Southwest Chamber Music

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 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                   
May 22, 2012                                                                                              626.685.4455
(Press contact)



Final concert honors veterans of all wars with free tickets
Memorial Day Weekend 
Saturday, May 26
The Colburn School 


Los Angeles - The final concert of the inaugural LA International New Music Festival  honors all war veterans by presenting probing works that reflect on the humanity and inhumanity of war-torn peoples.  Presented by two-time Grammy Award-winning Southwest Chamber Music, the concert is preceded at 7:00 p.m. by a discussion with the concert's composers, Alexandra du Bois, Vu Nhat Tn, and Gabriela Ortiz, moderated by Martin Perlich.  Veterans from any war will be admitted free.
Night Songs (Nachtlieder) by Alexandra du Bois are not songs but musical responses to An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941-1943.  Hillesum was a Dutch Jew who did not survive the extermination camps but left a remarkable memoir in her diaries and letters.   
"Let me be the thinking heart of these barracks," Hillesum wrote in October 1942.  She was by then living at the camp in Westerbork where as a social worker she voluntarily joined her family and other Dutch Jews, leaving behind her life of study, work, and friends in Amsterdam. Westerbork was a detention camp in northern Holland where Jews were held before being sent to Poland for extermination. In her diary and letters, through the process of reflecting on her own thoughts, Hillesum came to an astonishingly humane, giving, and hopeful acceptance of life in the midst of unspeakable evil. 


Du Bois read the diaries, and with a grant from the Netherland-America Foundation she retraced the footsteps of Hillesum in Amsterdam, Deventer, and Kamp Westerbork in the Netherlands as well as the finality of Auschwitz in Poland to receive insight and inspiration for the thirty-minute string quartet which she titled, Night Songs.  


Du Bois says, "Night can represent the darkness of that time, of humanity, but it also represents the unconscious. Etty Hillesum was always uplifting--she was almost always singing a song. She had an incredible sense of inner light...As the world around Etty Hillesum was shrinking, her inner world was growing and blossoming. That was a jumping-off point for my music." 


Jeff von der Schmidt, artistic director of the festival and Southwest Chamber Music, said that he finds a depth in du Bois "that speaks of an old soul.  We chose her to be one of the American composers in our Ascending Dragon Festival in 2010 not only because she is a fine composer, but also because we felt the Vietnamese, with their sensitivity to culture and history, would immediately grasp her music and that she would respond to theirs.  We performed another recent piece of hers, An Eye for an Eye, several times during the festival, in both Vietnam and Los Angeles. We now have several of her works in our repertoire, and we're pleased to be presenting the LA premiere of Night Songs."  


Composed for the Kronos Quartet's Under 30 Project,  Night Songs followed her first composition for Kronos, An Eye for an Eye.  David Harrington, founder and first violinist of the Kronos Quartet, reflected on du Bois music: "This music attempts to be a conscience in a time of oblivion. She dared, in 'An Eye for an Eye', to counter abuses of moral authority with an internal, personal sound using the string quartet as a witness, a reminder, that music and creativity are part of a continuing web of responsibility. Alexandra du Bois, for one, looked out at the world and heard an urgent, inward sound revered by western composers since 1750 as the repository of some of their deepest thoughts."


Vu Nhat Tan's The Song of Napalm, which closes the festival, is the setting of a poem by the noted poet and Vietnam veteran Bruce Weigl. The searingly vivid text describes the "Napalm girl," Phan Thi Kim Phuc, immortalized in Nick Ut's 1972 photo of a young Vietnamese girl, clothes burning off her body, holding her arms like wings and running toward the camera. In the poem, Weigl describes standing with his wife as a rainstorm ends in the countryside years after the Vietnam War ended:


The grass was never more blue in that light, more 
scarlet; beyond the pasture
trees scraped their voices into the wind, branches
crisscrossed the sky like barbed wire
but you said they were only branches.
...and after the hard rain 
I turned my back on the old curses.  I believed
they swung finally away from me...

But still the branches are wire

and thunder is the pounding mortar,

still I close my eyes and see the girl

running from her village, napalm

stuck her to blood,

her hands reaching for the no one

who waits in waves of heat before her.

(excerpts from "The Song of Napalm" reprinted with permission from the author)


It was the photo of the girl that did so much to change Americans' perception and feeling of the war.  Years later, visiting Vietnam for their Ascending Dragon Festival, artistic director Jeff von der Schmidt became well-acquainted with Vu Nhat Tan's music, and wanted to commission him to write a piece for Southwest Chamber Music's 25th anniversary season. Back in the U.S., von der Schmidt was then introduced to Bruce Weigl's poetry, set up a meeting between the two artists in Vietnam, and made the connection which resulted in the musical work.  This will be the world premiere.


The Song of Napalm is sung in English by bass-baritone Evan Hughes and spoken in Vietnamese by Weigl's adopted daughter, Hanh WeiglThe Song of Napalm is composed for an eleven-piece chamber ensemble which also features the virtuoso Vn nh Vanessa V playing dan bau, t'rung and dan tranhVon der Schmidt conducts.   

Opening the concert, Rio Bravo by Gabriela Ortiz addresses a different war, the Drug War between the drug cartels and the US-Mexican border.  The women of Ciudad Juarez are collateral damage and stand together at the banks of their Rio Bravo looking across the border at the US-named Rio Grande. They listen to the water "like life's delicate trickle." 
they fear the fall of a knife
of a hand thirsting for a young neck.
for these are many on the shores of night
they accompany them
mark the rhythm of the heels
that carry them
distance them
from the streets of wandering eyes...


Composed for baritone, violin, and 6 players on crystal cups, Rio Bravo will receive its US premiere at the concert.


In the string quartet,
Miroir, mmoire, Paris-based Tn Tht Tit recalls the pre-war Vietnam of his boyhood by the Perfume River in in the town of Hue through the poetry of Li Po.  Miroir, mmoire concludes a cycle of four string works inspired by the river, two of which Southwest has played to great acclaim in Vietnam and the U.S.  The piece was presented as a gift to Southwest and this will be the world premiere.


Link to brochure.

For interviews/photos please contact: 

Heidi Lesemann: (626) 685-4455

 Concert Information and Listing  


LA International New Music Festival 

Presented by Southwest Chamber Music


The Colburn School.
All concerts begin at 8 p.m. 
Pre-concert talk: 7 p.m. prior to each concert


Single Tickets: $38 general admission, $28 seniors over 65, and 

$10 students with full-time I.D.


For tickets or information: 1.800.726.7147 or  

Saturday, May 26
Gabriela Ortiz -  Rio Bravo (US Premiere)
Tn Tht Tit -  Miroir, Mmoire (World Premiere)
Alexandra du Bois - Night Songs (LA Premiere)
Vu Nhat Tn -  The Song of Napalm (World Premiere)


      vu nhat tan small                                     du Bois small                 ton that tiet small 

             Vu                                Ortiz                               du Bois                             Tn

Location, Parking 
The Colburn School, 200 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012


Parking is available on the street and at Disney Hall parking garage.


For more information, 

or call 1-800-726-7147 
(please use this number in all published materials).
LA International New Music Festival - Performers
Huntington Group Photo compressed


Guest artists include Vn nh Vanessa V, dan bau, dan tranh; Evan Hughes, bass-baritone; Hanh Weigl, speaker
Ensemble: Shalini Vijayan, violin; Lorenz Gamma, violin; Jan Karlin, viola; Peter Jacobsen, cello; Tom Peters, bass; Larry Kaplan, flute; Jim Foschia, clarinet; Alison Bjorkedal, harp; Lynn Vartan, percussion; Jeff von der Schmidt, conductor. For biographies on Southwest Chamber Music, please visit 

Southwest Chamber Music

638 E. Colorado Blvd., Suite 201

Pasadena, CA 91101-2006