Kirke Mechem

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Choral  |  Instrumental    |  Piano  |  Recordings  |  Vocal


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Biography

Kirke Mechem is the composer of more than 250 published works in almost every form. His three-act opera, Tartuffe, was performed 18 times by the Vienna Kammeroper in its "20th Century Classics" series to rave reviews and "frenetic applause". It has had some 300 performances in six countries. Songs of the Slave, a suite for bass-baritone, soprano, chorus and orchestra from his opera, John Brown, has been performed in every part of the country, most recently by the Detroit and Baltimore symphony orchestras.

ASCAP registered performances of Mechem's music in 42 countries last year. Mechem was guest of honor at the 1990 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and was invited back for an all-Mechem symphonic concert by the USSR Radio-Television Orchestra in 1991. The concert was recorded by Melodiya and released on the Russian Disc label. Mechem was born and raised in Kansas and educated at Stanford and Harvard universities. He conducted and taught at Stanford and was for several years composer-in-residence at the University of San Francisco. He lived in Vienna for three years where he came to the attention of Josef Krips, who later championed Mechem's music as conductor of the San Francisco Symphony.

Mechem's talents have been acknowledged through numerous honors, including retrospectives, grants, commissions and special anniversary performances. They have come from, among many others, the United Nations, the National Gallery, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Choral Directors Association, the Music Educators National Conference, and the National Opera Association (Lifetime Achievement Award).

Vocal music is at the heart of Mechem's work. He has been called the "dean of American choral composers." Seven doctoral dissertations have been written on his choral music. What the Choral Journal called "characteristic Mechem style: singing lines, imaginative and varied use of rhythm and texture for expressive ends" describes his instrumental music as well. His comic opera, The Newport Rivals, an American adaptation of Sheridan's classic play, The Rivals, will be premiered in 2006 by Lyric Opera San Diego, followed by performances by a consortium of other companies. The premiere of John Brown, a large-scale opera about the American abolitionist, is scheduled for the 2007-2008 season at Lyric Opera Kansas City to celebrate the company's 50th anniversary and the opening of its new opera house. Mechem is currently composing an opera based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

 

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