S.E.M. Ensemble to Perform Three Concerts in May

Source: S.E.M. Ensemble.

S.E.M. Ensemble Presents

Petr Kotik’s Letters to Olga (1988)
With text by Václav Havel
For two narrators, winds and guitars

World premiere of
Kotik’s The Lost Guitar (2021)
For solo guitar

Sunday, May 16 @ 5 pm
Willow Place Auditorium – Outside Yard
25 Columbia Place, Brooklyn

Wednesday, May 19 @ 7 pm
93 Allen Street, NYC

Thursday, May 20 @ 7 pm
Kentler International Drawing Space*
353 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn

The S.E.M. Ensemble, directed by Petr Kotik, will perform an in-person mini-tour across Brooklyn and Manhattan on May 16th, 19th and 20th. Since each concert will have limited seating in accordance with current COVID-19 guidelines, the ensemble will offer the same program three times to reach an audience similar to a single, pre-COVID concert. The programs will include Petr Kotik’s Letters to Olga (1988) – a 50-minute piece for two narrators, four winds and three guitars, which uses text from letters that Václav Havel wrote to his wife while imprisoned for political activities from 1979 to 1982; Havel would go on to become the first president of Czechoslovakia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The concerts will also feature the world premiere of Kotik’s new solo guitar piece The Lost Guitar, performed by Xander Naylor.

Kotik composed Letters to Olga in 1988, during a time of major political upheaval in Europe. Havel’s letters cover a broad range of topics, from descriptions of jail to ruminations on modern life. “It was this mixture of profound and trivial, meditative and practical, the continuous and discontinuous stream of thought that attracted me to the text,” Kotik explains. “Upon learning about my composition, Václav was thrilled, and encouraged me to use the text in any way I needed to complete the piece.” Letters to Olga was premiered at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York on December 19, 1989, and Václav Havel was elected president of Czechoslovakia on December 29th of that same year. It has not been performed since 2010.

The Lost Guitar was composed in 2021 for the Slovakian guitarist Ondrej Veselý and is dedicated to the memory of Morton Feldman. The title refers to a guitar piece Feldman composed for Christian Wolff, which was irretrievably lost.

(On view at Kentler: Joanne Howard’s exhibition SKID MARKS through May 30th)

The May 16th performance will take in the yard adjacent to the Willow Place Auditorium, located at 25 Columbia Place, Brooklyn. In case of rain, it will be moved inside. FREE/RSVP Required. To RSVP, visit http://www.eventbrite.com/e/letters-to-olga-and-the-lost-guitar-outside-the-willow-place-auditorium-tickets-153047002705

The May 19th performance will take place at WhiteBox Gallery, located at 93 Allen St, NYC. Tickets: $15 General. To order tickets, visit sem-at-whitebox.bpt.me

The May 20th performance will take place at Kentler International Drawing Space, located at 353 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn. Tickets: $15 General. To order tickets, visit sem-at-kestler.bpt.me

Petr Kotik: Letters to Olga (1988)
Petr Kotik: The Lost Guitar (2021)

The S.E.M. Ensemble
Petr Kotik, director/conductor
Ashley Robyn Patten, narrator
Zach Hendrickson, narrator
Roberta Michel, flute
Laura Cocks, flute
Sam Jones, trumpet
Clint McLendon, trumpet
Xander Naylor, guitar
Chris Nappi, guitar
Troy Rinker, bass guitar