Special Event

Music on Equality

Location: opera theater, Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts (Map it)

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Arts Circle presents a day of artists’ responses to the idea of equality. Northwestern scholars and artists, with artists-in-residence and guests, present visual art, dance, creative writing, theatre and music exploring the concept and lived experience of equality.

For full day's program please click here.


Music on Equality

Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble under Donald Nally, conductor.


How do we view the suffering of others?

This choral music program explores equality and the lack of equality in three works written within the last two years.

Caroline Shaw’s “To the Hands” considers immigration and charity through her own words as well as those of Emma Lazarus’s iconic “The New Colossus.”

Anna Thorvaldsdottir considers suffering through supplication and juxtaposes her work with the 17th-century cantatas of Buxtehude that inspired them.

Finally, Alex Berko sets the again-timely dedicatory description of Lincoln’s statue at Washington’s National Cathedral: “remembered by a people, their conflict healed by the truth that marches on.”

The program is directed by Grammy Award-winning conductor Donald Nally, and features Bienen Contemporary Ensemble accompanied by members of the Haymarket Opera Orchestra and Dal Niente Ensemble.

Alex Berko is an American composer, pianist, and arranger whose music has been performed in Asia, Canada, and throughout the United States. Berko has received performances by The Crossing Choir, Del Sol String Quartet, NOTUS Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Cape Symphony Orchestra, and many others. Berko currently attends Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, pursuing a BM in composition with an outside concentration in piano and entrepreneurship. 

Caroline Adelaide Shaw is a New York-based musician—vocalist, violinist, composer, and producer—who performs in solo and collaborative projects. She is the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, for Partita for 8 Voices, written for the Grammy-winning Roomful of Teeth, of which she is a member.  She studied at Yale, Rice, and Princeton, and she has held residencies at Dumbarton Oaks, the Banff Centre, Music on Main, and the Vail Dance Festival. Caroline loves the color yellow, otters, Beethoven opus 74, Mozart opera, Kinhaven, the smell of rosemary, and the sound of a janky mandolin.

Anna Thorvaldsdottir frequently works with large sonic structures that tend to reveal the presence of a vast variety of sustained sound materials, reflecting her sense of imaginative listening to landscapes and nature. Her music tends to portray a flowing world of sounds with an enigmatic lyrical atmosphere.

Anna’s music is frequently performed internationally, and has been featured at several major venues and music festivals. She holds a PhD from the University of California in San Diego.

Donald Nally is artistic director of The Crossing and director of choral organizations at Northwestern University where he holds the John W. Beattie Chair of Music. Donald has served as chorus master at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Welsh National Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and for many seasons at the Spoleto Festival in Italy. He has also served as music director of Cincinnati's Vocal Arts Ensemble, chorus master at The Chicago Bach Project, and guest conductor throughout Europe and the United States, most notably with the Grant Park Symphony Chorus, the Philharmonia Chorus (London), the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, and the Latvian State Choir (Riga).  Nominated for a Grammy Award each of the past two years, Donald and The Crossing won the 2018 Grammy for Best Choral Performance.

Seating is limited and online reservations are requested.

Ticket Information

FREE