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There are lots of things to give thanks for this month, including some interesting classical music forays. Offerings from Lyric Fest, the Crossing, and Curtis Opera Theatre highlight the month. Additionally, thanks to very active American Guild of Organists chapters, our region is home to wonderful organists who concertize frequently, to the delight of area audiences. But aficionados of the “king of instruments” have two special treats this month, with performances by Peter Richard Conte and Nathan Laube.
Singing City Choir
Sunday, November 6
Committed to inclusion and community building, this venerable avocational Philadelphia chorus celebrates its 75th anniversary with We Dream a World (Old First Reformed UCC, 151 North 4th Street). They’ll premiere their latest commission The Canticle of Hannah by Philadelphia composer Melissa Dunphy as well as two of 24 works by women to be included in their upcoming Singing City Songbook. Led by associate conductor Nate Zullinger, the afternoon also features works by Elizabeth Alexander, Margaret Bonds, Emma Lou Diemer, and Jane Marshall.
Peter Richard Conte
Friday, November 11
Regional favorite Peter Richard Conte—Longwood Gardens’s principal organist and frequent Philadelphia Orchestra collaborator—plays the great Longwood instrument in an evening concert that will feature Dupré’s Symphonie-Passion and Conte’s own transcription (he’s noted for them) of the Suite from Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss.
November 11 and 13
At Wilmington’s Christ Church Christiana Hundred, noted concert organist and Eastman pedagogue Nathan Laube will be joined by members of Philadelphia’s Baroque orchestra Tempesta di Mare. They will play in the church’s beautiful chapel to dedicate the new C.B. Fisk organ (Opus 164), a two-manual instrument voiced in the 16th-century northern Italian style.
November 12 and 13
A Singer’s Singer: An American Patroness in Paris is a “biography in music” of Winnaretta Singer (aka Princess de Polignac), heiress to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune. The trailblazing philanthropist hosted a famous early 20th-century Paris salon, and this concert surveys her influence via letters, narration, video, and works by composers including Debussy, Satie, Stravinsky, Bach, Fauré, Ravel, Grainger, Quilter, and Porter—some featured at her influential gatherings. Artistic directors Laura Ward (piano) and Suzanne DuPlantis (script/narration) are joined by soprano Danielle Talamantes, mezzo-soprano Marjorie Maltais, and baritone Jorell Williams in afternoon concerts at Philadelphia’s First Presbyterian Church (Saturday, November 12) and Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill (Sunday, November 13).
November 16 and 17
This busy Grammy-winning chorus presents the pandemic-postponed premiere of Michael Gordon's Travel Guide to Nicaragua. The autobiographical work, also featuring avant-garde cellist Maya Beiser, tells of the composer’s family journey as Jewish refugees traveling from Poland to Nicaragua. Catch it on Wednesday, November 16, at Philadelphia’s Congregation Rodeph Shalom (which co-produced it with the Crossing) before the choir heads on Thursday, November 17, to NYC’s Carnegie Hall, which commissioned this full-length piece. You’ll also find the ensemble online in one of those famous NPR Tiny Desk Concerts, recorded in Washington DC in August and recently released on YouTube.
Master Players at the University of Delaware
November 18 and 19
This series with an international focus, now in its 19th season at UD in Newark, offers a concert production of Shanghai Sonatas, a project in its fourth year of development. Conceptualized and composed by Xiang Gao, it’s a hybrid performance (with the book by Alan Goodson and lyrics by Joyce Hill Stoner) based on the memoirs of Jewish classical musicians who escaped the Nazis and found refuge in China in the 1930s, surviving the war and educating the first generation of Chinese classical musicians.
Curtis Opera Theatre
November 18 and 20
On the Philadelphia Film Center’s stage, Curtis Opera Theatre launches its season with a production of the psychological thriller The Turn of the Screw. Conducted by Louis Lohraseb and staged by Chas Rader-Shieber, this two-act chamber opera was composed by Benjamin Britten in 1954, with a libretto by Myfanwy Piper. Based on Henry James’s chilling 19th-century novella of ghosts and possession, it premiered at La Fenice in Venice, came to New York City in 1958, and has been a popular operatic staple ever since.
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