Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Saint Mary’s debuts 7th Kaplan Commission Sept. 28

The premiere performance of Larry Bitenski's Jewish oral folk tale "Katanya" will be Sept. 28 at Saint Mary's.
WINONA, Minn. — A joint performance of the Saint Mary’s University Concert Band, Chamber Singers and Choirs will feature the world-premiere composition, “Katanya” during a family-oriented fall concert 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, at Page Theatre.

“Katanya,” written by Larry Bitensky of Centre College, Danville, Ky., is a Jewish oral folk tale from Turkey that tells a variation of the familiar Tom Thumb/Thumbelina story. Bitensky will serve as the tale’s on-stage narrator during the Concert Band premiere, which includes Jewish folk songs the composer heard as a youth.

“Katanya” was commissioned by the Helen and Sam Kaplan Foundation, which supports performances and activities led by Jewish artists and scholars that are designed to increase cultural and religious understanding at Saint Mary’s. Bitensky is SMU’s seventh Kaplan composer.

Known for music described as “extraordinarily sensitive and beautiful” and “speaking directly to the heart,” Bitensky, a composer and pianist, has been hailed for works that are satisfying for performers and communicative to audiences.

Born in 1966 in New York, and educated at Skidmore College, the New England Conservatory of Music, Ithaca College, and Cornell University, Bitensky’s musical personality is rooted in a range of influences. He often seeks to merge the complex structures and expressive range of the classical masters and the innovations of the 20th-century greats with the melodic and rhythmic invention and improvisatory flow of musical traditions from India, Indonesia, the Islamic and Jewish worlds, jazz, and the Grateful Dead. His travels as part of the Centre College study abroad program have also allowed him to explore firsthand the musical cultures of Morocco, Spain, Turkey and Bali.

Recorded on Mark Records and Sea Breeze Vista records, Bitensky’s music has been performed by numerous ensembles and at various festivals around North America, Europe and Asia. His music is published by Silly Black Dog Music.
Bitensky is an associate professor of music at Centre College. He lives in Lancaster, Ky., with his wife Kathy and his silly black dog Chloe.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students and are available online at or at the SMU Box Office, (507) 457-1715, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

This performance is just one of several events scheduled during SMU Family Weekend, Sept. 27-29, that highlights the musical and theatrical talents of Saint Mary’s students.