Last updated: May 15, 2023
ADOLPHUS HAILSTORK Yuhwa (The Goddess of the Willow Trees) for solo flute
JOCELYN MORLOCK Blue Sun for violin and viola
SEAN RICE New work for bass clarinet
KATHERINE HOOVER Kokopeli for solo flute
ELEANOR ALBERGA Succubus Moon for oboe and string quartet
Born 1949 in Kingston, Jamaica, Eleanor Alberga is a highly regarded mainstream British composer with commissions from the BBC Proms and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. With a substantial output ranging from solo instrumental works to full-scale symphonic works and operas, her music is performed all over the world. She studied piano and singing at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and a budding career as a solo pianist was soon augmented by composition with her arrival at the London Contemporary Dance Theatre in 1978, where she later became the company’s Musical Director—conducting, composing, and playing on LCDT’s many tours. After leaving LCDT, Alberga fully embarked on her calling as a composer, and since then, interest in her music across all genres has accelerated. In 2015 her commissioned work ARISE, ATHENA! for the opening of the Last Night of the BBC Proms cemented her reputation as a composer of significant originality and consummate skill. Alberga was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in 2020, and was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021 for services to British music.
Succubus Moon for oboe and string quartet was commissioned by the City of London Festival and was premiered there in 2007 by Alexei Ogrintchouk and the Psophos Quartet. In an interview on Sound Currents on 91.9 Classical Kansas City, Alberga said she was inspired to write the piece to help her overcome her childhood fears of the dark, which had resurfaced when she and her husband violinist Thomas Bowes had moved from London to a place in the English countryside. “It’s about the allure and beauty of night and the beauty of the moon, but also the fears, I think, that a lot of children and adults have about the dark and not knowing what’s out there.”
Here’s her description about Succubus Moon:
The romantic and the demonic lie side by side in this work. Over centuries, man has interpreted his fear of the dark and unknown as caused by beings and superstitions outside himself; one of these interpretations became Incubi and Succubi, evil presences doing harm to humans. The piece juxtaposes the ethereal, tranquil, and reflective moon against the impenetrable darkness of the night where the demonic and seductive Succubus reigns. The oboe is the main protagonist, leading the mood or taking over what the strings have set up. The strings have their own episodes, and sometimes join with the oboe in main material.
The music goes from sparse to more driven rhythmic sections, to dreamy moonstruck moments, and finally drifts away. Towards the end there is, unusually, a C major chord—a ray of hope as the moon shines out amidst the primal terror.
Program notes compiled and edited by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD
Originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Sean Rice has performed extensively throughout North America and around the world. His broadcasts include recitals with CBC National Radio, performances for Swiss Radio DRS, and Lucerne Festival live streams for the 2016 New York Philharmonic Biennial and 2019 Lucerne Festival Alumni Orchestra.
Recognized as an exciting interpreter of contemporary music, The New York Times has described Sean as a “technically precise, exuberant protagonist” in performance. Sean has performed at festivals such as Lucerne Festival, Ottawa Chamberfest, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art Summergarden Series, Toronto Summer Music Festival, and Banff Music Festival. In addition to numerous New York Times reviews, Sean’s performances have received high praise from the Ottawa Citizen, Musical Toronto, and Artsfile. For a recent performance of Golijov’s Ayre at Ottawa Chamberfest, Musical Toronto wrote: “The performers were strong, especially NACO clarinetist Sean Rice, who unloaded a wailing solo that rivalled even the best Klezmer effort by Giora Feidman.”
At an early age, Rice was invited to perform a concert with the National Arts Centre Orchestra during their 2002 Atlantic Tour and subsequently, he has appeared as a soloist with ensembles including the Orchestre symphonique de Québec, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Axiom, The New Juilliard Ensemble, and Symphony Nova Scotia. The recipient of numerous awards, Sean received first prize at the 2006 Canadian Concerto Competition hosted by the Orchestre symphonique de Québec. Following his 2007 Montréal debut at Jeunesses Musicales, La Presse wrote: “…clarinettiste canadien Sean Rice y révéla une technique impeccable, une authentique musicalité, une sonorité tour à tour éclatante et chaleureuse, et un vrai talent de chambriste.” Continuing the 2007–2008 season, Sean performed his first national tour with pianist Jean-Philippe Sylvestre for Jeunesses Musicales’ touring series. Since then, he has toured frequently throughout major cities across the United States, Europe, Malaysia, Brazil, and Japan.
As an educator, Rice has served as Visiting Professor at Memorial University (2017–2018) and Director of the Contemporary Music Ensemble at the University of Ottawa (2012–2017). He has been invited to give masterclasses at institutions such as the Royal College of Music, Beijing Central Conservatory, University of British Columbia, and the University of West England. Additionally, Sean has adjudicated numerous competitions, including the National Music Festival Competition held by the Canadian Association of Music Festivals. In the fall of 2021, Rice joined the clarinet faculty at the University of Ottawa.
As a conductor, Rice made his debut in 2012 as the Director of the Contemporary Music Ensemble at the University of Ottawa. In 2017, he led an ensemble of musicians from the National Arts Centre Orchestra and made his international conducting debut at the International Society for Contemporary Music Festival in Vancouver. Recently, Sean conducted the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra for their 2021–2022 season opener—their first performance since the pandemic.
Outside the concert hall, Rice has developed a significant profile as a classical music podcaster and host. Under his tenure, the National Arts Centre NACOcast has enjoyed great success and international recognition, with Classic FM continuing to list his podcasts among the Top 10 in the world for classical music. Sean also hosts the NAC Wolfgang Sessions—a contemporary music series that he helped design and curate for the National Arts Centre.
Sean Rice is a graduate of Memorial University of Newfoundland, where he received his Bachelor of Music while studying with Paul Bendzsa. Continuing his studies under the tutelage of Charles Neidich, Rice graduated with both a Master of Music and Doctorate of Musical Arts from The Juilliard School. Currently residing in Ottawa, audiences can hear him perform regularly as a recitalist and chamber musician and as Second Clarinet / Bass Clarinet of the National Arts Centre Orchestra.