Vassar College

Vassar College's sixth annual "Modfest" of contemporary music, dance, art, and poetry. January 25 - February 3, 2008

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and pianist David Del Tredici, acclaimed composer Lou Harrison, work by choreographer Mark Morris performed by the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre, The Mannes Trio, a centennial concert dedicated to French composer Olivier Messiaen, as well as student music ensembles, poets, and artists, will highlight Vassar College's sixth annual "Modfest." The festival will take place on two successive weekends beginning Friday, January 25 through Sunday, February 3. Modfest will once again offer an exciting mix of music, dance, poetry, and art of the past hundred years to the community – including performances, workshops, art exhibits, lectures, and conversations with artists. In past years, Modfest has been a platform for other major modern composers including Pulitzer Prize winners Yehudi Wyner, Mario Davidosky, and Aaron Copland.

All programs are free and open to the public, and for more information call (845) 437-7294 or go to

Featured Artists


Composer David Del Tredici (left, photo by Paula Court, 2007) is generally recognized as the "father of the Neo-Romantic movement" in classical music – and his works will be celebrated throughout Modfest. Del Tredici has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for In Memory of a Summer Day. He has been commissioned and performed by nearly every major American and European orchestral ensemble.

Much of his early work consisted of elaborate vocal settings of James Joyce (I Hear an Army; Night Conjure-Verse; Syzygy) and Lewis Carroll (Pop-Pourri, An Alice Symphony, Vintage Alice and Adventures Underground, to name a few). More recently, Del Tredici has set to music a cavalcade of contemporary American poets, often celebrating a gay sensibility.

"Del Tredici," said Aaron Copland, "is that rare find among composers – a creator with a truly original gift. I venture to say that his music is certain to make a lasting impression on the American musical scene. I know of no other composer of his generation … who composes music of greater freshness and daring, or with more personality."

Del Tredici will participate in both weekends of Modfest. During the first weekend, he will coach student groups in performances of his work (1/26, 10:30 am), he will appear as a pianist in a January 26 evening program, and The Mannes Trio will perform his music during their program (1/27, 3:00 pm). During the second weekend, Del Tredici will host a public conversation, along with Richard Wilson of Vassar's Music Department (2/2, 2:00pm).


Lou Harrison has been on the vanguard of American composers for half a century. Harrison's highly acclaimed work juxtaposes and synthesizes musical dialects from virtually every corner of the globe, transcending cultural boundaries. His early compositions combined Western, Asian, African, and Latin American rhythmic influences with homemade "junk" instruments. Later, Harrison became a music critic for the Herald Tribune and embarked on a study of early European music. His masterpiece Grand Duo has been lauded as a powerful work that captures the essence of human life.

Harrison's Grand Duo will be performed by the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre under the direction of Vassar's Paul Mosley, with choreography by MARK MORRIS. Morris, an award-winning choreographer who has worked for The Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, the American Ballet Theatre, and the Boston Ballet among others, formed the Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980. Morris is known for his intense musicality and has been described as "undeviating in his devotion to music."


One of this country's oldest chamber music ensembles, The Mannes Trio (left, photo by Allen Cohen) was founded in the 1920s and today includes pianist Thomas Sauer from the Vassar music faculty, as well as violinist Hiroko Yajima and cellist Wilhelmina Smith. After a period of inactivity in mid-century, the trio was re-formed in 1982 and, in 1986, won the Walter W. Naumburg International Chamber Music Award. The trio serves as ensemble-in-residence at the Mannes College of Music in New York.


Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) is a celebrated French composer, organist, and teacher known for creating his own distinct musical voice. Messiaen achieved this by taking rhythmic ideas from India, ancient Greece, and the Orient – and, most importantly, by adapting the songs of birds from around the world. His most famous works include Quatuor pour la fin du temps and Turangalila-symphonie. Vassar organist Gail Archer will pay tribute to this musician, who is widely regarded as one of the most influential French composers of the 19th century, in an Olivier Messiaen Centennial Concert.

Modfest Summary

Modfest will kick off with the Olivier Messiaen Centennial Concert in the Vassar Chapel on the evening of Friday, January 25, which includes a pre-concert talk by Music Department Chair Kathryn Libin. The first weekend will also include a Saturday morning open rehearsal as David Del Tredici coaches the Mahagonny Ensemble, a Saturday afternoon recitation of music and poetry with an exhibit of student art, an evening of mostly solos later Saturday which also includes David Del Tredici, and The Mannes Trio on Sunday afternoon.

The Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre's performance of Lou Harrison's Grand Duo, choreographed by Mark Morris, will open Modfest's second weekend. A workshop on The Contemporary Viola will be held Saturday morning, followed by an afternoon public conversation with David Del Tredici and Vassar Music Professor Richard Wilson. Later on Saturday afternoon, a celebration of Art, Poetry, and Music centered on the Saul Steinberg: Illuminations exhibition will take place at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center – followed by a gallery talk by William K. McManus of the Vassar Art Department on the Steinberg exhibit and the art center's permanent collection. On Saturday evening, the Vassar College Orchestra and Mahagonny Ensemble, with soprano Rachel Rosales, will perform with conductors Eduardo Navega and Lidiya Yankovskaya, '08. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, the Vassar College Women's Chorus and the Community Wind Ensemble will be conducted by Christine R. Howlett and James Osborn.

Parallel to Modfest, ongoing exhibits at the college include Saul Steinberg: Illuminations, a major retrospective of the famed New Yorker artist at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center; A Life in Art and Letters: Priscilla Morgan, drawn from the personal papers of an influential alumna with a long history of supporting the arts, in the Vassar College Library; Teen Visions, the Art Institute of Mill Street Loft's juried show of high school student work, in the Palmer Gallery in the College Center; and Modfest 2008 in the Vassar College Music Library in Skinner Hall.

Modfest Calendar Listings

All Modfest programs will be held at the college's Skinner Hall of Music, unless otherwise indicated.

January 2008
Fri., Jan. 25, 8:00 p.m.
Modfest 1: Olivier Messaien Centennial Concert
Gail Archer, organ
Pre-concert talk by Kathryn Libin
Vassar Chapel
A tribute to the French composer, organist, and teacher Olivier Messaien
Sat., Jan. 26, 10:30 a.m.
Modfest 2: Open Rehearsal with David Del Tredici
David Del Tredici, coaching
Mahagonny Ensemble
Performing David Del Tredici's Haddock's Eyes
Sat., Jan. 26, 2:30 p.m.
Modfest 3: Art, Music, and Poetry
Hosted by Judy "J.J." Jackson, dean of the college
Music recital and poetry ready by students of the Music and English Departments, with an exhibit of student art works
Villard Room, Main Building (2nd floor)
Sat., Jan. 26, 8:00 p.m.
Modfest 4: An Evening of Mostly Solos
Sophie Shao, cello; Moran Katz, clarinet; Lisa Boost-Sandberg, flutes; Peter McCulloch, electronics; Yann Dubost, bass; Jie Chen, harpsichord; David Del Tredici, piano; Adrienne Elisha, viola.
Music of Del Tredici, Elisha, Henze, Kirchner, McCulloch, Meltzer, Stravinsky, and Wilson
Sun., Jan. 27, 3:00 p.m.
Modfest 5: The Mannes Trio
Hiroko Yajima, violin; Wilhelmina Smith, cello; Thomas Sauer, piano
Music of Robert Middleton and David Del Tredici
February 2008
Fri., Feb. 1, 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Modfest 6: Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre
Featuring Grand Duo by Lou Harrison
Choreography by Mark Morris
Daniel Pressler, piano, and Sebastian Weinberg '09, violin
Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater, Kenyon Hall
Reservation line: (845) 437–7470
Sat., Feb. 2, 10:30 a.m.
Modfest 7: Workshop – The Contemporary Viola
Presentation on its uses and repertoire by Adrienne Elisha
Thekla Hall, Skinner Hall of Music
Sat., Feb. 2, 2:00 p.m.
Modfest 8: Public conversation with David Del Tredici and Richard Wilson
Thekla Hall, Skinner Hall of Music
Sat., Feb. 2, 4:00 p.m.
Modfest 9: Art, Poetry, and Music
Saul Steinberg: lluminations – an exhibition at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
Reception with original poetry and prose by Vassar College English Department students
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College
Sat., Feb. 2, 5:00 p.m.
Modfest 10: Lecture by William K. McManus, Vassar College Art Department
Gallery talk focusing on the permanent collection photography, art, and on Saul Steinberg
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
Sat., Feb. 2, 8:00 p.m.
Modfest 11: Vassar College Orchestra and Vassar Mahagonny Ensemble
Rachel Rosales, soprano; Eduardo Navega and Lidiya Yankovskaya '08, conductors
Sun., Feb. 3, 3:00 p.m.
Modfest 12: Vassar College Women's Chorus and Community Wind Ensemble
Christine R. Howlett and James Osborn, conductors

All Modfest programs are free admission and open to the public. For further information contact Karen Murley, Concert Administrator for the Department of Music, at (845) 437-7294.

Skinner Hall of Music, Main Building, Kenyon Hall, and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center are wheelchair-accessible, and individuals with disabilities should contact Cathy Jennings, Campus Activities Office, (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available.

Free parking is available at Skinner Hall, and the campus's adjoining south parking lot. Directions to the Vassar College campus in the Town of Poughkeepsie are available at

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations or information on accessibility should contact Campus Activities, (845) 437–5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Skinner Hall of Music [photo]
Skinner Hall of Music is air-conditioned and wheelchair-accessible.  Concerts are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.

For up-to-date information on all music concerts, please call Karen A. Murley, concert administrator, at (845) 437-7294.

People with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370.

Related Links

124 Raymond Ave., Poughkeepsie, NY 12604