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Arvo Pärt Concerts at Met Museum Feature Music Celebrating New St. Nicholas at Ground Zero

November 19, 2021

NEW YORK – The Temple of Dendur was the setting for the haunting world-premiere of O Holy Father Nicholas, commissioned by Nektarios S. Antoniou for The Schola Cantorum, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Created by the revered Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, the work celebrates the rededication of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at Ground Zero.

The Arvo Pärt Tribute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Culture, presented a selection of masterpieces from the composer’s seven-decade career, curated by Antoniou and the Grammy-Award winning Experiential Orchestra director, James Blachly, for The Treasury NYC, in creative dialogue with the composer himself through the Arvo Pärt Centre. The concerts took place October 31 and November 1.

The Temple of Dendur was the setting for the haunting world-premiere of O Holy Father Nicholas by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, commissioned by Nektarios S. Antoniou for The Schola Cantorum, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Courtesy of Greece in USA

Arvo Pärt is a composer whose creative output has significantly changed the way we understand the nature of music. In 1976, he created a unique musical language called tintinnabuli that has reached a vast audience of listeners and that has defined his work. There is no compositional school that follows Pärt, nor does he teach; nevertheless, a large part of contemporary music has been influenced by his tintinnabuli compositions. Pärt was born on September 11, 1935 in Paide, Estonia. After studies in Heino Eller’s composition class at the Tallinn State Conservatory, he worked as a sound engineer for Estonian Radio. Since the late 1960s, Pärt has been a freelance composer. Both the avant-garde spirit of Pärt’s early works as well as the religious aspect of the music he composed in the 1970s led to controversial reviews and confrontations with Soviet officials. In 1980, Arvo Pärt and his family were forced to emigrate – first to Vienna and then to Berlin, where they stayed for almost 30 years. 1984 marks the beginning of his creative collaboration with the distinguished CD label ECM Records and producer Manfred Eicher, and the first recording of Tabula rasa. Since then, his music has been performed and recorded by the best orchestras and interpreters of our time. In 2010, Pärt returned to Estonia where he resides today.

Arvo Pärt first gained worldwide recognition in the 1960s, when he became one of the leading figures of the so-called Soviet avant-garde. Several significant modernist composition techniques entered the Estonian music scene by way of Pärt’s works, including Nekrolog, Perpetuum mobile and Pro et contra. His dramatic collage piece Credo (1968) was a turning point in his oeuvre as well as his life as Pärt withdrew and renounced the techniques and means of expression used so far.

Pärt’s quest for his own musical voice drove him into a creative crisis that dragged on for eight years. During these years he joined the Orthodox Church and studied Gregorian chant, the Notre Dame School, and classic vocal polyphony. In 1976, Pärt emerged with a new and highly original musical language which he called tintinnabuli (tintinnabulum being Latin for ‘little bell’). The first tintinnabuli-piece, Für Alina, for piano (1976) was soon followed by works like Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten (1977), Fratres (1977), Tabula rasa (1977), Spiegel im Spiegel (1978) and many others. Pärt’s complete oeuvre is rich and versatile, including many large-scale compositions for choir and orchestra, four symphonies and works for soloists and orchestra, as well as numerous choral pieces and chamber music. The majority of his works are based on liturgical texts and prayers, like Passio (1982), Te Deum (1985), Miserere (1989/92), Kanon pokajanen (1997), and Adam’s Lament (2010).

The program’s curator, Nektarios Antoniou, is the Director of Culture at the National Cathedral of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, President of The Treasury NYC, curating and producing the annual ‘Icons of Sounds’ Concerts Series at the Historic Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. As the Founding and Artistic Director of Schola Cantorum, he has presented and recorded several programs, including the Grammy Nominated ‘A Story of the City: Constantinople-Istanbul’ for Dunyainc, the Boston based musicians collective-of which he is a founding member and fellow ensemble conductor. For a decade he served under the auspices of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture & Education, teaching, researching and curating programs for the Conservatory of Northern Greece, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Mount Athos Center, and the Dimitri Mitropoulos Conservatoire. At Yale University, he served as the Lead Editor for Music for the Yale Palimpsest magazine, curated the music installations for the Yale Art Gallery’s alternative audio guide, introduced and procured the summer Greek art studio at the Yale ISM. He is the recipient of two consecutive Yale Institute of Sacred Music Director’s Prizes awarded by Margot Fassler, the Yale ISM Director and President Emeritus of the Medieval Academy of America. He was hired by the BSO President and Harvard Professor Dr. Nicholas Zervas to reconstruct, edit and translate, the earliest known manuscript of the legendary NYS Maestro Dimitri Mitropoulos’ Autograph Notes on the History of Music Morphology which was published by Livanis in 2011. Among his most celebrated contributions is his voicing the installations as principal cantor and director of his Schola Cantorum for the celebrated UCLA/USC Soundscapes of Byzantine Thessaloniki project ‘Of Bodies and Spirits.’ Nektarios is a member of the celebrated Beyond Music organization headed by Tina Turner. Production credits include music for award winning documentaries and films.

The Temple of Dendur was the setting for the haunting world-premiere of O Holy Father Nicholas by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, commissioned by Nektarios S. Antoniou for The Schola Cantorum, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Courtesy of Greece in USA

Founded by Director Sozita Goudouna, Greece in USA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization launched under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Culture. Created with an intentionally global reach that promotes knowledge of contemporary and ancient Greek Culture while fostering international cultural cooperation, experimentation and social engagement, Greece in USA’s extensive programming includes commissioned artists’ and curators’ projects, residencies, educational and ecological initiatives and the commitment to cultivating a sensible culture of innovation and thought leadership. The organization is dedicated to offering innovative and unique programs in education and the arts that explore the evolving diversity and richness of Greek and Cypriot cultures. Greece in USA seeks to generate new thinking about the arts and promote cross-cultural dialogue through partnerships and new platforms of creation by promoting an international exchange of practice and knowledge in the arts – visual and sound art, dance, architecture, theatre – research on the methods used in curatorial and performing practices and investigation of points of intersection between the arts, science and the public sphere by means of interventions, collective actions, educational programs and publications.

More information is available online: https://bit.ly/3Flj4AJ.

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