When The Gesualdo Six, a UK-based men’s vocal consort, recently announced the results of its worldwide choral competition, Jacob Beranek – Midsummer’s Music’s 20-year-old composer-in-residence – was a winner.
The Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, native earned the top spot in the 21 Years and Under category with his composition “Abendgebet” (“Evening Prayer”), which The Gesualdo Six will premiere in London’s Cadogan Hall on March 7.
Beranek’s piece is based on a text by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, theologian and anti-Nazi dissident. The Gestapo arrested Bonhoeffer in 1943. He was imprisoned, transferred to a Nazi concentration camp and executed in 1945 after he was accused of being part of a plot to assassinate Hitler. Bonhoeffer wrote the evening-prayer text while in prison.
“Writing this piece was a huge growing experience for me – and a joyful one,” said Beranek. “I’ve never had music come to me so quickly, even though it was difficult to set a text entirely in German and write for six independent voices. I’m just so honored that my music was chosen to memorialize Bonhoeffer and all that he stood for in this way.”
Owain Park, director of The Gesualdo Six, wrote, “We were all thrilled with the standard of the entries, 306 in total, which arrived from six continents in a variety of interesting styles. Singing through the pieces has been an immensely enjoyable experience, and it is heartening to see composers writing so well for the ensemble’s specific requirements.”
Beranek has earned many awards for his compositions, which have been performed around the U.S. and internationally. He recently traveled to the Czech Republic for the European premiere of his wind-band piece “Památník” (“Memorial”), performed at Prague Castle in November. He is studying music composition at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music in Nashville and will spend his third summer this year as Midsummer’s Music’s first composer-in-residence.
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