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Two composition recitals at SFCM will be worth considering

As we move into the month of May, there will be an increasing number of opportunities to attend end-of-term recitals at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM). Recently, the work of composers emerging from SFCM will be particularly interesting, not only for their work but also for the performers involved in performance. I wanted to make brief note of two particular composers who will be giving recitals next month.

The members of the International Low Brass Trio: Jeff Dittmer, Jess Rodda, and Gabe Cruz
by Jess Rodda, from the ILBTrio Web site

Nick Benavides’ recital will be given at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 15. Benavides has been very active, not only at SFCM but also through his activity as a founder of the Guerrilla Composer Guild. At the Hot Air Music Festival in March of 2013, he gave the premiere of Pain Has an Element of Blank, a song cycle of poems by Emily Dickinson that he scored for mezzo and piano. Since that time he has been working on orchestrating those songs, samples of which were given by the SFCM New Music Ensemble this past December 10 and, more recently, on April 15. The cycle will be performed in its entirety at next month’s recital, sung by Danielle Reutter-Harrah with Tyler Catlin conducting the chamber orchestra. Reutter-Harrah will also join her Jarring Sounds colleague, guitarist Adam Cockerham, in settings of two poems by Federico García Lorca. The program will also include a reprise of Benavides’ prelude and fugue based on the song “Old Friends” from Bookends, the 1968 album by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, which was composed for and performed by the International Low Brass Trio (ILBTrio) of Jeff Dittmer on horn, Gabe Cruz on trombone, and Jess Roda on tuba. Next month’s “repeat performance” will again be given by ILBTrio. Benavides will conduct a chamber choir in his setting of e. e. cumming's poem "I thank you God for most this amazing day;" and soprano Chelsea Hollow will be accompanied by pianist Sophie Zhang in a performance of "Who speaks words with my mouth?" The other instrumental selection will be a suite of miniatures for flute (Christy Kim), cello (Helen Newby), guitar (John Angel), and marimba (Elizabeth Hall).

The following evening, Friday, May 16, ILBTrio will return for Red Bennett’s composition recital. They will give the premiere performance of “Earth Poem,” an "elemental tone poem" (in the composer's words) that has just been completed. Bennett attracted the attention of the San Francisco Chronicle when his first opera What They Seem was performed at the Mission Cultural Center in August of 2008. Bennett was eighteen years old at the time. This season one of his compositions, “Repose and Exuberance,” has also been performed by the New Music Ensemble; and he has composed “[Fe] Man” for the Sqwonk bass clarinet duo. Friday's recital will also include two string trios, one entitled “I am Outside Myself” and the other simply identified as his fourth such trio, as well as a viola sonata. The untitled trio was used in the score for The San Agustín, a documentary about a local shipwreck that was recently aired on KQED.

Both recitals will begin at 8 p.m. at SFCM, located at 50 Oak Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station, and will be free and open to the general public.