Christian Asplund
Christian Asplund

Utah-based Melissa Heath and Christian Asplund will perform an eclectic mix of American, European, and Canadian works for soprano with piano at BYU’s Madsen Recital Hall with special guests.

The program will include both well-known and obscure delights by Ives, mysteriously lyrical songs by Ligeti and Lutoslawski, an early cycle by Messiaen, Aria 2 by Cage (with his Concert for Piano), charmingly laconic miniatures from Webern’s Op. 12 cycle, Sun Ra’s Interstellar Low Ways, a Javanese tinged-song by Jarrad Powell, and sacred and secular sundries by Asplund. 

Christian Asplund spent the ‘90s in Seattle as a kingpin of a burgeoning post-classical/post-jazz scene that that ran in tandem with the city’s better-known grunge movement, often sharing performance venues and audiences.  He was cofounder of Seattle Experimental Opera, Seattle Composers Salon, and Seattle Experimental Opera Cabaret.  After floating around a bit, Asplund ended up in Provo, Utah where he is a Composer in Residence and Professor of Music at Brigham Young University.  In his 17 years there, he has presided over a burgeoning experimental house concert circuit that includes the Avant GaRAWge, and Locust Salon which he created and curates. 

Soprano Melissa Heath is a frequent soloist with the Utah Symphony, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and Utah Lyric Opera.  They shared a love for the song cycles of Schumann and began a fruitful collaboration.  Their performances are distinguished by the sometimes irreverent yet cohesive improvised interludes that connect songs, often of quite disparate style and era.  They employ an eclectic mix of repertoire that includes lesser-known vocal works by well-known modern/postmodern composers as well as a fair amount of Asplund’s own inscrutable vocal works.

Bios:

Christian Asplund is a Canadian-American composer-performer based in Utah where he teaches at Brigham Young University.  His interests have included the intersections of text/music, improvisation/composition, and modular textures/forms.  He has received awards and grants from Genesis Foundation, Barlow Endowment, Artistrust, King County, ASCAP, Alpert Foundation and Jack Straw Foundation.  He has performed and recorded with Stuart Dempster, John Butcher, Malcolm Goldstein, Christian Wolff, Willy Winant, Eyvind Kang, Reggie Watts, Tim Young, etc.  His teachers have included Thea Musgrave, Alvin Curran, Stuart Dempster, John Rahn, and Joel-Francois Durand and he has degrees in composition from University of Washington, Mills College, and Brigham Young University.  His scores are published by Frog Peak Music.  His articles and chapters and a book have appeared in Perspectives of New MusicAmerican Music, Illinois University Press, and University of Washington Press.  His recordings appear on Tzadik, Comprovised, Maritime Fist Gleeclub, Sparkling Beatnik, Present Sounds, etc.  Press: “passion”, “panoramic power”, “pure pointillist”, “plaintive”, “painstaking”, “rhythmically toothy”, “rocking”, “remarkable”, “rollicking”, “searing”, “subdued”, “soothing”, “submersive”, “splendid”, “unique”, “enjoyable”, “ethereal”, “mesmerizing”, “mind-blowing”, “otherworldly”, “absorbing”, “intelligent”, “idiosyncratic”, “distinctive”, “captivating”, “bewitching”. He teaches at Brigham Young University.

Soprano Melissa Heath enjoys a varied career of opera, concert and recital work.  Hailed as a “soaring, sparkling soprano” with “vivacious stage presence,” recent opera roles include Countess in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Micaëla in Bizet’s Carmen. Recent concert work includes Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and both Mozart’s Requiem and Mass in c minor with the Temple Square Chorale and Orchestra at Temple Square, Handel’s Messiah with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate with Sinfonia Salt Lake. With Utah Symphony, Ms. Heath has performed both Nielsen’s Symphony no. 3 and Handel’s Messiah. Last fall she was the soprano soloist with Ballet West in choreographer Nicolo Fonte’s world premiere of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. This Spring Dr. Heath sang Schubert lieder and a Messiaen cycle on NOVA Chamber Music Series’ season finale concert. Ms. Heath was a district winner in the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions, and in 2012 and 2014 was a regional finalist in the National Association of Teachers of Singing’s biennial art song competition. Ms. Heath is an Assistant Professor of music and the Vocal Area Coordinator in the Department of Music at Utah Valley University. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in voice from Brigham Young University, and her Master of Music and Doctorate of Musical Arts degrees in voice from the University of Utah.

Diane Thueson Reich, soprano, is an Associate Professor of Voice, and Division Coordinator for Classical Voice at Brigham Young University. She has previously taught and been the Director of Opera at Central Washington University.  She has earned doctoral and master’s degrees from Indiana University.

At home in the concert hall or opera stage, she has appeared in major operatic roles such as Marguerite in Faust, Anne Trulove in The Rake’s Progress, the title role in Strauss’ Arabella, Nanetta in Falstaff, Rosina in The Ghosts of Versailles, Mimì in La Bohème, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Valenncienne in The Merry Widow, and Antonia in The Tales of Hoffman.  Dr. Reich has performed with professional opera and theater companies, including the Utah Festival Opera Company, Opera West, Indiana University Opera Theater, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma City, and River City Players.  She created the role of Rosamond in the world premiere of Michael Valenti’s opera, Beau Nash, performed with Portland Chamber Orchestra.  

Dr. Reich has been a guest artist with Icicle Creek Music Festival, Third Angle Ensemble in Portland, OR; and also appeared with the Yakima and Walla Walla Symphonies, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Utah Chamber Orchestra, Indiana University Philharmonic, and Indiana State and Utah State University orchestras, as well as soloing in the northwest premiere of George Crumb’s Star Child in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall. She has performed as a featured soloist with Vietnam National Opera and Ballet Company in Hanoi, a guest soloist with the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic in Russia, sung several concerts throughout Vietnam and China, and been a featured guest recitalist and master teacher in Pescara, Italy.  

A multiple Metropolitan Opera Audition winner in both the Utah and Indiana Districts, Dr. Reich also won first place in the Vera Scammon International S.O.S. Voice Competition, and was a finalist with The American Prize in Vocal Performance—Friedrich and Virginia Schorr Memorial Awards, in both the art song and opera/operetta divisions. She has been the recipient of numerous scholarship and academic awards as well. Dr. Reich’s research endeavors have led her to be a leading authority on the vocal music of contemporary composer Henry Mollicone.  

Dr. Reich’s students have gone on to prestigious graduate programs with Indiana University, University of Houston, Arizona State University and University of Missouri-Kansas City. Students have also been accepted to participate in training programs throughout the world.

Monte Belknap has performed at the International Music Festival of the Adriatic in Italy, The George Enescu International Violin Competition in Romania, The Barge Music Series in NYC, and served as concertmaster of the Illinois Symphony and Chamber Orchestras. After a performance of the Barber Concerto with the BYU Philharmonic, critic, Ed Reichel stated:

“Belknap captured the eloquence of the music with his luxurious playing that embraced the lyricism fully…. Belknap’s fingers certainly flew up and down the fingerboard. And his dexterity was paired with a lightness that brought a shimmering quality to the music. It was a tour de force performance.”

In 2010, Professor Belknap was awarded “Studio Teacher of the Year” by the Utah State Chapter of the American String Teachers Association (ASTA). He studied with the world-renowned pedagogues Kurt Sassmannshaus and Dorothy DeLay at the University of Cincinnati, College–Conservatory of Music, and also served as a faculty member of the prestigious Starling Preparatory String Project and as an assistant of Mr. Sassmannshaus. He is enjoying his fifteenth year teaching at Brigham Young University–School of Music. His students have won competitions across the United States, including seven performances in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City in the last four years.

He currently serves as the concertmaster and soloist with the LA East recording studio and has been the featured violin soloist on many sound tracks including “The Work and the Glory” movies, the “The Iceland Saints”, the online video games “Lord of the Rings” and “Dungeons and Dragons”. He shared the stage, performing chamber music with international artists Jeffrey Solow, Scott Ballentyne, Steve Balderston, Mark Kosower, John Novacek, Denise Djokic, Menahim Pressler, and Miriam Fried.

In the summers, Belknap teaches and performs at Brigham Young University’s Summerfest Music Festival; the International Music Festival of the Adriatic in Duino, Italy; and at the Park City Beethoven Festival in Utah.

He performs on either of his two violins, made by Jordan Hess in Salt Lake City in 2016.

Kate Monson holds an MFA in choreography from Ohio State University (’99) where she studied under nationally and internationally known dancers such as Bebe Miller, Tere O’Connor and Susan Hadley. She holds a BA in dance from BYU (’96). Kate is co-producer with Kori Wakamatsu (Assistant Professor, BYU) of the On Sites: Mobile Dance Series, which presents concert quality dance in non-traditional spaces around Utah Valley. She is invested in the research of dance conditioning including a conditioning program she co-created with Amy Markgraf Jacobson (Associate Professor, Utah Valley University) for collegiate modern dancers. She is certified to teach Labanotation and has reconstructed works from score by Lester Horton, Bebe Miller, Yvonne Rainer, Anna Sokolow, and others.

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