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new works!

It is a good month for brand-spanking new full-length works in Seattle. It started with the American premiere of Ivan Moody’s lush, beautiful, spiritual, and generally wonderful Seven Hymns for St. Sava, sung by Cappella Romana. After that, Byron au Yong provided wonderfully layered music cum field recordings cum spoken word for Spectrum Dance Theatre’s Farewell. This was very experimental music, and Byron pulled it off with aplomb. (Byron also found the time to curate a companion event as counterpoint, a wonderful  art exhibit on related themes also entitled Farewell. This Columbia City exhibit was the best group show that I’ve been to lately, without a doubt.) One weekend later, Garrett Fisher unleashed his latest raga-based opera/dance piece, this time with a Yeats libretto (Yeats, but still featuring haiku!). Finally, Frank Ferko’s 1999 Stabat Mater will soon be performed by Choral Arts Northwest. The Stabat was originally commissioned by His Majesties Clerkes, one of the groups from my Chicago past, and I look forward to performing in the PacNW premiere.

[postscript] The On The Boards’ presentation of Heiner Goebbels’ Songs of Wars I Have Seen is yet another event in this welcome local upwelling of large-scale new works. A riff on the “history repeats itself and is written by the victors/survivors” themes of its spoken Gertrude Stein text, the piece embeds fragments of early music by Matthew Locke into a sampled and processed electronic background, juxtaposing this interesting and unique texture against a second, more by-the-book, new-music chamber orchestra texture. The orchestra was an inspired amalgam of some of Seattle’s finest baroque players and some of Seattle’s finest new music players. The stage layout was by gender rather than by section, bringing the women to the front (both figuratively and literally), from whence they played and took turns reciting the text with its recollections of wartime living. The episodic piece was very effective, especially in its sparer movements. My only gripe would be size of orchestra. A few too many colors for my ears – the contrast of brass and percussion against the baroque strings was very effective, but the piano and harpsichord, and perhaps the woodwinds, seemed superfluous. That’s a small gripe; the piece was thought-provoking and enjoyable.