Lembit Beecher strives to create intimate, heartfelt, quirky and dramatically potent musical experiences. Born to Estonian and American parents, he grew up under the redwoods in Santa Cruz, California, a few miles from the wild Pacific. Since then he has lived in Boston, Houston, Ann Arbor, Berlin, New York and Philadelphia, earning degrees from Harvard, Rice and the University of Michigan. This varied background has made him particularly sensitive to place, ecology, memory, and the multitude of ways in which people tell stories. In 2011 Lembit was appointed to a three-year term as the inaugural composer-in-residence of Opera Philadelphia in collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music Theatre Group. Many of Lembit’s projects involve the incorporation of untraditional elements into operatic form, working with baroque instruments, animation, electronics, new technologies, and devised theatre actors. Recent awards include a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, the S&R Foundation Washington Award Grand Prize, a residency at the Penn Museum sponsored by the American Composers Forum, and a grant from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage to develop a new chamber opera with librettist Hannah Moscovitch, featuring soprano, string quartet, and a large music-generating sculpture.
Lembit writes about Chopin’s Ocean:
In 1949, my grandmother, mother, and aunt were on a ship traveling across the Atlantic, displaced by WWII, and far from their native Estonia. My grandmother used to tell me how she was summoned to the ship’s officers’ quarters, the captain having learned that she was a concert pianist. As the unbolted piano bench slid back and forth, and the boat rocked and heaved, my grandmother poured her pains into the piano, playing Chopin’s third Etude, known to her as “Chopin’s sorrow.” She was lucky, traveling aboard a stout ship in a time when the US was actively welcoming displaced persons. But these days, as I hear about migrants desperately floating across the Mediterranean in an attempt to get to Europe, it is easy to imagine my grandmother, or someone like her, not making it; I imagine a storm sinking the ship and the sounds of her piano spreading out across the ocean. And I imagine far away, a mother and daughter standing by the seashore, hearing just a faint glimmer of Chopin drifting in the waves.