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Vassar College's sixth annual "Modfest" of contemporary music, dance, art, and poetry. January 25 - February 3, 2008

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and pianist David Del Tredici, acclaimed composer Lou Harrison, work by choreographer Mark Morris performed by the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre, The Mannes Trio, a centennial concert dedicated to French composer Olivier Messiaen, as well as student music ensembles, poets, and artists, will highlight Vassar College's sixth annual "Modfest." The festival will take place on two successive weekends beginning Friday, January 25 through Sunday, February 3. Modfest will once again offer an exciting mix of music, dance, poetry, and art of the past hundred years to the community – including performances, workshops, art exhibits, lectures, and conversations with artists. In past years, Modfest has been a platform for other major modern composers including Pulitzer Prize winners Yehudi Wyner, Mario Davidosky, and Aaron Copland.

All programs are free and open to the public, and for more information call (845) 437-7294 or go to

Featured Artists

David Del Tredici

Composer David Del Tredici (left, photo by Paula Court, 2007) is generally recognized as the "father of the Neo-Romantic movement" in classical music – and his works will be celebrated throughout Modfest. Del Tredici has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for In Memory of a Summer Day. He has been commissioned and performed by nearly every major American and European orchestral ensemble.

Much of his early work consisted of elaborate vocal settings of James Joyce (I Hear an Army; Night Conjure-Verse; Syzygy) and Lewis Carroll (Pop-Pourri, An Alice Symphony, Vintage Alice and Adventures Underground, to name a few). More recently, Del Tredici has set to music a cavalcade of contemporary American poets, often celebrating a gay sensibility.

"Del Tredici," said Aaron Copland, "is that rare find among composers – a creator with a truly original gift. I venture to say that his music is certain to make a lasting impression on the American musical scene. I know of no other composer of his generation … who composes music of greater freshness and daring, or with more personality."

Del Tredici will participate in both weekends of Modfest. During the first weekend, he will coach student groups in performances of his work (1/26, 10:30 am), he will appear as a pianist in a January 26 evening program, and The Mannes Trio will perform his music during their program (1/27, 3:00 pm). During the second weekend, Del Tredici will host a public conversation, along with Richard Wilson of Vassar's Music Department (2/2, 2:00pm).


Lou Harrison has been on the vanguard of American composers for half a century. Harrison's highly acclaimed work juxtaposes and synthesizes musical dialects from virtually every corner of the globe, transcending cultural boundaries. His early compositions combined Western, Asian, African, and Latin American rhythmic influences with homemade "junk" instruments. Later, Harrison became a music critic for the Herald Tribune and embarked on a study of early European music. His masterpiece Grand Duo has been lauded as a powerful work that captures the essence of human life.

Harrison's Grand Duo will be performed by the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre under the direction of Vassar's Paul Mosley, with choreography by MARK MORRIS. Morris, an award-winning choreographer who has worked for The Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, the American Ballet Theatre, and the Boston Ballet among others, formed the Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980. Morris is known for his intense musicality and has been described as "undeviating in his devotion to music."

The Mannes Trio

One of this country's oldest chamber music ensembles, The Mannes Trio (left, photo by Allen Cohen) was founded in the 1920s and today includes pianist Thomas Sauer from the Vassar music faculty, as well as violinist Hiroko Yajima and cellist Wilhelmina Smith. After a period of inactivity in mid-century, the trio was re-formed in 1982 and, in 1986, won the Walter W. Naumburg International Chamber Music Award. The trio serves as ensemble-in-residence at the Mannes College of Music in New York.


Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) is a celebrated French composer, organist, and teacher known for creating his own distinct musical voice. Messiaen achieved this by taking rhythmic ideas from India, ancient Greece, and the Orient – and, most importantly, by adapting the songs of birds from around the world. His most famous works include Quatuor pour la fin du temps and Turangalila-symphonie. Vassar organist Gail Archer will pay tribute to this musician, who is widely regarded as one of the most influential French composers of the 19th century, in an Olivier Messiaen Centennial Concert.

Modfest Summary

Modfest will kick off with the Olivier Messiaen Centennial Concert in the Vassar Chapel on the evening of Friday, January 25, which includes a pre-concert talk by Music Department Chair Kathryn Libin. The first weekend will also include a Saturday morning open rehearsal as David Del Tredici coaches the Mahagonny Ensemble, a Saturday afternoon recitation of music and poetry with an exhibit of student art, an evening of mostly solos later Saturday which also includes David Del Tredici, and The Mannes Trio on Sunday afternoon.

The Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre's performance of Lou Harrison's Grand Duo, choreographed by Mark Morris, will open Modfest's second weekend. A workshop on The Contemporary Viola will be held Saturday morning, followed by an afternoon public conversation with David Del Tredici and Vassar Music Professor Richard Wilson. Later on Saturday afternoon, a celebration of Art, Poetry, and Music centered on the Saul Steinberg: Illuminations exhibition will take place at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center – followed by a gallery talk by William K. McManus of the Vassar Art Department on the Steinberg exhibit and the art center's permanent collection. On Saturday evening, the Vassar College Orchestra and Mahagonny Ensemble, with soprano Rachel Rosales, will perform with conductors Eduardo Navega and Lidiya Yankovskaya, '08. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, the Vassar College Women's Chorus and the Community Wind Ensemble will be conducted by Christine R. Howlett and James Osborn.

Parallel to Modfest, ongoing exhibits at the college include Saul Steinberg: Illuminations, a major retrospective of the famed New Yorker artist at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center; A Life in Art and Letters: Priscilla Morgan, drawn from the personal papers of an influential alumna with a long history of supporting the arts, in the Vassar College Library; Teen Visions, the Art Institute of Mill Street Loft's juried show of high school student work, in the Palmer Gallery in the College Center; and Modfest 2008 in the Vassar College Music Library in Skinner Hall.

Posted by Office of Communications Tuesday, December 18, 2007