In Plain Air
Historic Site, New Sounds
A 3,000-pipe organ, centuries-old bells as they are heard in the belfry, an orchestra of pipe whistles, community-built music boxes: the sounds of In Plain Air carry the audience through the campus and history of one of the nation’s most historic sites.
The world premiere performances of In Plain Air, presented in partnership with FringeArts as part of the 2018 Fringe Festival, were on September 22-23, 2018.
A Unique Collaboration
As Christ Church installed its C.B. Fisk pipe organ—the latest in a 300-year history of grand church organs within the space—it invited members of the acclaimed International Contemporary Ensemble to inaugurate the new instrument with a program of original compositions. Composers Phyllis Chen (known for her work with hand-wound music boxes and toy pianos) and Nathan Davis (a percussionist fascinated by the mechanics of instruments) immersed themselves in the sound-making possibilities of the church’s organ, bells, and open spaces, as well as the history and public role of the venerable institution.
The resulting multi-movement program unites the historic bell tolls of “The Nation’s Church,” the majesty of the intricately constructed organ, and the Ensemble’s characteristic focus on place and community into a one-of-a-kind sonic experience—a worthy welcome to an instrument that will continue to ring in the ears of visitors for the next 300 years.
Phyllis Chen is a pianist, toy pianist, composer, educator, and curator, whose musical interests have led in numerous directions as a soloist and collaborative artist. She is dedicated to performing and promoting new works to engage audience in concerts and educational programs. Described as “a dazzling performer who wrings novel sounds from the humble toy piano,”(NY Times) and “a bold pianist with an excellent sense of color” (LA Times), Chen is the founder of the UnCaged Toy Piano, an annual toy piano composition competition and biennial festival in NYC. As a composer, She has received commissions and grants from the Singapore International Festival of the Arts, Fromm Music Foundation, NYSCA, New Music USA, Baryshnikov Arts Center, A Far Cry, Opera Cabal, and others. Chen has released five albums, including three solo albums. Her fifth album, Nature of Thingness (Starkland), featuring chamber works by Chen and Nathan Davis, won the 2016 Independent Music Award for best Contemporary Classical album.
Nathan Davis “writes music that deals deftly and poetically with timbre and sonority” (NY Times). His opera/ballet “Hagoromo” premiered at the BAM Next Wave Festival produced by American Opera Projects, and Lincoln Center inaugurated its Tully Scope Festival with the premiere of “Bells,” a site-specific, electroacoustic piece for ensemble, multi-channel audio, and live broadcast to audience members’ mobile phones. Davis has received commissions from ICE and its members, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Steven Schick, Miller Theatre, Ojai Music Festival, the Calder Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, and Yarn/Wire, with premieres at Tanglewood, Park Avenue Armory, and Carnegie Hall.
The 2018 Aaron Copland Fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation, Davis has received awards/fellowships from the Camargo Foundation, Meet The Composer, Fromm Music Foundation, Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, MATA, and ASCAP. He and Phyllis Chen won an NY Innovative Theater Award for their score to Sylvia Milo’s play The Other Mozart. After serving on the faculty of Dartmouth College for eight years, Davis teaches composition and electronic music at Montclair State University. An active percussionist, he performs with ICE; appeared as a concerto soloist with the Seattle Symphony, Tokyo Symphony, and Nagoya Philharmonic; and has toured Russia, Bali, Turkey, and Cuba.
International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is an artist collective that is transforming the way music is created and experienced. As performer, curator, and educator, ICE explores how new music intersects with communities across the world. The ensemble’s 35 members are featured as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners, and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time.
A recipient of the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, ICE was also named the 2014 Musical America Ensemble of the Year. The group currently serves as artists in residence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Mostly Mozart Festival, and previously led a five-year residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
New initiatives include OpenICE, made possible with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which offers free concerts and related programming wherever ICE performs, and enables a working process with composers to unfold in public settings. DigitICE, a free online library of over 350 streaming videos, catalogues the ensemble’s performances. ICE’s First Page program is a commissioning consortium that fosters close collaborations between performers, composers, and listeners as new music is developed. EntICE, a side-by-side education program, places ICE musicians within youth orchestras as they premiere new commissioned works together.
Support for In Plain Air
Major support for In Plain Air has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation and Arthur Judson Foundation.
OpenICE is made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, A.N. and Pearl G. Barnett Family Foundation, Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, Amphion Foundation, Pacific Harmony Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Casement Fund, BMI Foundation, as well as public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council for the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for ICE.