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Lembit Beecher

New York, NY      

Praised by The San Francisco Chronicleas “hauntingly lovely and deeply personal,” Lembit Beecher’s music combines “alluring” textures (The New York Times) and vividly imaginative colors with striking emotional immediacy. Noted for his collaborative spirit and “ingenious” interdisciplinary projects (The Wall Street Journal), Lembit has served three-year terms as the Music Alive composer-in-residence of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the inaugural composer-in-residence of Opera Philadelphia in collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group. Born to Estonian and American parents, Lembit grew up under the redwoods in Santa Cruz, California, a few miles from the wild Pacific. Since then he has lived in Boston, Houston, Ann Arbor, Berlin, New York and Philadelphia, earning degrees from Harvard, Rice and the University of Michigan. This varied background has made him particularly sensitive to place, ecology, memory, and the multitude of ways in which people tell stories.

Recent premieres include “Say Home” for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, “The Conference of the Birds” for A Far Cry, “One Hundred Years Grows Shorter Over Time” for the Juilliard String Quartet, and “Sky on Swings,” a chamber opera for Opera Philadelphia starring Frederica von Stade and Marietta Simpson. Based on a libretto by Hannah Moscovitch, the opera follows the relationship of two women diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “[Beecher] and [Moscovitch] have created a shattering musical and theatrical evocation of what it feels like to have Alzheimer’s disease,” wrote Heidi Waleson in the The Wall Street Journal. Many of Lembit’s latest projects involve the incorporation of untraditional elements into opera, symphonic works and chamber music, including baroque instruments, sampled interviews, animation, electronically-controlled sound sculptures and devised theatre actors. In 2015 he received a major grant from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage to develop and produce “Sophia’s Forest,” a chamber opera for soprano Kiera Duffy, the Aizuri Quartet, and a multi-piece sound sculpture, built in collaboration with architects and engineers at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University’s ExCITe Center.

The Grand Prize Winner of the S&R Foundation’s Washington Award, Lembit has served as Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Denison University, and has been in residence at the Copland House, MacDowell Colony, Penn Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, White Mountains Festival, Scrag Mountain Music, and the Decoda Skidmore Chamber Music Institute. Lembit’s primary teachers have included Evan Chambers, Bright Sheng, Karim Al-Zand, Pierre Jalbert, Kurt Stallmann and Bernard Rands. 

Sophia’s Wide Awake Dreams

Written for string quartet, custom music box, and electronically-controlled sound sculptures Sophia’s Wide Awake Dreams (2017) performed here by the Aizuri Quartet and Lembit Beecher, was adapted from the opera Sophia’s Forest. These two movements suggest the inner imaginative world of the protagonist, a 9-year old recent immigrant to the United States named Sophia. In the opera, Sophia confides in a music box that gradually comes alive in her mind, a mechanical creature both comforting and dangerous, who shields her from the outside world.

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“Nobody Dies Anymore” from the song cycle Looking at Spring: Meditations on Aging

Commissioned by the Vermont-based chamber music series, Scrag Mountain Music, Looking at Spring used interviews with senior citizens living in the community as the basis for an exploration of the many facets of aging. Librettist Liza Balkan culled short poems out of these conversations, often focusing on unexpected beautiful and humorous details of life, but also grappling with larger questions of mortality, loss and self-discovery. Performance by Scrag Mountain Music and animation by Lembit Beecher.

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The Conference of the Birds

A piece for 18 solo strings inspired by Peter Sís’s illustrated retelling of a 12th-century Sufi epic poem, commissioned and premiered by A Far Cry. What drew me to Sís’s book, aside from the expressive, textural drawings which so suggested music, was the deep sense of loss in the pages. So many birds are left by the wayside during their journey towards truth and self-discovery. Does progress or attempted progress always come at a cost? What are we to make of the hoopoe bird who leads so many to their deaths even as a few find enlightenment?

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