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Work of the Week – Katherine Balch: Illuminate

And just like that, we find ourselves exploring the first work of spring! Katherine Balch’s work Illuminate follows the seasons through a cycle of five movements, beginning and ending with spring. On 26 March 2022, Donato Cabrera conducts the world premiere of the work at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, California. Sopranos Molly Netter and Alexandra Smither alongside mezzo-soprano Kelly Guerra are accompanied by the California Symphony Orchestra.

The part of Women in Illuminate by Katherine Balch

In her new work, Balch expresses her passions for literary tradition within her composition, using text from some of her most favoured  poets; Sharon Olds, Adrienne Rich, Alejandra Pizarnik, Sappho, as well as lyricist Arthur Rimbaud. The piece is not only written for and by women,but relates to Balch’s personal experience defining femininity. It showcases her devotions to the text and how varied they are in their expressions of femininity. 

Illuminate is characterised by opulent orchestration and large-scale percussion, including unusual instruments such as flower pots, stones and eggs. The musical setting of the libretto is also unique: verses are extended, deconstructed or performed using extended techniques. 

“I hope the piece will be heard as a joyful outpouring, because that’s what I feel when I think about these texts, the women they represent to me, and the women who will be singing them” Katherine Balch

A second performance of Illuminate will take place on 27 March at the Lesher Center for the Arts.


photo: Lanz Photography