I’m pleased to introduce the members of the “Imaginary Timescapes” vocal quartet. I will be singing soprano, with Suzanne Schwing on alto, Dennis Tobenski on tenor, and Phillip Cheah on Bass. We will perform three of my works for mixed chorus: companion pieces Obsessions from the Twittersphere and Confessions from the Blogosphere, as well as Signifying Nothing.
If there’s a professional choral performance the New York area, chances are mezzo-soprano Suzanne Schwing is in it. I’ve enjoyed working with her in C4: the Choral Composer/Conductor Collective, in which I appreciate her impeccable precision and artistry.
As a frequent performer of contemporary music, Suzanne explains the unique challenges and pleasures she associates with singing this repertoire: “There’s a particular skill set that is required when performing contemporary music. This isn’t to say that it’s a differentskill set than is required when performing older, more mainstream works; rather, it’s that same skill set being taken into uncharted territory. With contemporary music, there is little or no previous performance history from which to draw an example, and this requires perhaps a greater degree of focus during the preparation and performance of the piece. The flip side of this is that there are also few, if any, expectations attached to the piece on the part of the listeners—there’s no-one in the audience saying, “But this isn’t the tempo that Muti took on his 2007 recording,” for example—and this offers the performers greater latitude to create the new reality of the piece. The challenge of these pieces lies in their newness, which offers a heightened sense of freedom in return.”
I look forward to working with fellow vocalist and composer Dennis Tobenski for the first time on the Imaginary Timescapes performance. He comes highly recommended for his skills as a tenor—including by the NY Times’ Anthony Tommasini, who called him a “dynamic vocalist.”
As one would expect of a composer-performer, Dennis focuses primarily on performing works of the 21st and late 20th centuries. Asked about how his experience as a composer influences or helps him as a singer, he insisted it was mostly the other way around: “Certainly, being a composer allows me to approach the music that I sing with an intimacy that I don’t know that I would have otherwise. Also, I tend to be a bit more….dare I admit….critical as a singer than I might otherwise be about scansion, text setting, and (un)prepared entrances. But I think that my training as a singer has influenced the way that I write much more significantly.”
One of Phillip Cheah‘s many talents is an ability to sing in both the bass and the soprano register, and his involvement enables us to perform Signifying Nothing with only four people even though it calls for a three-part soprano divisi at one point. But that unique ability aside, Phillip’s musicianship is an invaluable asset to the vocal quartet for the Imaginary Timescapes performance. I worked with Phillip in C4: the Choral Composer/Conductor Collective from its founding in 2005 through 2010, when he left to take a position as Music Director of the Central City Chorus. (Coincidentally, Phillip conducted C4’s premiere of Signifying Nothing in 2010.) Whether singing under his baton or alongside him, and especially when he is conducting one my compositions, I always appreciate his heartfelt expression and exacting ear.