Last year, the June K. M. Wu Artists Fund was established to honor Metropolis Ensemble board member, June Wu, and her vision and passionate dedication to our young performing artists. The Fund helped Metropolis launch a new Resident Artist Series, supported two studio recordings at Tanglewood with NAXOS and Nonesuch Records, and continued our mission to emerge the next generation of outstanding composers and musicians.
As Metropolis embarks on several exciting new projects supported by the Wu Artists Fund, including the creation of our own record label, launching new albums and concerts, and expanding the Resident Artist Series, we wanted to reflect on the past year through the eyes of some of the artists who benefited from these generous gifts.
Timothy Andres: An Ambitious New Album
My work with Metropolis last year was a continuation of a scheme Andrew Cyr and I had been formulating since 2008. At first, it resulted in the concert Home Stretch in the spring of 2010; now it has evolved into the production of a CD. The album is centered around my piano concerto Home Stretch, bookended by my “re-composition” of Mozart’s Coronation concerto and my Paraphrase on Themes of Brian Eno, which were both Metropolis commissions.
A recording is not just a concrete item to be sold, or a promotional tool, but an artifact of our musical culture at a specific time. These artifacts can be much more powerful than a one-off concert, which by nature has limited reach and duration. A recording is a commitment, a way of saying ‘this is what we feel most strongly about, and we need to share it as widely as possible’.
The scope of this recording project is ambitious, especially for a group as young as Metropolis; recording an orchestra is simply a very time-consuming and expensive proposition. Such propositions are dependent on people like June Wu, who understands the importance of such projects, shares our ambitions, and helps both things come to fruition. I will always be grateful to June not just for helping me in my career, which is small in the scheme of things, but for helping my entire field.
Bridget Kibbey: One Woman Tour-de-Force
Over the course of three years, I conceived a project entitled Music Box in which composers – all born abroad and recent immigrants to the United States and mostly living in New York City – wrote solo works for the harp based on folk music from their native country. Metropolis presented the project in January. It was a powerful personal journey, because it allowed me to showcase some of my own arrangements and explore multiple genres of harp-writing in a single evening.
What was most helpful was working alongside Metropolis to give this project the “kick-off” the composers deserved. Many in the audience at each sold-out concert had never heard a full solo harp program. It was incredibly satisfying to perform these new fun, eclectic works for such enthusiastic guests. I also walked away from the concerts with high-definition video and fabulous audio to show other interested presenters. I’m happy to say that I will be presenting the project next season in other venues in the United States as a result!
Kristin Lee: From Bali to the Studio and Beyond
In 2010, I joined composer Vivian Fung on a trip to Bali to understand where her ideas came from in her music. It was remarkable to visit these communities filled with gamelan music and a tangible artistic energy. It gave me an entirely new perspective on living and breathing art every day.
Vivian was inspired by our trip and wrote a new Violin Concerto that we premiered at Renderings last fall with Metropolis. From there, we recorded the work at Tanglewood with the extraordinary help of audio engineer Tim Martin and the whole Metropolis gang.
Professionally it really means everything to have my first recording on a major label, NAXOS, which wouldn’t be possible without June’s help and the Fund. Premiering a concerto takes money to support the commission, book the beautiful concert space at Angel Orensanz Center, and bring in the audience. As a result, I performed Vivian’s cadenza on WQXR Cafe Concerts and Metropolis received a lot of publicity. It was a huge leap in every way.
As a musician, this new work written specifically for me opened new doors for commission projects with other composers and the opportunity to build programs around innovative pieces. I’m looking forward to working with Andrew Cyr and Metropolis to produce new projects for the Resident Artist Series.
Conor Hanick: Teamwork and Remarkable Opportunity
In the past year, I premiered Ray Lustig’s beautiful vocal work Compose Thyself from Renderings, recorded works by Ryan Francis with the superlative Kristin Lee, and, perhaps most significantly, participated not only in Timothy Andres’ new recording on Nonesuch, but also recorded world premiere recordings of Vivian Fung’s Glimpses for prepared piano and her titanic piano concerto called Dreamscapes, both supported by the Wu Fund.
I’m indebted to June for her generous and unparalleled support of Metropolis. These remarkable projects simply wouldn’t happen without her, and it’s hard to adequately thank her for giving us such remarkable opportunities through the Fund.
Metropolis Ensemble afforded me some of the most extraordinary and artistically rewarding experiences of my career. It’s touching to be offered opportunities like this and hard to overstate what a privilege its been to be associated with the ensemble. Vivian’s recording is a great example: it’s a professional boon to having a widely-released commercial recording of such high quality. I am humbled to be listed alongside Andrew, Vivian, Kristin, and others. These were experiences that for me will continue to inform my musical activities and serve as benchmarks for artistic quality.