Sampson earns grant to create micro-opera

Monday January 28, 2019Lisa Eikenburg
Jamie Leigh Sampson
Jamie Leigh Sampson

Composer, bassoonist, author and entrepreneur Jamie Leigh Sampson of the School of Music was awarded a Tri-County Arts Council 2019 Individual Artist Grant for the creation of a new micro-opera, “Immortal Games,” to be written for the Quince Ensemble.

Much like the early 20th century opera “Hand of Bridge” by Samuel Barber, “Immortal Games” will capture the battle moves and internal monolog of two characters playing a game of chess. Ms. Sampson noted that micro-operas have recently faced a surge of popularity as opera companies face financial strain.

“Immortal Games” is planned as a stand-alone work that can either be incorporated into a standard concert, or fit into a night of elaborate opera scenes. The libretto, written by Sampson and collaborator Andrew Martin Smith, uses the movements of “The Immortal Game” of chess played in London in 1851 between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky.

The new opera will premirer in Rosch Recital Hall at Fredonia in the fall semester.

Sampson teaches music composition, theory, and entrepreneurship at Fredonia. She is also the co-owner of ADJ•ective New Music and director of Engagement and Marketing for the Composer Diversity Project. She has written works for Amanda DeBoer Bartlett, Kayleigh Butcher, Ensemble Dal Niente and the Quince Ensemble. Her compositions have been described as “impressionistic, enabling the listener to focus on the beauty, timbre, and nuance of the singing” and “transcendentally moving” by the Brooklyn Rail. Her first published resource, “Contemporary Techniques for Bassoon: Multiphonics”  documents thoroughly tested multiphonic fingerings for bassoon, identifying and eliminating those found to be unreliable, and presents 271 stable fingerings in a concise and cogent format for bassoonists and composers. The book has been described as, “a jewel and necessity for all bassoonists,” by Thomas Dempster.

Sampson noted the Quince Ensemble displays the precision and flexibility of modern chamber musicians, and is changing the paradigm of contemporary vocal music. Described as "the Anonymous 4 of new music" by Opera News, the group is reportedly continually pushing the boundaries of vocal ensemble literature.

The New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program (DEC) was developed to ensure New York State cultural funding reached every part of the state. DEC funding provides support for community-based arts and cultural activities through a local decision-making grant process that reflects the unique character of each community. In 2000, the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) appointed the Cattaraugus County Arts Council (now the Tri-County Arts Council) to administer the DEC Program for Cattaraugus, and soon after gained administration of Allegany and Chautauqua counties.

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