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The Lafayette College Choirs, directed by Nina Gilbert, will present their annual spring concert at 5 p.m. Sunday, April 29, in the Williams Center for the Arts.

Featuring the premiere of “Nature Loves This Rhyme So Well: Seasons in the Journals of Thoreau,” a cantata created for Lafayette by Russian-American composer Maxim Vladimiroff, the event is free and open to the public.

Vladimiroff will meet and work with the choir, and attend the concert.

A concert preview will be held at noon Friday, April 27, at Interfaith Chapel, Hogg Hall. Lunch may be brought or purchased for $3.

The Concert Choir, Madrigal Singers, and Faculty/Staff Chamber Choir will perform. To complement the Vladimiroff song, selections will include “songs of birds, seasons, nature, and Russia,” as well as some spirituals, a tango, and one interactive sing-along, Gilbert says.

“Even without our cantata, our program is exciting and exotic,“ says Gilbert. “In addition to spirituals and Russian music, our program represents the cultures of Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Spain, Canada, Argentina, medieval and Baroque Germany (a mystical 12th-century chant by Hildegard of Bingen and an elaborate chorale setting by J. S. Bach), and Pennsylvania (Stephen Foster’s ‘Oh! Susanna’ in a new arrangement).”

“I am proud of the adventurous spirit of the choir,” Gilbert notes. “First, they welcomed me, a new conductor. Now, they trust me to give them a piece of music that has never been performed before. We have tremendous fun in rehearsals, and we also take our role seriously — after all, we are bringing a new piece of music into the world, so we are shaping the future history of music.”

The musical vision manifested in Vladimiroff’s works will have people singing it 100 years from now, adds Gilbert. “Max sets Thoreau in English, of course, but you can hear the musical influence of his Russian background. Russian music has a beautiful, spacious quality — it seems to create its own cathedrals in sound. When Max sets words about forests full of birds, for example, he weaves musical effects so you can imagine the trees rising above you, perhaps like cathedral walls.”

Vladimiroff was born in Sochi, Russia in 1968. He was influenced musically by his father, a concert pianist with interests in jazz and improvisation. Vladimiroff majored in piano at the Gnessin College of Music in Moscow in the mid-’80s, where he also studied jazz and graduated with honors. He left Russia in 1991 to pursue jazz — “the only kind of improvised music I knew” — and earned his masters of fine arts degree in music composition at the University of California-Irvine. Gilbert coached him there as he composed a piece for the university women’s chorus that premiered last year. Gilbert also coached Vladimiroff as he wrote the piece premiering at the Lafayette concert. “It is exciting to look at a composer’s music, figure out the effect he wants, and then show him small changes that can make the effect clearer,” she says.

Vladimiroff’s works have been premiered by members of the New York New Music Ensemble, the Flux Quartet, and others. He has won prizes from the National Association of Composers USA and the Lili Boulanger Foundation, a scholarship to study at the Schola Cantorum in Paris. Vladimiroff lives in Putnam County, New York, with his wife Leisa.

Gilbert holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Stanford University, a Master of Music degree from Indiana University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Princeton universities. She came to Lafayette this year from the University of California, Irvine, where she was lecturer in the department of music and served in a variety of roles. She also taught at Hamilton, Ferrum, and Wabash colleges, the Hartt School of the University of Hartford, and Westminster Choir College of Rider University. She has numerous choral arrangements and editions in print and is associate editor of Choral Journal. She offers commentaries on choral topics for the “Performance Today” show on National Public Radio.

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