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New Robert Kyr Work Commissioned By Chorus Austin

Updated: Monday, February 13 2012, 03:10 AM CST
By Rob Faubion, Austin On Stage

Based on Death Fugue by the poet Paul Celan, the work will be staged around the audience, as the choristers move through the concert space during the reading and singing of the text.

Chorus Austin has commissioned a new multimedia work by noted American composer Robert Kyr.  Entitled The Unutterable, the work featuring Chorus Austin's 32-voice Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble will be premiered at Congregation Agudas Achim on March 31st at the “In Remembrance” performance - part of Austin’s “Light/The Holocaust and Humanity Project.”

According to Kyr, the text of the choral piece - which will be read in performance by the composer - is Death Fugue by the poet Paul Celan.  The poet, whose parents died in a Nazi concentration camp, was forced to work in a labor camp for 18 months in 1942 and 1943. 

“The German title of the poem is Todesfuge, which resembles the word ‘todesmusik’ or ‘death music,’ suggesting the music that prisoners were forced to play for those who were being led to the gas chambers,” Kyr said.

The Unutterable will be staged around the audience, as the choristers move through the concert space during the reading and singing of the text.  Rabbi Neil F. Blumofe, senior rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim, will perform as vocal soloist and cantor, with Chorus Austin Artistic Director Ryan Heller serving as conductor.

Born in 1952, Kyr has composed 12 symphonies, three chamber symphonies, three violin concerti, chamber music and numerous works for vocal ensembles of all types.  As a composer, writer and filmmaker, Kyr has been commissioned by many ensembles including the Yale Camerata, University of Chicago Choruses, Chanticleer, Conspirare, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Harvard Glee Club, Radcliffe Choral Society, Yale Symphony, Berkshire Symphony, New England Philharmonic (Boston), Oregon Symphony and New West Symphony (Los Angeles). His international commissions include Cappella Nova (Scotland), Revalia (Estonia), Putni (Latvia) and Moscow State Chamber Choir (Russia).

Currently the Philip H. Knight Professor of Music at the University of Oregon School of Music, Kyr also serves as chair of the composition department.  He also is director of the Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium, Music Today Festival and Vanguard Concert and Workshop Series. He holds degrees from Harvard (Ph. D., ’89), University of Pennsylvania (M. A., ’78), and Yale (B. A., ’74).

The “In Remembrance” will be performed one night only on Saturday, March 31, at Congregation Agudas Achim, beginning at 8:15 p.m.  Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for seniors and students.
Congregation Agudas Achim is located at 7300 Hart Lane.  For tickets and more information, call the Chorus Austin business office at (512) 719-3300 or visit are

(Robert Kyr photo by Tom Forgas)
New Robert Kyr Work Commissioned By Chorus Austin

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