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Lisa NeherPortland, OR
Portland, Oregon mezzo-soprano and composer Lisa Neher (DMA) thrives in the crossroads of the concert hall and the theatre stage. Trained as a stage actress, she is equally at home in the worlds of opera and spoken theatre, bringing dramatic specificity and committed physicality to her performances. Lisa’s compositions are shaped by her keen sense of dramatic timing and feature aching, lyrical phrases, energetic rhythmic motives, and intensely dissonant pitch clusters.
Lisa’s musical-theatrical fluency and passion for contemporary music have led to engagements such as the first staged version of Sun Songs: Three Micro-Operas by Augusta Read Thomas with the Center for New Music, the world premiere of Aaron Israel Levin’s Fiumana, for mezzo-soprano singing while playing the bass drum, and the leading role of Jennifer in the world premiere of Rita Ueda’s chamber opera One Thousand White Paper Cranes for Japan with the Singaporean ensemble Chamber Sounds. Lisa is an active advocate for new music, frequently premiering new works as well as established masterworks of the last fifty years. She is the creator of the One Voice Project, a one-woman performance combining contemporary poetry and new musical works for unaccompanied voice chosen through a call for scores initiative. Lisa is in high demand as a concert soloist with groups such as the Central Iowa Symphony, the Grinnell Oratorio Singers, and the Chamber Singers of Iowa City.
Lisa was recently heard at New Music Gathering, the Iowa Composers Forum, the International Saxophone Symposium, and with Resonance vocal ensemble in Portland. This spring she will sing works by Susan Alexjander and Andrea Reinkemeyer with Friends of Rain New Music Ensemble in Portland and perform her own music at the Washington State University New Music Festival in Pullman.
Lisa’s compositions include solo and chamber music for instruments and vocal works in the operatic, song, and choral genres. Her particular passion for text and poetry has led to works such as her chamber opera White Horizon, about a nineteenth-century Arctic expedition gone wrong, and her song cycle Snapshots, which she performed at the Cortona Sessions for New Music in Italy. Lisa was selected to take part in the inaugural year of the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, which mentors emerging composers. Her commissions include works for Durward Ensemble, Resonance Saxophone Orchestra, the Glass City Singers, In Motus Tuba Quartet, pianist Michael Kirkendoll, flutist Rose Bishop, and violinist Catie Moritz. Lisa is a member of Cascadia Composers, the Iowa Composers Forum and ASCAP.
Lisa is adjunct professor of musicology at Lewis & Clark College. She has served on faculty at Coe College, Kirkwood Community College and Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, teaching applied voice and applied composition, and maintains a vigorous private studio. Lisa graduated summa cum laude from Lewis & Clark College with degrees in vocal performance, music composition, and theatre, and holds a master’s degree in music composition from the University of Kansas and a Doctor of Musical Arts in voice performance and pedagogy from the University of Iowa. She is a vocal student of Stephen Swanson, Katherine Eberle, Julia Broxholm, and Susan McBerry, and studied composition under the tutelage of Michael Johansen and Forrest Pierce.
The Vulture by Jonah Elrod, Performed by Lisa Neher
Lisa Neher performs Jonah Elrod’s The Vulture for unaccompanied voice. This piece is a winner of the One Voice Project call for scores. Elrod’s piece explores the vulture as a symbol of the interconnected nature of the food chain and ecosystems, as the vulture yearns to consume and become one with her meal. Clusters of consonants express the eager hunger of the vulture, while lyrical vocalises verge on tenderness.
American Waters by Lisa Neher, performed by Lisa Neher
American Waters explores bodies of water as literal and metaphorical barriers between us and the places and people we know and love. As a nation of immigrants, our histories are rich with stories of family coming to the US across oceans or traveling from one side of this continent to another. I created the text for this piece by stitching together fragments of folk songs. These fragments are like hints of memories from the past which are reinvented with new melodic lines. Whispered sounds emulate the noises of splashing surf and crashing waves.
Twister by Lisa Neher
For this piece, commissioned by Durward Ensemble, I was inspired by the raw power and terrifying beauty of tornadoes. “Twister” delves into the tornado as a shadowy force to be reckoned with, a display of the awesome might and supremacy of nature. The piece opens with a variety of sound effect noises that evoke gathering winds, hail, and thunder. At other moments, boisterous, asymmetrical melodies represent the strength of the tornado while flurries of activity evoke frenzied winds.
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