Cygnus Ensemble Takes Residence

Cygnus Ensemble

The internationally acclaimed Cygnus Ensemble, one of New York City's most innovative and exciting new music chamber groups, will be in residence at Sarah Lawrence College throughout the 2002-2003 academic year.

"The Cygnus Ensemble continues in our long tradition of inviting resident ensembles and guest artists to bring unique and oftentimes cutting-edge perspectives to music and culture at the College," says Chester Biscardi, director of the Sarah Lawrence's music program.

Though structured somewhat like the "broken consort" of Elizabethan times - with strings (violin, cello, guitars) and winds (flute, oboe), Cygnus is dedicated to contemporary music, providing composers and audiences with unique ideas and sounds. Recognized for its inventiveness, Cygnus promotes the composition of new music involving the guitar, and has commissioned many new works by a diverse collection of American composers. Among the composers whose work they have commissioned and/or perform are Milton Babbitt, Stephen Wolpe, Charles Wuorinen and Anthony Braxton.

During their residency at Sarah Lawrence The Cygnus Ensemble will be working closely with students, eventually performing works written for them by Sarah Lawrence student composers. One particularly exciting opportunity Cygnus will make available to the students will be a private session with Milton Babbitt, one of the 20th century's most celebrated composers.

Guitarist, composer and founder of Cygnus, William Anderson, has been a long-time member of the College's Affiliate Artist faculty, noted Biscardi. "Now the entire ensemble will have the opportunity to work with student composers and chamber music ensembles as well as present concerts and master classes that will be of interest to the larger Sarah Lawrence, Westchester, and New York City communities," he says.

Two concerts, open to the public and featuring the ensemble's diverse repertoire, will highlight the year. The first, on December 4, will include world premiere performances of works by Babbitt and Wolpe. "This first concert promises to be mind-bending, deeply soul-searching, and musically exhilarating," Biscardi commented. The second concert will take place during the spring semester.

The group's concerts and recordings have received broad recognition for their distinctive artistry.

"This enterprising and supple group…presents a light, lively evening of music from contemporary American composers, with offshoots into the European past," wrote Paul Griffiths of the New York Times.

"…Cygnus' sound is infectious - light and clear, capable of both delicacy and drive, timbrally rich, transparent yet able to accommodate whatever degree complexity one might desire," wrote a reviewer for Musicplex.

And "The Cygnus Ensemble balances novel aplomb with a warm, inviting precision, lending cohesion and affability to this set of contemporary works," noted Tower Records.

The Cygnus Ensemble is a not-for-profit organization whose artistic direction is guided collectively by members of the group. Members are: Tara Helen O'Connor, flute; Oren Fader, guitar, electric guitar; Susannah Chapman, cello; Cal Wiersma, violin William Anderson, guitar, mandolin, banjo.