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Press Releases

Bay Area-Based Del Sol Quartet & Vocal Ensemble Volti Perform World Premiere of 'Angel Island- Oratorio for Voices and String Quartet

September 22, 2021 | By Jonah Creech-Pritchett
Social Media Associate and PR Assistant at Bucklesweet





Experts in immigration law, civil rights, and Chinese-American cultural history will speak at the premiere events


SEPTEMBER 8, 2021 - SAN FRANCISCO: Del Sol Quartet and the vocal ensemble Volti will give the world premiere performance of internationally acclaimed composer Huang Ruo’s “Angel Island - Oratorio for Voices and String Quartet” at the newly renovated Presidio Theatre on Friday, October 22 at 8pm PT and (safety permitting) a site-specific performance on Angel Island on Saturday, October 23 at 8pm PT.


The oratorio depicts an immigrant's journey through three large choral settings sung in Mandarin — “The Seascape,” “When We Bade Farewell,” and “Buried Beneath Clay and Earth.” Angel Island - Oratorio for Voices and String Quartet brings to life the poems inscribed on the walls by Chinese immigrants detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station. During the 30 years while the station was in use, many young men, women, and children, often families found themselves detained at Angel Island, often under brutal conditions, only to be denied entry into the U.S. or with their hopes for a new life deferred for years. Over 220 poems composed in a classical Chinese poetic style and singing of homesickness, ancestral folklore, unfulfilled dreams, and surprisingly, hope are engraved at the detention center.


Chinese-born classical composer Huang Ruo’s weaves together melodic Chinese opera with European Baroque elements. The Del Sol Quartet first worked with Huang Ruo on a chamber concert to introduce the American premiere of his opera Dr. Sun Yat-Sen at the Santa Fe Opera. On October 15, Del Sol Quartet will release a new recording of Huang Ruo’s A Dust in Time on the record label Bright Shiny Things.


English-language newspapers, legislation, and screeds dating 1873-1875—the period building up to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—are interwoven into each chorale as sung by Volti, a choral collective whose mission is to foster and showcase contemporary vocal music from around the world to local Bay-area audiences.


The first performance of this haunting 60-minute-long Oratorio will be at the recently renovated historic Presidio Theatre. One of the longest-garrisoned posts in the country and the oldest installation in the American West, the Presidio built the namesake Theatre in 1939 as the cultural venue for the military base but fell into neglect. The Theatre was restored to its former glory in 2019 after a $40 million renovation.

On October 23rd Del Sol Quartet and Volti plan to perform “Angel Island” at the site where the poems were first inscribed: Angel Island. The premiere will include TED-style talks with (to be named) prominent experts in immigration law, civil rights, and Chinese-American cultural history.

Violinist for Del Sol, Charlton Lee previously shared in a Medium article about the importance of “Angel Island”:


“As an Asian American artist, this opportunity to showcase a history that has both a direct connection to my ethnicity as well as a global connection is incredibly empowering. There were only about 200,000 Chinese Americans when I was born and there were very few Asian role models in the arts. I first heard Yo-Yo Ma when he was a student at Harvard, but it would still be a few years before his impact as a major performing artist was really felt. Today, with so many active Asian American artists, my hope is that we begin to contribute more projects that reflect our heritage and tell our stories.”


Tickets are priced at $20-100 and available at City Box Office for this poignant, world-premiere performance. For more information, please visit  


This project is supported in part by the Hewlett Foundation “50 Arts Commissions.”  Additional funding has been provided by the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, and Grants for the Arts. Community programs associated with this project have been supported by the San Francisco Arts Commission, California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center.


About Del Sol Quartet

Del Sol began as a thought on the night shift at Fermilab. Charlton Lee loved the cutting edge of physics research – always looking for the next discovery, pushing boundaries. But he missed the way music connected people, building community by communicating in ways physics never would. What if he could bring that scientific passion for exploration to a string quartet? Twenty-eight years later, Del Sol is still sharing music that brings out the endorphins. Music that asks why not?


Fascinated by the feedback loop between social change, technology, and artistic innovation, the San Francisco-based ensemble is a leading force in 21st century chamber music - whether introducing Ben Johnston’s microtonal Americana at the Library of Congress, taking Aeryn Santillan’s gun-violence memorial to the streets of the Mission District, exploring Andean soundscapes with Gabriela Lena Frank and traditional musicians, or collaborating with Huang Ruo and the anonymous poets who carved their words into the walls of the Angel Island Immigration Station during the years of the Chinese Exclusion Act. The current Del Sol lineup, marked by the arrival of violinist Sam Weiser alongside mainstays Kathryn Bates and Ben Kreith, bring a fresh energy, freedom, and precision to the group.


Recognized as a “vigorous champion of living composers,” Del Sol has premiered hundreds of works by composers including Terry Riley, Gabriela Lena Frank, Frederic Rzewski, Ben Johnston, Chinary Ung, Mason Bates, Tania León, Erberk Eryilmaz, Theresa Wong, Reza Vali, Mohammed Fairouz and Peter Sculthorpe.


Many of these works are included on Del Sol’s nine critically-acclaimed albums. PopMatters praised Del Sol’s “unfettered mastery” on Terry Riley’s Dark Queen Mantra (2017, Sono Luminus). Scrapyard Exotica (2015) elicited this rave in  The New York Times: “I could be wrong, but I’m guessing it’s been a while since you’ve rocked out to a string quartet recording. See if your foot can stay still once you put on this funky disc of rhythmically infectious (if often warped) music played by the adventurous Del Sol String Quartet.”


About Huang Ruo

Composer Huang Ruo has been lauded by The New York Times for having “a distinctive style.” His vibrant and inventive musical voice draws equal inspiration from Chinese ancient and folk music, Western avant-garde, experimental, noise, natural and processed sound, rock, and jazz to create a seamless, organic integration using a compositional technique he calls “Dimensionalism.” Huang Ruo’s diverse compositional works span from orchestra, chamber music, opera, theater, and dance, to cross-genre, sound installation, architectural installation, multi-media, folk rock, experimental improvisation, and film. His music has been performed by the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Santa Fe Opera, Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Asko/Schoenberg, Ensemble Modern, London Sinfonietta. He has written 8 operas including M. BUTTERFLY, PARADISE INTERRUPTED, and AN AMERICAN SOLDIER, which was named one of the best classical music events in 2018 by The New York Times. He served as the first composer-in-residence for Het Concertgebouw Amsterdam. Huang Ruo was born in Hainan Island, China in 1976 - the year the Chinese Cultural Revolution ended. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s when China was opening its gate to the Western world, his education expanded from Bach, Mozart, Stravinsky, and Lutoslawski, to include the Beatles, rock and roll, heavy metal, and jazz. He earned a BM degree from the Oberlin College, and MM and DMA degrees from the Juilliard School. Huang Ruo is a composition faculty at the Mannes School of Music. Huang Ruo’s music is published by Ricordi.


About Volti

Volti’s professional singers, under the direction of founder and Artistic Director Robert Geary, are dedicated to the discovery, creation, and performance of new vocal music. The ensemble’s mission is to foster and showcase contemporary American music and composers, and to introduce contemporary vocal music from around the world to local audiences. The group has commissioned more than 100 new works, by emerging as well as established composers.


Hailed by San Francisco Classical Voice as “undoubtedly the finest collection of new music singers we have,” Volti boasts a 40-year track record of some of the most sophisticated vocal performances in the nation. Composers seek opportunities to partner with these stellar musicians, who are known for their sheer technical brilliance as well as their vibrant, passionate sound. Nationally recognized as a pioneer in new vocal music, Volti has won the prestigious ASCAP/Chorus America Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music seven times – the only vocal ensemble to ever be honored – a testament to the fresh perspective and new voices the group brings to life.



About Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

From 1910 to 1940, Angel Island was the site of an U.S. Immigration Station that functioned as the West Coast equivalent of Ellis Island, although the Angel Island facility also enforced policies designed to exclude many Pacific Coast immigrants coming from eighty countries.


In 1970, the site was slated for demolition because of its deteriorated condition; but the discovery of Chinese poetry that had been carved into the walls of the detention barracks saved it from destruction and led to renewed interest in the Angel Island Immigration Station. Most importantly, the discovery of poetry increased awareness of the need to access the vivid lessons of sacrifice and triumph in the history of immigration.


Sparked by the discovery, Bay Area Asian Americans, spearheaded by Chris Chow, formed the Angel Island Immigration Station Historical Advisory Committee (AIISHAC). This organization studied how best to preserve the station for historical interpretation. In July 1976, their hard work came to fruition as the state legislature appropriated $250,000 to restore and preserve the Immigration Station as a state monument. The barracks opened to the public in 1983, and members of AIISHAC created the Immigration Station Foundation to continue preservation and educational efforts for the site, and to increase awareness of the contributions Pacific Coast immigrants make. AIISF has provided vital financial support for the Immigration Station, serving as the non-profit fundraising partner for the site. Since 1994, AIISF has leveraged $40 million to develop the cultural and physical landscape of the site. Foundation members preserved the poems on the barracks walls and created a collection of oral histories from those who had come through the Station and their descendants.


About the Presidio Theatre

The mission of the Presidio Theatre is to ensure that the magic of live performance is accessible to the entire community. By reawakening an architectural jewel in the Presidio and creating a professionally run venue that reflects the rich diversity of the Bay Area, the Presidio Theatre encourages artists to grow and flourish. The Presidio Theatre is a modern performing arts center, originally built in 1939 by the U.S. Army with funding from the Works Progress Administration.


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