Relâche is a new music ensemble who for over thirty years has maintained an international reputation as a leader in commissioning and performing the innovative music of our time. Relâche has a unique sound – flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, viola, piano, bass and percussion, and performs works that are neither classical, nor popular, but somewhere in between – a melding of Western classical traditions with jazz, rock, electronica, world music, and more.
Relâche is among the oldest continuously operating, non-profit organizations and chamber ensembles dedicated to contemporary music in the United States. It has consistently offered world-class performances and presentations of music by leading American and international composers and artists. To date, Relâche has performed more than 600 concerts in the Greater Philadelphia area, around the country and the globe, including residency, festival and touring appearances in South America, Japan and Eastern and Western Europe. The Ensemble boasts a touring-ready repertoire of over 50 pieces and a repertory library of over 400 works. Nearly 200 of these are Relâche commissions, including works by Robert Ashley, Kitty Brazelton, John Cage, Uri Caine, Fred Frith, Kyle Gann, Philip Glass, Fred Ho, Michael Nyman, Pauline Oliveros, Bobby Previte, George Russell, Somei Satoh, and Lois V Vierk, just to name a few. Relâche has released seven CD’s to date: Relâche on Edge (1991), Outcome Inevitable(1994), Pick It Up (1997 – nominated for a Grammy), Press Play (2006), From the Philip Glass Recording Archive Vol. 2 (2007), Eight Point Turn (2008), The Planets (2010), and Comix Trips (2014.)
Relâche is known for embracing diversity in the concert hall and regularly works with composers and organizations who draw influences from outside of the Western European classical music tradition. In recent years, the ensemble has worked with composers from Africa, Turkey, Cyprus, and Scotland; and, has formed innovative partnerships with regional cultural institutions Taller Puertorriqueño and the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir. In addition, Relâche has always worked to ensure the future of classical music by commissioning younger, emerging composers, and by performing and recording works by student composers at colleges and universities. This has become an increasingly important part of the ensemble’s work and recent residencies include the University of Delaware, Rowan University, the University of Virginia, Rice University, the University of Pittsburgh, the College of William & Mary, and Dickinson College.
Relâche began as a composer-performer collective in 1977, dedicated to performing daring new work by Philadelphia composers. The Ensemble was officially founded in 1978 by Joseph Franklin and Joseph Showalter and quickly established itself as a major force in the national and international new music community. Under Franklin, Relâche produced an annual concert series, residency, touring and educational programs. Relâche co-produced the international festival New Music America in 1987 and co-presented, with Annenberg Center (Philadelphia), the annual series “New Music at Annenberg” in the mid-1990s. It also produced many other innovative projects such as VirtualConcert and a four-year, national commissioning and performance project Music In Motion, which was completed in 2000.
Currently, Relâche self-produces 3-5 concerts each season, with most featuring world premiere commissions. Highlights since 2001 include Relâche’s first full-length dance/music commission, Mixed Company, with music by Guy Klucevsek and choreography by Meredith Rainey; a ground-breaking video, installation and performance commission, The Bell and the Glass, by Christian Marclay, co-produced with the Philadelphia Museum of Art; several live accompanied silent film programs, including Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger with score by Joby Talbot, and Buster Keaton’s The General with improvised score by the ensemble; 2010’s “Glass Reich Bryars” concert with the Philadelphia Singers and Orchestra 2001 which featured the first ever live performance of Philip Glass’ TSE, commissioned by Relâche in 1994; as well as special events, such as Phil Kline’s cult Christmas classic Unsilent Night, CAGE12 – a John Cage 90th birthday tribute, and “Revue Relâche” – a 12-hour non-stop music marathon to mark Relâche’s 25th Anniversary. In 2013 Relâche became ensemble-in-residence at the Penn Museum, presenting an annual 3-concert series in the museum’s renovated Widener Hall. In 2016 the ensemble specifically honored the archeological and anthropological collections of the museum with a Turkish-inspired program honoring the celebrated Golden Age of King Midas show, and the premiere of Chuck Holdeman’s “Sumer Redux” which incorporated ancient Sumerian texts from the museum’s vast cuneiform tablet collection.
Relâche has initiated several educational projects in recent seasons, “Music and Dance for South Philly Kids after School,” a collaboration with United Communities Southeast Philadelphia, American Composers Forum, and dancer Jenna Frome; the Composers Forum/Mural Arts collaboration engaging refugee populations in South Philadelphia from the Himalayan countries, “Southeast-by-Southeast”; the Play on, Philly!/PhillyCam collaboration culminating with an original video with original music, both student-led, “TH(INK)” with a live premiere performed by Relâche and the Play on, Philly high school orchestra; and a planned collaboration with the Rough Cut Festival of original student video and film.