A Celebration of Women in History

Saturday, October 23, 2021 at 7:30p in the Recital Hall

A tribute to authors and social activists
Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby

 

Hannah Holman, violoncello
Michelle Alvarado, piano
Jennifer Larson, narrator

 

Music by Eric Starr

 

Program

No Mourning By Request, for violoncello and piano

A tribute to Winifred Holtby

Between the Sandhills and the Sea, for violoncello and piano

A tribute to Vera Brittain
     I. Time
     II. Love and War
     III. Dear Roland
     IV. A Plea
     V. Refuse to Forget (L'Envoi)

Epilogue: Immortal Flower, for solo piano

A tribute to Winifred Holtby

Poetry (in order)
     1. “No Mourning By Request”
     2. “To Them”
     3. “Perhaps”
     4. “Roundel”
     5. “The Aspirant”
     6. “The End”
     7. “Invocation to Time (A Prayer)”
     8. “A Wink from Hesper” (excerpted)
1 and 7 by Winifred Holtby, 2-6 by Vera Brittain, and 8 by W.E. Henley.

Program Notes

       

This concert is a presentation of three related works for violoncello & piano and solo piano honoring authors and social reformers Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby.  As part of the presentation, a reading of select poems by these authors will accompany each of the seven movements of music. 

       

Vera Brittain (1893-1970) and Winifred Holtby (1898-1935) were groundbreaking British authors and social reformers. Brittain, a nurse during WWI, was the only woman to chronicle the Great War in depth. Together with her friend Holtby, Brittain campaigned for peace, women’s rights, and minority rights.

Both were strong believers in the internationalism promised by the League of Nations. Their collective message is a cautionary tale, informed by a keen understanding of the horrors of war and an unwavering desire to promote gender and racial equality.

Working near the front lines, Brittain witnessed the devastation of war while caring for both British and German soldiers. Among others, she also lost her only brother and a fiancé to the war. Later, her grief-stricken father committed suicide over his son’s death. Brittain wrote and lectured with searing passion about her powerful experiences, and is best known for her memoir Testament of Youth (1933).

Like Brittain, Holtby was dedicated to world peace, women’s rights, and racial justice. Among other achievements, she established the Society of Friends of Africa (1934), which promoted the unionization of Black workers. In 1940, the Winifred Holtby Memorial Library was built in Johannesburg in her honor. The first library of its kind in South Africa, it was ‘equipped solely for the use of non- Europeans... and intended to serve native women as well as men.’

Holtby died at age 37 from renal failure, but not before completing her landmark feminist novel, South Riding (1936).


Performer Biographies

       
Hannah Holman
Hannah Holman, cellist, joined the New York City Ballet Orchestra at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season. Her career has encompassed orchestral and chamber music, solo performances, and teaching. In a review of the second CD she recorded with pianist Réne Lecuona, Fanfare magazine declares "her tone and technique are the stuff that cello legends are made of "... Holman's cello sings with a lustrous tone that's hard to resist."
     In addition to her work with the New York City Ballet Orchestra, Ms. Holman is the principal cellist of the Quad City Symphony, a position she has held since 2008 and is super delighted to be named the new one year adjunct Cello Instructor at the University of Northern Iowa and Biola Univeristy for 2020-2021. She began her professional career in England playing with the English String Orchestra under Yehudi Menuhin and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Simon Rattle. Her previous orchestral work also includes serving as assistant principal cello with the Michigan Chamber Orchestra, the Richmond Symphony; and the American Sinfonietta.
     Hannah is fortunate to have a diverse career allowing much time for solo work. In 2019, Hannah performed the Korngold Cello Concerto with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, Jennifer Higdon's Soliquoy also with the QCSO, and with the Solomon Chamber Orchestra. She is in the middle of a video project highlighting the lives of women cellists from the past, and performed six pieces with the Iowa City Community Chamber Orchestra, each piece focusing on a different cellist. She performed the 4th Cello Suite of J.S. Bach in Carnegie Hall on March 3, 2020 as part of the Bach Cello Suite Festival, celebrating 300 years of the cello suites.
An active chamber musician, Ms Holman helped found Trio 826, with her dear friends Susanna Klein, violin, and Julia Bullard, viola. She was a founding member of the Beaumont Piano Trio, which performed around the United States and England, and was also a founding member of Quadrivinium, a music ensemble in residence at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. From 2002-2011, she was a member of the Maia Quartet, the University of Iowa's quartet in residence, which toured China, Japan, and throughout the United States, including teaching residencies at Interlochen Center for the Arts, the Great Wall International Music Academy in China, and the Austin Chamber Music Center. She regularly performs in chamber ensembles with musicians from throughout the United States.
A dedicated private teacher who finds great fulfillment in helping students of all ages grow musically, Ms. Holman was on the University of Iowa music faculty from 2002-2012, and has served on the faculties of the Worcester College (UK), Michigan State University Community School, and Virginia Union University. She has participated in numerous festivals, and has been on the faculty of the Eastern Music Festival since 2001 and currently serves on the faculty of the International Cello Institute, the Five Seasons Music Festival, and Taconic Music.
     Ms. Holman studied at the Eastman School of Music and Michigan State University, where she completed her Bachelor of Music degree. She obtained her Master of Music Degree with Fritz Magg at the New England Conservatory. Hannah was fortunate enough to have several lessons with William Pleeth in London as postgraduate study. Her musical education began at age 5 with her grandmother, whose 1925 Becker cello she plays today. She is eternally grateful for the fine teaching of a transformative teacher, Louis Potter, during her junior high and high school years.
     Ms. Holman - whose hobbies include food, wine, and finding killer deals on shoes - divides her time between NYC and Iowa City, Iowa, where she lives with her son, Matisse, and their cat, Ripley. Please visit her at her website: hannahholmacello.com
       
Michelle Alvarado
Michelle Alvarado is described by jazz journalist and historian Scott Yanow as a “versatile classical pianist” and “a virtuoso who can handle any piece of written music”. Her passion for beauty and excellence brought her to New York City where she arrived in 2013 to study at Mannes under the tutelage of Pavlina Dokovska and has remained in the city ever since.
     In 2018 Alvarado partnered with Hudson Valley composer Eric Starr for the world premiere of Twelve Pieces for Solo Piano at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo. According to the Buffalo News her performance “moved from the delicate to the primal and the sublimely melodic to the cacophonous with finesse and grace.” Shortly after the premiere, Alvarado recorded the pieces at the National Opera Center in Manhattan.
     Following the recording she made her Carnegie Hall debut in October of 2018 where she performed the Twelve Pieces and gave a world premiere of the first movement of Between the Sandhills and the Sea by Eric Starr featuring cellist Hannah Holman.
Most recently in the summer of 2021 Alvarado was invited to be a part of the Crescendo Chamber Music Project culminating in a performance at the Bruno Walter auditorium at Lincoln Center.
     Michelle currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband David where she serves as pianist at her local church and works as an independent contractor on a variety of projects.
       
Jennifer Larson
Described by USA Today as possessing a "golden voice,” soprano Jennifer Larson has earned a national reputation for performing a wide range of repertoire, combining artistry and intellect in communicating the essence of the music and poetry. Ms. Larson’s diverse career encompasses collaborations with the nation’s finest orchestras and chamber ensembles, singing works from baroque to modern. Committed to bringing transformative music to diverse people and places, Ms. Larson’s performances have taken her from featured artist in concert at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C, to, days later, collaborating for an impromptu sidewalk concert with homeless patrons of Salt Lake City’s St. Vincent de Paul center after serving dinner there, with both opportunities fulfilling her deep commitment to communicating hope and humanity through music.
Ms. Larson has received honors for her dramatic and vocal artistry in leading operatic roles, including appearances with Utah Opera, Toledo Opera, and Michigan Opera Theatre among others. A favorite of contemporary music organizations, Ms. Larson’s published recordings include several premieres of original works. Midwest audiences recently heard Ms. Larson as featured soloist singing Bach cantatas with the Cedar Falls/Waterloo Symphony, and with the Wartburg Community Symphony performing Richard Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder, Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, and a gala performance “A Night at the Opera.” alongside bass-baritone Simon Estes. Having earned a doctorate in voice performance from the University of Michigan, Dr. Larson serves as Associate Professor of Music in Voice and Voice Pedagogy in her 15th year on faculty at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.
       
Eric Starr
Eric Starr is a third generation musician from Western New York. A multitalented artist, Starr has worked as a composer, percussionist, pianist, author and educator for most of his life. As a composer, Starr has received four prestigious Meet the Composer grants, a Utah Arts Council grant, NEA Foundation grants and more. In 2007, the premiere of his concerto for saxophone and strings received a standing ovation at The Lighthouse: Poole's Centre for the Arts (Dorset, England).
     In October of 2018 Starr's Twelve Pieces for Solo Piano and "Movement I: Time" from Between the Sandhills and the Sea were performed at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. Earlier in March of 2018, Twelve Pieces was premiered at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, NY. Both performances featured pianist Michelle Alvarado and "Movement I: Time" was performed by Alvarado with cellist Hannah Holman.
     Starr's jazz band, The Eric Starr Group, has released two critically acclaimed albums and his group has performed at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, among other venues. His albums have received international radio play and rave reviews in Downbeat Magazine, The Jazz Journal, Jazzwise Magazine, the All Music Guide and over a dozen additional publications worldwide. Brian Morton, publisher of the Penguin Guide to Jazz called his album Such Is Life “One of my favorite releases of the year.” Iconic drummer, Bill Bruford, called Eric “an extremely welcome new addition to the club [of percussionist composers]” and famed composer Steve Reich wrote, “I’m impressed with the directness of Eric’s music and the craft with which he has written it. His music would appeal to a wide variety of listeners.”
     As an author and educator, Starr has written five books about music for Adams Media, Inc. Two of them have been translated into Spanish. In 2010, Starr was a featured speaker at Loyola University New Orleans' Beiver Guest Lecturer Series. Since 1995, he has also appeared as a guest artist and clinician at many high schools and colleges throughout the country. Starr currently resides in the Hudson Valley.