First Sunday Christmas Show Featuring the Independence String Ensemble

Rescheduled to Saturday December 21, 2019 at 3:00PM

208 DeKalb St, Norristown, PA 19401

The Independence String Ensemble will present an annual glamorous and glittery Christmas show at the Centre Theater in Norristown. The program will be packed with the classic Christmas tunes as well as compositions by contemporary composers, such as Michael Shingo Crawford—a returning artist on the First Sunday Concert Series. His Paprika Dreams for violin and cello is featured on this concert. The performance also brings to the stage a piece by Pulitzer Prize winning composer, Jennifer Higdon. Her Nocturne, will be performed by Steve Kramer on cello and Michael Shingo Crawford at the piano. Fasten your seatbelts!

Admission is free, and donations are appreciated. For more information, contact the Director of Music, Steve Kramer at 610-710-6100.

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Artist Biography – Independence String Ensemble

Established by cellist Steve Kramer and composer and violinist Michael Shingo Crawford, the Independence String Ensemble is a newly founded group which presents the highest-class performances, educational outreach, and master classes. The core ensemble, consisting of award-winning internationally acclaimed artists based in the United States, generates a string quartet and its subsets, which perform all styles and genres from the early renaissance to contemporary. The musicians collaborate with a wide range of artists, including pianists and wind players, who are accredited from the nation’s finest institutions.

Independence String Ensemble’s performance experiences have reached prestigious clients and the world-renowned concert halls, among them, Radio City Music Hall, Kimmel Center, MGM Grand, Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia Art Museum, Franklin Institute, Novo Nordisk A/S, Datwyler, and Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board.

Artist Biography – Jennifer Higdon

Pulitzer Prize and two-time Grammy-winner Jennifer Higdon (b. Brooklyn, NY, December 31, 1962) taught herself to play flute at the age of 15 and began formal musical studies at 18, with an even later start in composition at the age of 21. Despite these obstacles, Jennifer has become a major figure in contemporary Classical music. Her works represent a wide range of genres, from orchestral to chamber, to wind ensemble, as well as vocal, choral and opera. Her music has been hailed by Fanfare Magazine as having “the distinction of being at once complex, sophisticated but readily accessible emotionally”, with the Times of London citing it as “…traditionally rooted, yet imbued with integrity and freshness.” The League of American Orchestras reports that she is one of America’s most frequently performed composers.

Higdon’s list of commissioners is extensive and includes The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Chicago Symphony, The Atlanta Symphony, The Cleveland Orchestra, The Minnesota Orchestra, The Pittsburgh Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well such groups as the Tokyo String Quartet, the Lark Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, and the President’s Own Marine Band. She has also written works for such artists as baritone Thomas Hampson, pianists Yuja Wang and Gary Graffman, violinists Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Jennifer Koh and Hilary Hahn. Her first opera, Cold Mountain, won the prestigious International Opera Award for Best World Premiere in 2016; the first American opera to do so in the award’s history. Performances of Cold Mountain sold out its premiere run in Santa Fe, North Carolina, and Philadelphia (becoming the third highest selling opera in Opera Philadelphia’s history).

Upcoming commissions include a chamber opera for Opera Philadelphia, a string quartet for the Apollo Chamber Players, a double percussion concerto for the Houston Symphony, an orchestral suite for the Made In America project, and a flute concerto for the National Flute Associations’ 50th anniversary.

Higdon received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, with the committee citing the work as “a deeply engaging piece that combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity.” She has also received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, The Independence Foundation, the NEA, and ASCAP. As winner of the Van Cliburn Piano Competition’s American Composers Invitational, Higdon’s Secret & Glass Gardens was performed by the semi-finalists during the competition.

Higdon has been a featured composer at many festivals including Aspen, Tanglewood, Vail, Norfolk, Grand Teton, and Cabrillo. She has served as Composer-in-Residence with several orchestras, including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Fort Worth Symphony. She was honored to serve as the Creative Director of the Boundless Series for the Cincinnati Symphony’s 2012-13 season. During the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years Higdon served as the prestigious Barr Laureate Scholar at the University of Missouri Kansas City.

Most recently, Higdon received the prestigious Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University which is awarded to contemporary classical composers of exceptional achievement who have significantly influenced the field of composition. Beginning in 2018, Higdon will complete two residences at the Bienen School of Music as the Nemmers Prize recipient. Also in the 2018-19 season, Higdon will be in residence at University of Texas, Austin, as part of the Eddie Medora King Award.

Higdon enjoys more than 200 performances a year of her works. Her orchestral work, blue cathedral, is one of the most performed contemporary orchestral works in the repertoire, more than 600 performances since its premiere in 2000.

Her works have been recorded on over 60 CDs. Higdon has twice won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition: first for her Percussion Concerto in 2010 and in 2018 for her Viola Concerto.

Dr. Higdon received a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Bowling Green State University, an Artist Diploma from The Curtis Institute of Music, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Hartt School and Bowling Green State University.

Dr. Higdon currently holds the Rock Chair in Composition at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Her music is published exclusively by Lawdon Press.

Artist Biography – Michael Shingo Crawford

Michael Shingo Crawford is a Philadelphia-based composer and violinist interested in exploring narrative through his music, creating representational works that correspond to concepts and concrete events and objects. This often involves working with musical processes that generate material and symbolic structures. His work is inspired and informed by literature, visual art, dance, and his Japanese heritage.

Michael holds a Master’s in Music Composition from Temple University, where he studied with Emiliano Pardo-Tristan, Jan Krzywicki, and Adam Vidiksis. Within these two years, he received twenty-four premieres of his works, presented by performers including the PRISM Quartet, Sound Energy Trio, and Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians. His opera scene, Maximum Capacity, produced in collaboration with writer Traci Williams, was performed by ENAensemble as part of their Serial Opera Project in April 2019. His interest in collaborations has also brought him to work with choreographers in projects that brought together live musicians and dancers. In 2018, OWLchestra performed First Snowfall, his commissioned piece for string orchestra and piano. He was also selected as a finalist in the 2017 Costello Competition for Harp Composition.

As an active violinist, Michael performs regularly with ENAensemble in addition to freelancing. For both 2018 and 2019, he was concertmaster of Temple Composers Orchestra, a chamber orchestra dedicated to performing Temple student compositions. While at Emory, he served as concertmaster of the Emory University Symphony Orchestra and was the winner of the 2015-2016 Concerto and Aria Competition with his performance of the Barber Violin Concerto. He is also an arranger and performer of soundtracks. Over the summers, he has attended the Dalí Quartet International Music Festival, Philadelphia International Music Festival, Fresh Inc Festival, Eastern Music Festival, National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute, and Franklin Pond Chamber Music College Festival. He currently teaches private violin lessons at Music & Arts Lawrence Park.

During his undergraduate studies at Emory University, he studied composition with Richard Prior and John Anthony Lennon and violin with Shawn Pagliarini. He presented an honors composition recital in his senior year, where his music was performed by the Vega String Quartet, Elena Cholakova, and Emory’s student and alumni musicians. He was a recipient of the Louis B. Sudler Prize in the Arts, a prestigious award presented to the graduating senior who demonstrated the highest proficiency in one or more of the performing or creative arts at Emory.

Michael has wide-ranging interests beyond music. As a freelance photographer, he specializes in portrait sessions and headshots for musicians and has also worked with weddings, events, and product photography. He is equally at home in graphic design and publicity work, and has extensive experience organizing and promoting musical events.