In the Wake of Deniz Küstü: New Commissions and Premieres for 2017-2018

October 9, 2016

Trommelsprachen – Languages of Drums (2017)

Commissioned by Siemens Foundation and Hans Neuhoff for Eight Bridges Festival, Cologne, Germany. (90-100’) Based on drum languages of India, Turkey and the Middle East, merged into a contemporary music context. For four percussion soloists and voice (V. Suresh, Fresco Zohar, Mısırlı Ahmet, Bodek Janke, Mariana Sodovska), with mixed cross-cultural ensemble.

Triple Concerto (2017-18)

for violin, viola, piano and chamber orchestra. Commissioned by Birsen Ulucan and premiered with Ayşen Ulcan, violin, Özcan Ulucan, viola/violin, Birsen Ulucan and Hungarian Chamber Orchestra in Budapest, dates tbd in Istanbul and Budapest, 2017-18 (15-18’)

Demon-desire (2017)

for bass and Bb clarinet, flute and cello. Commissioned by Ensemble Variances. April 24, 2017, St. George’s Bristol. (8’)

Virgo Israel Ornare (2016)

for cathedral choir
Commissioned by Emma Hornby and ERC for Old Hispanic Office project. Based on 9 century notation of Iberian (pre-Gregorian) chant.   Premiere: Christ Church Choir, Oxford, Stephen Darlington, director.   Bristol Cathedral, Febraury 28, 2017. (8’)

Deniz KüstüThe Sea-Crossed Fisherman (2016)

Total Music Theatre in four scenes. Simon Jones, Libretto/director. Zeynep , choreography. NOHlab, video performance.   Premiered June 11, 2016, Istanbul Music Festival, Hezarfen Ensemble, Gwion Thomas, Robyn Allgra Parton, Damian Thantrey, Louise Innes, Adam Green, Michael Rafferty, conductor. Based on 1978 novel of Yaşar Kemal. (75’)


Performances 2016-17

October 9, 2016

Vision of Black Elk for Contralto and 5 instruments (2015)
29 September 2016 8.30PM
Festival d’Ambronay / Opéra de Lyon
Ensemble Variances and Noa Frenkel

Vision of Black Elk for Contralto and 5 instruments (2015)
23 November 2016, 8PM
Opéra de Rouen / Chapelle Corneille
Ensemble Variances and Noa Frenkel

Vision of Black Elk for Contralto and 5 instruments (2015)
10 January 2017, 8PM
Théâtre de Cornouaille, France
Ensemble Variances and Noa Frenkel

Vision of Black Elk for Contralto and 5 instruments (2015)
12 August 2017
Ensemble Variances and Noa Frenkel
Cartinthische Festival, Austria

Vision of Black Elk for Contralto and 5 instruments (2015)
Arsenal de Metz/Reins Opera. France 24-28 January 2018.
Ensemble Variances and Noa Frenkel

Light into Shadows (2016) and Elif (2003)
3-5 April, 2017
Le Volcan/Le Fitz
Le Havre, France
Ensemble Variances with Neva Özgen and Serkan Halili

Light into Shadows (2016) and Elif (2003)
7 April, 2017
Théâtre du Château, Eu, France
Ensemble Variances with Neva Özgen and Serkan Halili

21 October, 2016, 20.00
Malta, Presidential Palace Cem Önertürk, Hezarfen Ensemble

22 October, 2016 19:30
Malta, St. James Creativity Center, Cem Önertürk, Hezarfen Ensemble

ERC Beyond East and West Workshops with Turkish Instruments and Hezarfen Ensemble
2-4 November
Istanbul: MIAM Centre for Advanced Studies in Music
Workshops with Turkish makam and Anatolian Folk instruments and voices,
Hezarfen Ensemble

24-27 November 2016 in NRW
North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW)
Platform/Ensemble for Transcultural New Music NRW (Matthias Mainz, project Director)

2 December 2016
Istanbul: MIAM Centre for Advanced Studies in Music
Workshops with Turkish makam instruments
Hezarfen Ensemble, members of Klangforum Wien
In association with Austrian Cultural Forum, Istanbul

28-30 May 2017
Istanbul: MIAM Centre for Advanced Studies in Music
Conference ‘Makam and Beyond’
Workshops with Turkish makam and Anatolian Folk instruments and voices
Hezarfen Ensemble concert of MIAM composers

Autumn 2017
Platform/Ensemble for Transcultural New Music NRW (Matthias Mainz, project Director)
Workshop with Musikhochschule Köln and ICEM, Folkwang Universität Essen. Concerts at Konzertforum Ruhr

Vision of Black Elk premières in Paris

February 1, 2015

When and Where: Festival Présences, Maison de Radio France, Paris on February 11, 2015, 20.00

Commissioned by Radio France for Ensemble Variances, and contralto Noa Frenkel, Vision of Black Elk takes texts from the seminal Black Elk Speaks, the text complied by John G. Neihardt of Black Elk’s vision in 1935.

Noa Frenkel 5

Black Elk Speaks is both the seminal document of the Lakota holy man’s experience of living at the time of Crazy Horse and the time of transition of the Lakota People from a free, nomadic people to a life on reservations, as well as his extraordinary, almost phantasmagoric vision, which first came to him at the age of 9 as expressed in this text, and then returned repeatedly in various forms throughout his lifetime, and which he eventually realized through the Horse Dance and other collectively performed rituals.


Composed entirely for low instruments in deference to the dark contralto sound, the work is divided into 5 sections or movements and runs continuously:

I. Thunder Beings
II. The Six Grandfathers
III. The Blue Man
IV. The Four Ascents
V. Return (Horse Dance)

February 11 is the composer’s 46th birthday,

Agenda 2014-15

April 15, 2014

23 February, 2014

Colston Hall
Bristol New Music Festival
Bristol Ensemble performs Duo (2001)

7 September, 2014

New Orchestral Movement: Aquarium (2014)
*Commissioned by New Music Southwest Contemporary Responses to Saint-Saens ‘Carnival of the Animals’
Bristol Ensemble – St. George’s, Bristol, UK

31 October, 2014 

String Quartet #3 (2013-UK Premiere)
Brodowski Quartet gives the UK premiere of this compact, 11 movement, dynamic quartet journey based on North American and Turkish riffs, subtitled ‘Fiddlin’
*Commissioned by Hal Myers, Arizona Friends of Chamber Music and Nova Chamber Music Series for Fry Street Quartet

February 11. 2015

New work for Ensemble Variances and Contralto Noa Frenkel *Commissioned by Radio France
Festival Présences
America, America

June 2015

New Work for Hezarfen Ensemble, Ensemble Variances, ney, kemençe, Ud and kanun, ‘Sufi Gardens’

FSQ performs String Quartet #3 on NOVA Chamber Music Series in Utah

January 7, 2014

The Fry Street Quartet returns to NOVA for another exhilarating event featuring the music of Haydn and the premiere of a new work by Michael Ellison. The FSQ collaborates with NOVA Artistic Director Jason Hardink in Dvořák’s lively and sentimental Piano Quintet.

Haydn Quartet in G Major, opus 76, no. 1
Ellison String Quartet No. 3 (World Premiere)
Dvořák Piano Quintet in A Major, opus 81

Robert Waters, Rebecca McFaul violin | Bradley Ottesen viola
Anne Francis Bayless cello | Jason Hardink piano


(This program will be repeated at Utah State University in Logan on January 14.
Click here for more info.)

Release of Say I am You

January 7, 2014

Say I am You-Mevlana (2012) premiered in Rotterdam and the 40. Istanbul Music Festival last season, will be released this month by the UK label Metier!  The opera outlines 13th century sufi Mystic Jelaluddin Rumi’s spiritual transformation and encounter with wandering dervish Shams of Tabriz.  Featuring VocaalLAB, Hezarfen Ensemble and Lucas Vis.  Available in stores and mail order beginning Jan. 28, 2014.
Read Review


Say I am You Premieres in Istanbul and Rotterdam

August 4, 2012


Istanbul-June 24

VocaalLAB Nederland and Hezarfen Ensemble played the Turkish Premiere of Ellison’s long-awaited opera Say I am You on the 40. Istanbul International Music Festival to a sold out house in Aya irini, on the grounds of Topkapı palace.  With stunning performances by of VocaalLAB and its three soloists Gunnar Sigurdsson, Arnout Lems,  Ekaterina Levanthal, and with Hezarfen Ensemble conducted by Lucas Vis, critics described the experience as ‘border[ing] on the supernatural.’     Say I am You integrates Turkish instruments and Eastern vocal aesthetics into chamber opera in an unprecedented way.  The video decór of Tessa Joosse provided critical hints about the action of the piece, as it was sung in concert version, with the video depicting scenes from the passionate encounter between Mevlana and his spiritual mentor, Shams of Tabriz that forms the backbone of the story.







Kubla Khan Premiere on Istanbul Festival

May 8, 2011

ISTANBUL-May 8 On June 17, 2011, soprano Christie Finn and mezzo-soprano Arlene Rolph, with Istanbul’s groundbreaking Hezarfen Ensemble, premiere Michael Ellison’s newly composed setting of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan (2011) on the 39. Istanbul International Music Festival.  On a concert entitled The Grammar of Dreams, set in the unusual setting of the heart of an old electricity generating facility Santral Istanbul, the premiere of Kubla Khan marks the first time Ellison’s work has been performed on the world-renowned festival.  Coupled with Kaija Saariaho’s Grammaire des Reves (and also including Turkish premieres of Pögun, Sciarrino, and Tanaka) the concert turns Santral Istanbul into the site of a mulit-sensory experience where the audience enters, as it were, directly into the centre of a pulsating brain in the midst of dreams and opium visions, as it were, with the Hezarfen Ensemble.

‘Beautiful, subtle, mesmerizing…’

July 11, 2010

Initial verdicts on Michael Ellison’s newly released Invocation (Innova Recordings 766, Distributed by Naxos) are in:

Glen Hall, from Exclaim! Canada’s Music Authority, describes Elif (2003) as “an amazing synthesis of a master hafiz (a reciter of the Quran) and new music. The result is otherworldly, a mystical atmosphere of devotion and its transformation of consciousness. Invocation illustrates the depth of Ellison’s commitment to absorbing Turkish spiritual music and the Sufi quest for transcendence and union with the beloved.”

François Couture, of Monsieur Délire, calls Ellison’s solo flute work Invocation-Meditation-Allegro “Puis un très beau triptyque pour flûte solo –Helen Bledsoe, tout à fait convaincante (A beautiful triptych for solo flute–Helen Bledsoe, totally convincing).” Read the rest of this entry »

Upcoming Performances

July 1, 2010

June 17, 2011
Istanbul Music Festival
Santral Istanbul Energy Museum
Kubla Khan (2011)  *world premiere
Hezarfen Ensemble
Christie Finn, soprano Arlene Rolph, mezzo-soprano
Michael Ellison, conductor

April 13, 2011
Elektrostatic Series
Roger Huckle, Richard Barnard, curators
Colston Hall, Bristol
Kubla Khan (preview instrumental version)
Bristol Ensemble
Michael Ellison, conductor

October 2, 2010
Palazzo Robellini – Acqui Terme (AL) Italy
Festival “Omaggio alla musica del mare”

Ariadne’s Thread (2010)
Mediterraneus Project
Duo Arcobaleni, Maurizio Ben Omar, Silvia Belfiore

August 29, 2010
Ancona, Italy
Ariadne’s Thread
Duo Arcobaleni, Maurizio Ben Omar, Silvia Belfiore

August 17, 2010
Klasik Keyifler Festival, Cappadocia, Turkey
Piano Trio (1994)
Hezarfen Ensemble

August 13, 2010
Cenobio dei Dogi, Camogli (GE) Italy
Ariadne’s Thread
Duo Arcobaleni, Maurizio Ben Omar, Silvia Belfiore

July 9, 16, 2010
Klasik Keyifler Festival, Cappadocia, Turkey
Agirlama for Ud and String Quartet (2003)
Güç Gülle, Ud

July 7, 2010
La Caprillina, Livorno, Italy
Ariadne’s Thread (2010) *world premiere
Mediterraneus Omaggio alle culture mediterranee
Duo Arcobaleni, Maurizio Ben Omar, Silvia Belfiore