Rivers Empyrean

At a time when the environment is more threatened than ever with pollution and our life-giving waterways at risk, Fifth House Ensemble traces the life cycle of water from its metaphorical descent from the heavens as rain, to its long journey in streams and rivers informed by conservation experts and ecologists. Featuring a new commission by Fresh Inc Festival alumnus Patrick O’Malley driven by ecological data from Friends of the Chicago River, a new commission by Shawn Okpebholo that celebrates water as a precious resource by transforming it into a musical instrument, alongside music inspired by First Peoples, this program asks what it would mean to return to a sacred conception in which humans are a part of nature rather than beings standing outside of its impact. 

During the 2019-2020 season, Fifth House Ensemble will co-create public performances, events, and educational programs with its organizational partners on the project, including Friends of the Chicago River, the American Indian Center, Wild Mile, Chicago Wilderness, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Neighborhood Technology.

Program

John Luther Adams — The Wind in High Places

Alexander Miller — Glacier Blue

Mason Bates — Red River

Shawn Okpebholo Fractured Water (World Premiere)

Patrick O’Malley  — Rivers Empyrean (World Premiere)

Brent Michael Davids — In Wisconsin Woods

Austin Wintory, arr. Parker Nelson — Delphinus Delphis from ABZÛ

Kevin Puts — Seven Seascapes

Dan Visconti  — Low Country Haze

Patrick O’Malley is a composer whose works explore the musical interplay between emotion, color, energy, and landscape. His pieces span many of the contemporary mediums for classical music (orchestra, chamber ensembles, vocal music, film scores etc.), and have been performed across the United States as well as in France and Germany. He is also an alumnus of Fifth House Ensemble’s annual Fresh Inc Festival.

Most recently, O’Malley has been recognized and/or performed by organizations including the American Composers Orchestra, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Next On Grand National Composers Intensive with wild Up, the Society of Composers Inc., The American Prize 1st Place for orchestral music in 2015, the Boston New Music Initiative, ASCAP’s Morton Gould Award (finalist in 2012, 2014, 2015), and Fulcrum Point New Music Project. He has spent summers as a student at various music festivals, including the Aspen Music Festival, Bowdoin Festival, and FUBiS composition course in Berlin. He is gratefully indebted to his private teachers over the years for helping guide his work, the most recent of which include Andrew Norman, Samuel Adler, and Frank Ticheli. O’Malley is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in composition at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.

A widely sought-after and award-winning composer, Shawn E. Okpebholo (b. 1981) has been described by Augusta Read Thomas as “…a beautiful artist …who has enormous grace in his music, and fantasy and color.” Okpebholo comfortably composes in a variety of styles and genres, intentional in creating music that is diverse, dynamic, and genuine.  A laureate of various awards, these include: Second Place Winner in The American Prize in Composition (professional/orchestral division), First Prize Winner in the Flute New Music Consortium Composition Competition, Winner of the Adams-Owens Composition Award, First Prize Winner in the Accent06 International Composition Competition, among others. His music has been performed in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and all across the U.S., including close to forty states. His compositions can be heard on a variety of commercially released albums, including his first album solely devoted to his music, Steal Away, a collection of re-imagined Negro spirituals.

As an academic, Okpebholo has been in residence at many colleges and universities both in the U.S. and Nigeria, giving masterclasses, guest lecturing, and having his music featured in concert. He was one of eighteen featured composers in Volume IV of the book series, “Composers on Composing for Band,” edited by Mark Camphouse. And his compositional interests and research have been a gateway for ethnomusicological field work in both East and West Africa.

He earned his masters and doctoral degrees in composition from the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati, where he also studied music theory. He completed a bachelor’s degree in composition and music history from Asbury College and had additional studies in film scoring from New York University. A significant part of his music education growing up was through The Salvation Army church, where he regularly received free music lessons. Inspired by that charity, Okpebholo is passionate about volunteering his musical talents to underserved communities. Currently, he is Associate Professor of Music Composition and Theory at Wheaton College Conservatory of Music (IL), having previously taught at Union University (TN), Northern Kentucky University, and CCM.