bernard Rands, and Richard Danielpour, Manahan has introduced works by composers on the rise, including Adam Silverman, Elodie Lauten, Mason Bates, and David T. Little. Among his many world premieres are Charles Wuorinen's Haroun and the Sea of Stories, David Lang's modern painters, and the New York premiere of Richard Danielpour's Margaret Garner.

    In May 2011, Manahan was honored by ASCAP for his "career-long advocacy for American composers and the music of our time." Last season, he was awarded the Alice M. Ditson Conductor's Award for his outstanding commitment to the work of emerging composers. Manahan's extensive recording activities include the premiere release of Steve Reich's Tehillim for ECM, a Grammy-nominated recording of Edward Thomas's Desire Under the Elms, Joe Jackson's Will Power, Tobias Picker's Emmeline, and several digital albums of emerging composers with ACO.

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  • Shara Worden / My Brightest Diamond

    Shara Worden received a bachelor's degree in opera from the University of North Texas. After moving to New York, she began studying composition with composer-performer Padma Newsome (Clogs, The National). During this time, she composed music for several off-Broadway theater productions. In 2004, she assembled a band, My Brightest Diamond, and subsequently released Bring Me the Workhorse (2006), A Thousand Shark's Teeth (2008), All Things Will Unwind (2011), and This Is My Hand (2014) on Asthmatic Kitty Records.

    Worden recently composed You Us We All, a Baroque-style opera that was co-produced by Hamburg International Summer Festival and deSingel International Arts Campus; it was also performed in 2014 at the Holland Festival. She has also received commissions from yMusic, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Young New Yorkers' Chorus, Brooklyn Rider, and Nadia Sirota. Additionally, many composers, songwriters, and filmmakers have sought out Worden's distinctive voice, including David Lang, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists, David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, and Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler. In 2012, Worden was the recipient of the Kresge Artist Fellowship in the performing arts. 

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  • Khari Joyner

    Cellist Khari Joyner has made numerous achievements nationally and abroad as a versatile soloist, chamber musician, and ambassador for the arts. He has collaborated with artists such as Magnus Lindberg and Hubert Laws, and has performed numerous solo engagements with the Atlanta, Buffalo, New World, New Jersey, and Sphinx symphony orchestras. Other awards include The Juilliard School's William Schuman Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music, and first prizes in the Juilliard Concerto Competition and Sphinx Competition. Joyner also had the honor of giving a private performance in the Oval Office for President Obama.

    A recently named C. V. Starr Doctoral Fellow, Joyner was one of seven candidates accepted into Juilliard's prestigious Doctor of Musical Arts program, and is continuing his studies with teachers Timothy Eddy and Joel Krosnick. In addition to concertizing, Joyner is passionate about community engagement and has also pursued a concentration in mathematics during his undergraduate and graduate degrees through an exchange program with Columbia University. 

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  • Hudson Shad

    Though the six-man ensemble Hudson Shad (five singers and a pianist) debuted officially in 1992 in a concert that featured the music of the legendary German group Comedian Harmonists, its nucleus formed in 1977 when three of its members made their Carnegie Hall debuts as soloists in Penderecki's Magnificat. In 1989, St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn asked bass Wilbur Pauley to contract a quartet to perform as The Family in Kurt Weill's Seven Deadly Sins with Marianne Faithfull. The response was favorable.

    Over the last quarter century, Hudson Shad has most likely racked up more performances as The Family in The Seven Deadly Sins than any other group in history. The group has performed in almost 40 different locations, from Arezzo to Zagreb, numbering more than 100 performances worldwide. It participated in a staging of the work at the Macerata Opera Festival in a double bill with Weill's Der Lindberghflug. The ensemble has recorded the work twice-once with Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic, and once with Ms. Faithfull, Dennis Russell Davies, and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. In New York City alone, Hudson Shad has sung The Seven Deadly Sins in six different venues, most recently in 2008 with Ute Lemper at the Carnegie Hall premiere of the work.

    Other orchestra appearances by Hudson Shad have featured more Weill: Mahagonny with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny at the Salzburg Festival. Other appearances include performances with the New York Philharmonic, Bruckner Orchester Linz, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and Louisville Orchestra, as well as at the Miyazaki Festival, Ojai Music Festival, Britt Festival, Joe's Pub, and Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

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About the Program

Welcome to “Orchestra Underground: Sins and Songs.” Our program is about the f-word—fusion. The centerpiece is, of course, Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins. Weill was known for mixing concert music with musical theater, European art song with American cabaret and jazz; his unique compositional alchemy provides the enduring power of the work. The other composers on this evening’s program similarly embrace the inherent drama and tension that arise from fusing diverse aesthetics, each in her or his own way drawing on theatricality and the power of musical narrative.

Shara Worden is a composer as well as a trained opera singer. Performing as her alter-ego, My Brightest Diamond, Shara herself is the embodiment of fusion. We’ll hear her in multiple guises: as the protagonist Anna in TheSeven Deadly Sins, as a composer, and as performer of her own songs and two songs by Sarah Kirkland Snider. Sarah and Shara—only one letter apart—are indeed kindred spirits, hybrid musical personalities who combine the free-flowing approaches of pop and jazz music with the classical tradition.

Daniel Schnyder is a saxophonist and composer who synthesizes the rhythms and colors of progressive jazz with a 21st-century orchestral palette. Here, Dracula is reimagined in a decidedly cool rendering. Like in Weill’s music, a creative and playful friction arises as old-world myths are reanimated in a contemporary context. 

Nelson Mandela is the inspiration for Carman Moore’s MADIBA. And while Mandela’s inspiring and consequential life couldn’t be more distant from that of the fictitious Anna in Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins, both works use the circumstances and the personalities of their central figures to drive the structure and narrative of the music, just as an appreciation of jazz energizes and informs both composers’ works.

Thanks for joining us!

—George Manahan, ACO Music Director, and Derek Bermel, ACO Artistic Director

Program Notes


Composer Portrait: Carman Moore

This performance is part of Off the Beaten Track.

Part of