School of Music Prominently Featured in Grammy Awards Nominations

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Nominations for the 63rd Grammy Awards include two alumni and one current student from the UI School of Music.

Sophia Byrd (BMA senior, Lyric Theatre) sings on the newly released recording of Place, which received nominations for both Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance and Best Contemporary Classical Composition. 

Composed in 2018 by Ted Hearn, with poet/librettist Saul Williams and director Patricia McGregor, Place (New Amsterdam Records, 2020) is an 80-minute staged oratorio scored for 18 instrumentalists and 6 singers considering the topic of gentrification. It was co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Barbican Centre and Beth Morrison Projects.

After the premiere performance of Place was canceled in March, the cast came together to record a special "performed-at-home" livestream performance on WNYC.

"Gentrification is a generational conversation that has gone by many names. We should not discuss what brings you back to the city without acknowledging why you left.”  - Saul Williams, poet and Librettist from Place

Sophia began her career singing with the Chicago Children’s Choir where she performed such works as Otello and Carmina Burana with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Riccardo Muti. She has performed alongside artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Jennifer Hudson, Kurt Elling, and Chance the Rapper. Her song, “I See the Light,” was featured in the Spike Lee original motion picture Chiraq.

Update: read about Sophia in this UI News Bureau Story

Sophia made her New York debut in the world premiere of Place, followed by Tony Award nominee Heidi Rodewald’s The Good Swimmer at the BAM Next Wave Festival. She was featured in Lyric Theatre @ Illinois and Krannert Performing Arts Center’s production of Crazy for You and placed first at Chicago NATS 2019 vocal competition for college women.

New-music choir The Crossing, led by Donald Nally (DMA, 1995, Choral Music), has received its sixth GRAMMY Award nomination in five consecutive years for Carthage (Navona, May 2020), an album featuring six striking pieces by composer James Primosch. Internationally recognized and prolific, Primosch is the 2020 winner of The Virgil Thomson Award for Vocal Music from The American Academy of Arts and Letters.

With texts drawn from multiple sources, including the work of 13th-century monk and mystic Meister Eckhart, Marilynne Robinson's novel Housekeeping, and the poetry of E.E. Cummings, Carthage offers a wide range of musical works. From intimate pieces in just two parts, to virtuosic, extended anthems of great power.

Carthage is nominated in the Best Choral Performance category. 

The Experiential Orchestra (EXO) was founded by conductor James Blachly (MM, 2013, Orchestra Conducting) as a way to invite audiences more deeply into the sound and powerful experience of the symphony orchestra. 

The first commercial recording of Dame Ethel Smyth’s The Prison (1930) to be released, it was recorded in February, 2019, and was released July 31 in the UK, and August 7, 2020 in the US on the Chandos label. The release date coincided with the 100th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, in recognition of Smyth’s role in the Suffragette movement in England.

The Prison is nominated in the category of Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. Featured are soloists Sarah Brailey and Dashon Burton, and the EXO Chorus led by chorusmaster Steven Fox.

 "The Prison" is sure to be one of the notable classical releases of the benighted year 2020: a transfixing piece, gorgeously recorded.” –Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise

EXO started in 2009 with what were called "Loft Parties," intimate orchestra concerts that brought the orchestra up close with an audience of 100 jammed into a midtown loft. A wild party always ensued after performances, and soon audience members were invited to sit in and among the orchestra. “We try and keep it fresh for everybody. We are not trying to displace the standard concert experience, but invite people in so that when they next attend a traditional concert they hear things differently,” James Blachly says. This emphasis on the feeling of the sound of an orchestra also forms the basis of their "Listening Concerts," in which audience members surround and are surrounded by the orchestra in different ways.

The 63rd Grammy Awards will be broadcast on March 14, 2021 on CBS. 

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