Photo by Kate Nottage
Departure Duo is a Boston-based soprano and double bass duo comprised of Nina Guo and Edward Kass. Committed to expanding the repertoire for this “high-low” combination, Departure Duo commissions new works and researches pre-existing pieces. The duo's longterm goal, 30 by '30, is to have 30 hours of repertoire by 2030. Nina and Eddie are particularly interested in how extended technique and theatricality can expand the range of expression for both players and engage audiences. A Departure Duo concert showcases the variety and dialogues within the soprano/double bass universe. By celebrating the diversity found within this small (but growing!) corner of music, Nina and Eddie aim to counter new music's notoriety and promote accessibility for all audiences.
Nina Guo, soprano
Photo by Kate Nottage
Hailing from Pasadena, CA, soprano Nina Guo has been drawn to new music since high school. After completing her Bachelor's degree at the New England Conservatory of Music, she was awarded NEC’s John Cage Award for Outstanding Contribution to Contemporary Music Performance (2015). In 2016, she was awarded one of the Stipendium prizes at the Darmstadt Courses and was invited to return to the courses in 2018. More importantly, she is eternally grateful for the mentorship of Lisa Saffer and Steve Drury, and is constantly inspired by her colleagues’ and friends’ hard work and incredible creativity. Recent performances have included a 5 hour installation-opera at a buffet, a shadow puppet opera with Maori instruments, singing a groovy, Petrushka-esque piece with orchestra, directing Beckett's Rough for Radio 1 with multi-lingual vocal ensemble, and getting caught in noisy, improvised tape loops with Auguste Vickunaite.
Nina is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Sound Studies and Sonic Arts at the Universität der Künste in Berlin. She can be found in digital form at www.facesound.org
Edward Kass, double bass
Photo by Kate Nottage
Bassist Edward Kass has performed around the world in halls such as the Elbphilharmonie, Boston Symphony Hall, Suntory Hall (Tokyo), and Jordan Hall and has held fellowships at festivals including the Tanglewood Music Center, Lucerne Festival, Pacific Music Festival, and Spoleto Festival USA.
Born in San Jose, CA, he started playing bass at his public elementary school. A devoted and passionate performer of contemporary music, Kass believes that musicians should strive to connect today’s music to the rich traditions of the past, rather than treating contemporary music as a novelty or niche field. Training with musical masters such as Kim Kashkashian, Stephen Drury, Laurence Lesser, and Nicolas Crosse has influenced his expressive range and musical understanding. Working with composers like Unsuk Chin, Helmut Lachenmann, Gunther Schuller, and Matthias Pintscher has also expanded his interpretive dexterity.
Kass completed his graduate and undergraduate studies at New England Conservatory under the tutelage of Todd Seeber and Lawrence Wolfe. In 2015, Kass received the New England Conservatory John Cage Award for Outstanding Contribution to Contemporary Music Performance. Kass also frequently performs with the Callithumpian Consort, one of Boston’s preeminent new music ensembles. By working with Boston-based non-profit Music for Food (a musician-led initiative for local hunger relief), Kass also commits to music as a means of social change, both through performance outreach and education.
Departure Duo, extended bio
Departure Duo is a Boston-based soprano and double bass duo comprised of Nina Guo and Edward Kass. Committed to performing repertoire written specifically for soprano and double bass, Departure Duo seeks to show the incredible variety of styles and sounds possible from such an unusual combination. Departure Duo also commissions and performs new works to expand the repertoire for the “high-low” partnership. Recent performance highlights include Spoleto Festival USA (2018), Omaha Under the Radar (2017), Columbia University (2017), a teaching residency at University of Georgia (2018), and an artist residency at Yellow Barn (2019).
Formed in 2014 at New England Conservatory, Departure Duo has performed in venues across the US, including Jordan Hall (Boston), Center for New Music (San Francisco), and Art Share L.A. (Los Angeles). As recipients of New England Conservatory’s 2015 John Cage Award for Outstanding Contributions to Contemporary Music Performance, Nina and Edward firmly believe that new music can and should be accessible to all, and by encouraging dialogue with audiences, new music will not be viewed as a niche genre. The two are particularly interested in how extended technique and theatricality can expand the range of expression and engage audiences.
In May 2016, Departure Duo visited schools in California to present a program designed to introduce contemporary music to young musicians through the lens of more familiar ‘classical’ traditions. Showing the connections between standard traditions and contemporary music helps young musicians understand that they already possess the tools and experience to appreciate and perform contemporary music. Departure continues to connect with new audiences and communities by working with Music for Food, a musician-led initiative for local hunger relief founded by Kim Kashkashian.
With repertoire comprised mainly by the works of living composers, Departure Duo makes an effort to work directly with composers while learning new works. The duo has worked with composers such as Beat Furrer, Unsuk Chin, Fred Lerdahl, and many others. Further mentors and coaches include Kim Kashkashian, Stephen Drury, Lisa Saffer, and Todd Seeber.
The duo has also appeared in competitions such as the Concert Artists Guild Competition where they were named semi-finalists in 2016. As individuals, Nina and Edward have appeared at festivals around the world such as the Tanglewood Music Center, Lucerne Festival, SICPP (Boston), the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music, and Pacific Music Festival (Japan).