April 28, 2013

Bob Keyes: For Fort Kent native and Bates alum, all's well in Metropolis

Andrew Cyr admits, it feels really good to be right.

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Vivian Fung won a Juno Award for her violin concerto, which Andrew Cyr recorded with the Metropolis Ensemble and released last fall.

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Andrew Cyr

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The Fort Kent native and Bates College graduate began the Manhattan-based Metropolis Ensemble seven years ago for the single purpose of giving young classical music composers a chance to be heard.

So far, it's worked out well.

The ensemble performs across New York, drawing nontraditional classical audiences to its concerts that almost always feature new music by new composers. The ensemble's first CD, which featured Avner Dorman's concertos, earned Cyr a Grammy Award nomination in the classical category.

More affirmation arrived last week when one of the composers Cyr has championed won a Juno Award, which is the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy.

Composer Vivian Fung won Classical Composition of the Year for her violin concerto, which Cyr recorded with the Metropolis Ensemble and released last fall on the Naxon label imprint Canadian Classics.

"We're just super-excited," said Cyr, 39, who graduated from Bates in 1996. "An award like this is huge for Vivian and for us. It means the CD will be played more, and it means that more people will pay attention to who we are and what we do."

Many of the musicians he works with are recent graduates of music conservatories eager to make their way in the world of classical music. That's not easy to do.

The classical field isn't exactly closed, but it's a tough one to break into and find success in as a young person.

Cyr's goal is to give them a chance. Since he founded the Metropolis, the ensemble has commissioned some 30 pieces of music. Fung's violin concerto is the latest example. The Metropolis Ensemble commissioned and premiered the piece.

"We've been working with her since 2009," Cyr said by phone from his home in Brooklyn. "We first commissioned a piano concerto, and we followed that up with the violin concerto. We loved her music from the get-go, and we wanted to do something with it."

The ensemble made the recording at Tangelwood in fall 2011, and Canadian Classics released it last fall. The CD got great reviews and respectable airplay.

Fung's Juno Award will bring more attention to her piece and to the Metropolis.

"We've been around a few years now, but we're still so new," said Cyr. "This gives us another boost.

"You can say who you are and what you do, but it's your track record that establishes your reputation. Now after six or seven years, we have a record of getting in on the ground floor with composers who have played around the world."

The first of them was Avner Dorman. The Metropolis recorded his music, and Dorman's career blossomed on the international stage. The ensemble's second CD featured the music of Fung, and she wins a Juno.

People can connect the dots. It's a small sample, but so far the Metropolis is two for two when it comes to launching the careers of composers whose music it records.

The third CD will feature the music of Timothy Andres. It will be released this summer on Nonesuch Records.

"We're really proud," Cyr said. "We're often the first people to work with composers. It's a lot of heavy lifting to introduce a new composer. It takes many years. We started working with Vivian in 2009, but we started talking to her in 2007 or 2008. It's so gratifying."

This week, the Metropolis performs as the pit orchestra for the children's opera "Firework Maker's Daughter," which has a two-week run at the New Victory Theater in Times Square.

Cyr will be back in Maine this summer. His wife, artist Kate Gilmore, is a visiting professor at Maine College of Art, so Cyr will be in his home state for an extended stay.

"I can't wait," he said. "Maybe soon we can do something with our music in Maine."

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:


Twitter: pphbkeyes


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Vivian Fung


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