Take a Stand:
A Concert for Climate Action
October 30, 2021 @ 7:00pm
Broadway Presbyterian Church, NYC
In light of recent extreme weather events and the urgent need to address climate change in our region, PROTESTRA held its first in-person orchestral benefit concert of the 2021–2022 season, “Take a Stand: A Concert For Climate Action,” on October 30, 2021, 7:00 PM at Broadway Presbyterian Church in New York City.
In between musical selections, guest speakers from various fields related to climate science shared information about their work and research in order to educate the audience on how we can work together to combat climate change and strive for environmental justice.
This benefit concert featured a variety of works for orchestra and chamber ensembles, from timeless classics inspired by natural landscapes to contemporary compositions written about humanity’s relationship with the environment.
The program included two works for chamber ensembles and four works for full orchestra, led by PROTESTRA Founder and Music Director Michelle Rofrano:
“Parakata,” by emerging composer and PROTESTRA organizer Lauren McCall, is based on population data and migration patterns of monarch butterflies, and calls attention to the plight and diminishing numbers of this once abundant species. This will be the world premiere of McCall’s arrangement of the work for wind quintet and electronics.
“Thrush Song,” by NYC-based composer Paola Prestini, and featuring soprano soloist and PROTESTRA organizer Erin Schwab, includes audio clips of environmentalist Rachel Carson narrating from her landmark 1962 exposé “Silent Spring.” The piece was recently featured as part of the New York Philharmonic’s Project 19, a multi-season initiative to commission and premiere 19 new works by 19 women composers.
“Caught by the Wind,” by NYC-based composer Jessie Montgomery, draws influences from two sources: her brother’s environmental activism (he led a bicycle band tour with a group called “The Pleasant Revolution”); and her walks in the woods of upstate New York, where she saw firsthand the life cycles that define the natural world.
PROTESTRA reframed two enduring staples of the repertoire through the lens of the current climate crisis: Excerpts from Symphony No. 6 in F major, “Pastoral” by Ludwig van Beethoven, and “The Moldau” by Czech Romantic composer Bedřich Smetana. These pieces were inspired by the natural beauty of the world as they knew it, but that world is rapidly being destroyed by human activity. PROTESTRA believes that when orchestras perform these works, they can no longer do so without context—we must all look beyond the music and do our part to help protect our planet.
The concert closed with the U.S. premiere of “Earthbeat” by Chinese-Canadian composer Vincent Ho, written as the final movement of the ballet “True North” to commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary, and to honor the pow-wow traditions of First Nations peoples. Ho collaborated with pow-wow musician and expert Hal Eagletail of the Tsuu T’ina Nation and several more First Nations musicians.