Arts & Entertainment

Grammy-winning composer set to be artist in residence

There is an emerging arts movement that will see Tri-City artists taking a more active role in the community's environment, health, economic vitality and history.

Case in point is the upcoming appearance of Grammy-winning composer Libby Larsen.

She'll be the artist in residence Feb. 17-21 for the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers choral group.

"Her residency will focus on three performances of her extended work, Missa Gaia: Mass for the Earth," said Mastersingers director Justin Raffa.

Larsen described the composition as a piece of architecture that speaks to the relationship between humans and the Earth in the form and spirit of a traditional mass.

"I am deeply attached to this piece, which I actually wrote about 25 years ago," Larsen said in a phone interview this week from her studio in Minneapolis. "We all have a responsibility to the Earth, and the text to this piece is both sacred and secular in nature."

Larsen, 59, is one of America's most prolific and most-performed living composers, having created a cache of more than 400 compositions.

She earned a Grammy for her 1994 album release titled How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnets From the Portuguese).

Larsen also is the co-founder of the Minnesota Composers Forum, now called the American Composers Forum, and is a former chairwoman of the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress. She's also held residencies with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony and the Colorado Symphony.

"I am so looking forward to visiting the Tri-Cities," she said. "Helping to give voice to issues through music is a responsibility all musicians should address. I know it's important to me."

"I chose to pursue Libby for a residency because she is a significant member of the musical community, (and that) her role as a full-time, female composer in the U.S.," Raffa said. "This is a rare occupation in our country today, especially in a field that has historically been male-dominated."

As part of the residency program, Larsen will teach master classes on composing and writing music to the Mastersingers choral group, as well as to students at Columbia Basin College, Chiawana High School in Pasco and Chief Joseph Middle School in Richland.

She also plans to talk to local service clubs.

"There is a big difference between writing music and composing it, which is part of what I'll be teaching," she said. "Besides composing, coaching singers and musicians is what Mozart and Beethoven did in their day."

The Mastersingers will perform Larsen's Missa Gaia at 7 p.m. Feb. 19-20 and at 3 p.m. Feb. 21 in the auditorium at Chief Joseph Middle School. A reception will follow the concerts.

Cost are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and college students. Students in grades K-12 are free. Tickets are being sold at the Tri-City area Bookworm stores and at the door.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;