Brightwork Ensemble: I Will Learn to Love a Person

Brightwork members Stacey Fraser, soprano, Aron Kallay, piano, Nick Terry, percussion, and Brian Walsh, clarinets, present music about love, longing, green skies, and an ever expanding universe.

Sunday, February 25, 2024, 7 p.m.
Drinkward Recital Hall

Four head shots of musicians in one image file also says "Brightwork newmusic" in the middle. Two musicians on the left top and bottom face the camera; and two musicians on the right top and bottom are playing musical instruments.
Clockwise from top left: Stacey Fraser, Brian Walsh, Nick Terry, and Aron Kallay. Photo courtesy of Brightwork Ensemble.


Corker (1977)
Libby Larson

Nick Terry, percussion
Brian Walsh, clarinets

A Sonatina
Bill Alves

Stacey Fraser, soprano
Aron Kallay, piano

Wagon-Wheeling (2012)
Tom Flaherty

Aron Kallay, piano
Nick Terry, percussion


Xarja (2017)
Kareem Roustom

Stacey Fraser, soprano
Nick Terry, percussion

Murmurations (2017)
A.J. McCaffery

Aron Kallay, piano
Brian Walsh, clarinets

I Will Learn to Love a Person (2013)
Chris Cerrone

Stacey Fraser, soprano
Aron Kallay, piano
Nick Terry, percussion
Brian Walsh, clarinets

Brightwork newmusic was founded in 2013 by pianist Aron Kallay. The mission of the 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation is to enliven and expand contemporary classical music with a focus on West Coast composers and performers. The members of our in-house ensemble, Brightwork, are among the best chamber musicians in the world. The ensemble strives to find new and exciting ways to connect with audiences in the United States and abroad by presenting friendly and exciting concerts in both traditional and non-traditional spaces. Our flagship concert series Tuesday @ Monk Space presents world-class musicians along with the most promising up-and-coming local, national, and international musicians. Through our educational outreach program, Project Beacon, we work closely with young musicians and composers across Southern California. Our goal is to empower the next generation of artists through residencies with youth orchestras and universities, student composer readings, masterclasses, and workshops.

Described as a “modern renaissance man,” (Over the Mountain Journal) Grammy®-nominated pianist Aron Kallay’s playing has been called “exquisite ... every sound sounded considered, alive, worthy of our wonder” (Los Angeles Times). Kallay has been praised as possessing “that special blend of intellect, emotion, and overt physicality that makes even the thorniest scores simply leap from the page into the listeners laps” (KPFK). Kallay’s performances often integrate technology, video, and alternate tunings; Fanfare magazine described him as “a multiple threat: a great pianist, brainy tech wizard, and visionary promoter of a new musical practice.” Kallay has performed throughout the United States and abroad and is a fixture on the Los Angeles new-music scene. Kallay is the founder and artistic director of Brightwork newmusic, a non-profit dedicated to the creation and promotion of new art music. He is on the faculties of Pomona
College and Scripps College.

Stacey Fraser has been described as having a “wonderfully controlled soprano voice,” by Alex Ross in the New York Times, and “an astonishing presence,” by the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Canadian soprano’s eclectic musical interests have made her much in demand on international operatic, concert, and theatre stages across the United States, Canada, Asia, and Europe. In a review of the concert Sequenza~Sequenza! at Tuesdays at Monkspace, Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times described her rendition of Berio’s Sequenza III as “a seamless aria, sure of musical direction while missing none of the humor or the frightening shocks of horror.” Credit highlights include the title role in Miss Donnithorne’s Maggot by Peter Maxwell Davies; the starring role in a music art film entitled Still Life After Death by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Sandra Powers; the premiere of Grammy-winning composer Jack Van Zandt’s song cycle written for her, A Chaos of Light and Motion; and director/ producer of Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson. Current projects include performing premieres of NEA-awarded operas by Pamela Madsen and Jack Van Zandt, and a new recording of Ben Johnston’s Calamity Jane to her daughter with Brightwork newmusic for MicroFest Records. Fraser is Director of Opera Theater and Professor of Music at Cal State San Bernardino.

Nick Terry is a percussionist and educator specializing in contemporary classical chamber music.  Currently based in Los Angeles, since 2005 his multi-faceted creative output has received critical acclaim from the Recording Academy (55th, 57th, 62nd Grammy Awards), numerous invited performances at Percussive Arts Society International Conventions, iTunes (2014 Best of Classical Music), and National Public Radio (2017’s Top 10 Classical Albums).  His music has been called “mesmerizing, atmospheric, and supremely melodic” by the New York Times, and “representing the next generation in the evolution of modern percussion” by conductor Pierre Boulez. Terry is a five-year alumnus of the Lucerne Festival Academy, where he apprenticed alongside members of Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez, Peter Eötvös, and Fritz Hauser. Terry received degrees in music performance from the University of Southern California, California Institute of the Arts, and Eastern Illinois University. Currently, he serves as Director of Percussion Studies and Associate Professor at Chapman University’s Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music.

Clarinetist Brian Walsh frequently performs with such diverse groups as Wild up Modern Music Collective, Brightwork New Music, gnarwhallaby, and the Josh Nelson Discoveries Group. He also leads Walsh Set Trio, a jazz ensemble focusing on the performance of his own compositions. Performances have taken Walsh to Japan, Canada, Italy, England, the Netherlands, Iceland, and all over the United States. Walsh, described as “spectacular” by the Los Angeles Times, has performed as a guest artist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella new music series at Walt Disney Concert Hall and is a frequent collaborator on the Monday Evening Concerts series. Walsh’s performance as part of gnarwhallaby’s Carnegie Hall premier was described as “startlingly versatile” by the New York Times. Walsh has premiered pieces by Luigi Nono, Anne LeBaron, Girard Grisey, James Newton, Andrew Nathaniel McIntosh, Tom Johnson and many others. Walsh has collaborated or performed with Esperanza Spaulding, Wayne Shorter, Peter Maxwell Davies, Meredith Monk, Vinny Golia, Nicholas Deyoe, Gavin Bryars, Bobby Bradford, Bright Eyes, San Fermin, Andrea Bocelli, James Newton, and Muhal Richard Abrams.



Corker: “someone or something of astonishing or excellent quality” — Random House Dictionary

My inspiration for the work is drawn from 1940’s popular musical language, which I love, because the performers are spectacular musicians and because it speaks the rhythms and harmonic language of contemporary American English. -Libby Larson

A Sonatina

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was a pioneering modernist in American literature who endeavored to create in literature the same objectification and immediacy of thought that her friend Picasso had created in his Cubist paintings. At times she went even further, making language into a fascinating abstraction, which has long appealed to me as a composer, as has her musical perspective of language, her use of repetition, and the seeming simplicity of her supposed "difficult" works. This text comes from a very long poem, "A Sonatina Followed by Another”, which she wrote in Vence, France in 1921. According to her friend and collaborator Virgil Thomson, the title refers to her habit of improvising "sonatinas" on the white keys of the piano, though she had no musical training whatever. Although the poem is filled with charming though fleeting images of her stay in southern France, I have extracted lullaby-like bits of the text that often seem to refer to her life partner, Alice Toklas. -Bill Alves


The "wagon wheel effect" is an optical illusion often seen in films, when a wagon wheel seems to be spinning impossibly slow, or even moving backwards. The relationship between the speed of the wheel and the frame rate of the film is responsible for the effect. Wagon-Wheeling plays with the relationship between two or more rhythmic passages, which in some combinations can create similarly paradoxical effects on our experience of tempo. At times the listener might have the impression of speeding up and slowing down at the same time. Not incidentally, the piece sometimes takes on the loping gait of galloping horses, and briefly breaks into an exuberant country waltz. Wagon-Wheeling was written for Aron Kallay, whose musical artistry and indefatigable energy are inspiration for all. -T. Flaherty


Xarja, pronounced Shar-ja, is a Spanish or Catalan spelling of the Arabic word Kharja (خرجة) which means ‘exit’ or ‘final’, but is also the last stanzas of genre of Arabic poetry (called muwashshah) that originated in Arab Spain around the tenth century. These ending stanzas were often in Classical Arabic but some mixed Arabic with Ibero-Romance languages (Spanish, Catalan etc.). On a personal level, this work marks a creative ‘exit’ from a musical language which has been inspired by the music of the muwashshah genre.  The work begins in a traditional sounding mode but quickly morphs into a more chromatic language with a more irregular musical pulse. Like the speaker of the poet, the sense of loss is one filled with sadness and desperation. Like the grief-stricken lover, ‘death is my state’ can be applied to the musical language I’ve been using for some time. However, out of ‘death’ comes ‘rebirth’ and the opportunity to begin anew. The text is taken from the “Waterfire” muwashshah  by Al’Ama al-Tuttli (d. 1126 Tudela, Spain) and other poets of that era.

¿Ké fareyo, ya ummi?
Gar ké fareyo, ya mama?
O ké serad de mibe
Meu ’l habıb enfermo de meu amar
Que no d’estar?
Non ves amibe que se ha de no llegar?
Alsa’amu mio hali, / porqe hali qad bare.
¿Ké farey, ya ummi? / ¡Faneq [me] bad lebare!



What shall I do, oh mother?
Tell me what shall I do, oh mother?
What will become of me.
My lover is lovesick, how could it be otherwise.
Don’t you see he’ll never come back to me again?
Death is my state, because my state (is) desperate.
What shall I do, O my mother?  The spoils I will leave.

Amän is a word that is traditionally used in extended improvisation in the music of the Near East. It connotes the asking for refuge (i.e., “gimme shelter” in Blues). -Kareem Roustom


A "murmuration" is the phenomenon that results when an enormous flock of birds (usually starlings) form a massive, constantly shifting cloud that seems like one solid but ever-changing shape in the sky.  The gestures in this piece attempt to evoke this almost-unbelievable avian group aerodynamic, fluttering up and down and then settling into longer sustained and pulsing tones that shift microtonally above slowly chiming chords in the piano. -A.J. McCaffery

I Will Learn to Love a Person

Chris’s I Will Learn to Love a Person is a piece about relationships—personal, romantic, harmonic, and timbral. Like all of his music, it obsessively controls its limited musical materials in service of big emotional catharses.

There are two contrasting “types” of song in I Will Learn to Love a Person. The first, third, and fifth songs emerge from extemporaneous-sounding clouds of harmonies and words: call it text message recitative. The second and fourth songs are bright and motoric, with a candid humor that counteracts the extreme vulnerability of the slow movements. The five songs are masterfully sequenced in a harmonic palindrome, with short interludes of repeated E’s acting as pivot points. Harmonic changes are few, and withheld until they feel revelatory.

The relationship of text and music is no less painstaking. It’s a rare case in which a musical setting is more than the sum of its parts: Tao Lin’s poems, which can be difficult to pin down on the page (are they sincere, or a bit glib?) and the music, so diaphanous at times it seems in danger of evaporating—powerfully concentrate each other in combination. Both elements sound simpler than they actually are. The pianist offhandedly touches some notes, outlining a harmony, over which the singer declaims what could be a series of self-pitying text messages:

seen from a great enough distance i cannot be seen
i feel this as an extremely distinct sensation
of feeling like shit

I Will Learn… requires a wide-ranging and nuanced dramatic performance in order to work correctly; perhaps more than a song cycle, it should be thought of as a self-analytical monodrama. Its protagonist is a precocious observer of the world and other people, but also immature and wildly heartbroken; the process of the piece is the discovery that there is, of course, no set of rules that govern human relationships.” -Timothy Andres

HMC is deeply grateful for the generous support that created The Ken Stevens ’61 Founding Class Concert Series.

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