Token Creek Chamber Music

Of Mere Being

Of Mere Being
Two world premieres by John Harbison
in a recital honoring Dennis Maki

March 30, 2024 at 4:00pm

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Tickets (General Admission): $35 ($10 Student) · $15 Live Stream

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Program Booklet · Texts & Translations
Of Mere Being (2022) World PremiereJohn Harbison poems of Wallace Stevens Liederkreis, Op. 24 (1840)Robert Schumann The Seal Man (1922)Rebecca Clarke Songs of Separation (2023) World PremiereJohn Harbison poems of Akhmatova, Lowell, Sarton Selected SongsBenjamin Britten Of Mere Being (2022) [reprise]John Harbison Daniel McGrew, tenor
Sophia Zhou, piano
Rose Mary Harbison, violin

Distinguished Madisonian Dennis Maki will be honored with a concert offering the world premiere of two new song cycles by John Harbison in a vocal recital by two of today’s most exciting young artists. Tenor Daniel McGrew, will be joined by his recital colleague Sophia Zhou.

Physician Dennis Maki, Ovid O. Meyer Professor of Medicine (emeritus) at UW-Madison, is world renowned for his path-breaking work in infectious disease. He has an international reputation as one of the fathers of modern-day hospital infection prevention, and has been instrumental in the application of novel agents for the treatment of septic shock and the treatment of antibiotic-resistant infections. Based at UW-Madison since 1974, Maki built a nationally renowned infectious disease division and training program. He has served on literally hundreds of national, and international committees, and been a consultant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the United Kingdom National Health Service. He has also been a member—and in several cases, president—of a long list of professional societies and organizations. Among his many honors are Distinguished Alumni Awards in recognition of professional achievements and contributions to society over the course of a career and a lifetime.

Pulitzer-prize winning composer John Harbison’s recent work has accelerated the engagement with text and poetry that has been a touchstone throughout his artistic life. Recent song cycles, beginning during the fertile period offered by the pandemic quarantine, include several settings of poetry by Louise Glück, Lloyd Schwartz, Gary Snyder, William Butler Yeats, and Robert Frost. “For more than thirty years,” writes Schwartz, “Harbison has been an inspired setter of great poetic texts—poems often exploring the shadowy ambiguities and uncertainties of emotional, spiritual, ethical, and even political questions, and the very nature and function of art itself. . . bringing radiant and illuminating music to the written word, John Harbison has been practicing with powerful and unforgettable results for his entire career.”

Of Mere Being (2023) dedicated to Dennis Maki, sets five poems of Wallace Stevens. “Wallace Stevens’ poems,” Harbison writes, “seem to emanate from a metaphysical physician, one who wishes to divine and illuminate the mysterious world around him, speaks clearly. . . when he can.”

Poetry of Anna Akhmatova, Amy Lowell, and Mary Sarton form the text of Songs of Separation (2023). “In my practice, texts will arrive, unsought, at the right moment, as these did,” writes Harbison. “The essential ‘opening of the curtain’ occurs when a lived experience links up insistently with a writer’s words, which then seem ready, even destined for a new role.”

Two of the most exciting young artists on the concert stage will present this vocal recital honoring Dr. Maki. Dan McGrew has been praised for his “lovely nuanced tenor” (BMINT) and his "innate musical elegance" (Seen and Heard). He is considered “an irresistible force of the recital stage” with a voice of “unfettered radiance" (San Francisco Classical Voice). Dan McGrew has already appeared with important song festivals and societies and performed in the major concert halls of the U.S. His broad range and interests encompass early music through art song, opera, musical theater, and contempory music. He holds degrees from Oberlin and Yale, and recently completed doctoral studies at the University of Michigan.

Award-winning pianist Sophia Zhou has performed throughout the world as soloist and chamber musician, appearing in venues including the Royal Concertgebouw, Carnegie Weill Concert Hall, Kennedy Center, and Shanghai Concert Hall. Her recital partners include members of the New York and Berlin Philharmonics, the Metropolitan Opera House, and Shanghai Symphony. She has worked extensively as a vocal pianist with Brooklyn Art Song Society, Mannes Opera, Bare Opera, and Classical Lyrical Arts. Sophia Zhou holds degrees from Oberlin and Mannes School and is currently a graduate fellow in Bard Conservatory of Music, assisting the Graduate Vocal Program. Her translation, from English to Chinese, of Jan Swafford’s Brahms biography, will be published in 2025.

Violinist Rose Mary Harbison has appeared as soloist with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Oakland, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh symphonies, and been guest artist with the Santa Fe, Aspen, Tanglewood, and Berlin Festivals. Recital partners include Leonard Stein, Ursula Oppens, and Robert Levin. She collaborated with composers Aaron Copland and Roger Sessions, and violinist Rudolph Kolisch, with whom she founded the Kolisch Ensemble, and she worked with physicist W. Jack Fry in his groundbreaking research into the acoustical properties of the world’s finest violins. She is a founding member of Emmanuel Music, Boston, where she regularly performed in cantatas and chamber music programs. She taught at Brandeis and MIT, and was a scholar at the Radcliffe Institute. With John Harbison she founded the Token Creek Festival in 1989, continuing to serve as artistic co-director.

John Harbison has composed for most of America’s major music institutions. His catalog of almost 300 works includes opera, symphony, concerto, ballet, songs and cycles, chamber works, and sacred music. He has been honored by MacArthur and Pulitzer prizes, among many more, and he is widely recorded on leading labels. Also a conductor, summer residencies typically include the Songfest, Tanglewood, Aspen and Santa Fe festivals. Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT, Harbison is also closely affiliated with Emmanuel Music, the Copland Fund, American Academy in Rome, American Academy of Letters and Arts, and the Bogliasco Foundation. With Rose Mary Harbison he founded the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival in 1989, and they continue to serve as artistic directors.