Nebraska’s Paul Barnes will perform “Illuminations,” featuring piano works based on Byzantine, Jewish and Native American chant, at 7 p.m. July 13 in Kimball Recital Hall.
The concert is free and open to the public and is part of the week-long Lied Center Piano Academy at the Lied Center for Performing Arts. Barnes, Marguerite Professor of Piano in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Glenn Korff School of Music, was recently named the new artistic director for the academy. The concert will also be live webcast.
“This will be the first chance for Lincoln audiences to hear this program live, and it’s the first live performance in Kimball Recital Hall since the pandemic began,” Barnes said. “I’m excited to perform in Lincoln again and to have the opportunity to perform this program for the Lied Center Piano Academy. The academy will also feature guest artist Jessica Osborne and Glenn Korff School of Music faculty Mark Clinton, Tom Larson and Greg Simon.”
The centerpiece of the program is the Nebraska premiere of Victoria Bond’s “Illuminations on Byzantine Chant,” which Barnes premiered April 19 in New York City.
“The work represents more than 20 years of creative collaboration with my dear friend, Victoria Bond,” Barnes said. “Chanting in Orthodox churches for the last quarter of a century, I wanted to select byzantine hymns that reflected the wide emotional range and spiritual message of Orthodox Christianity. I’m thrilled with the final result and excited to give the Nebraska premiere as the new artistic director of the Lied Center Piano Academy.”
The program also includes his solo transcription of Philip Glass’s “Annunciation,” composer and native flutist Ron Warren’s “Distances Between Two,” and Glenn Korff School of Music Lecturer David von Kampen’s “Trisagion.”
Barnes originally performed “Annunciation,” which is based on a byzantine communion hymn of the Annunciation, with the Chiara String Quartet at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in April 2018.
“Every single time I play through it, there’s always some new detail that emerges that I think is fascinating to me,” Barnes said. “I was scheduled to play it with so many string quartets (this past year), but that all, of course, got canceled. But playing it solo, I don’t have to worry about ensemble issues. I’m always perfectly together with myself. In terms of timing, the piece has become incredibly free as a result of living with it for three years. And so it’s a joy.”
Warren wrote “Distances Between Two” for Barnes in the spring of 2019 after hearing him chant a Greek Orthodox hymn at one of his performances that year. And, Von Kampen’s “Trisagion” was originally commissioned by the Nebraska Music Teachers Association and the Music Teachers National Association as part of the Commissioned Composers program.
“When I asked my composer friend and Glenn Korff School of Music colleague David von Kampen to write a piano piece for me based on byzantine chant, I had selected the beautiful baptismal hymn ‘Osi Is Hriston’ from Galatians 3:27,” Barnes said. “But life is full of unexpected events. While David was writing the piece, I chanted the funeral of our priest’s wife, Veda Anne, and was deeply moved by the beauty of processional chant that is sung as the body is brought to the front of the church at the beginning of the funeral service. This hymn is also sung on Holy Friday when Orthodox Christians remember Christ’s Passion and experience the truth of a God who died for all. This hymn had such a powerful effect on me that I asked David to incorporate it into his new work. Thus, ‘Trisagion’ (or ‘Thrice Holy’) was born.”
This concert is part of the Lied Center Piano Academy, which runs July 11-16 at the Lied Center for the Performing Arts. Designed for students entering grade 9 through their first year of college, the academy provides young talented pianists intensive training to raise their level of performance. Sixteen students are enrolled this year.
“I have been passionately dedicated to inspiring young pianists in reaching their full human and musical potential, and the Lied Center Piano Academy fulfills that aspiration perfectly,” Barnes said. “Using the world renowned faculty of the Glenn Korff School of Music, I want to inspire young pianists to think in very new ways about music that will make them a force for good in the world. I’m thrilled to put my creative, artistic, and pedagogical energy into the Lied Center Piano Academy. I’ve been thrilled with the response, so far, as this will be the largest enrollment since the piano academy began four years ago.”
Barnes is eager to perform again for Lincoln audiences.
“I’m tremendously excited to welcome live audiences back to Kimball Recital Hall, and especially as part of the Lied Center Piano Academy,” he said.