The Blue Hour
A Far Cry, the
Boston-based orchestra has
For its 11th season in 2017-18.
The Blue Hour features Grammy-winning singer Luciana Souza in a song cycle written by a collaborative of five leading composers – Rachel Grimes, Angélica Negrón, Shara Nova, Caroline Shaw, and Sarah Kirkland Snider. The text that serves as the libretto is by 2017 Windham-Campbell Prize winner Carolyn Forché. The excerpted poem, “On Earth,” is from Forché’s 2003 collection Blue Hour. The remarkable poem takes the form of an abecedarium: a listing of images, thousands of them, in alphabetical order, like a flurry of memories from a life coming to its end.
A Far Cry and the composers are collaborating through ongoing communication and artist retreats. Mirroring A Far Cry’s democratic creative process, the composers worked together to develop the text adaptation from Forché’s poem for this musical setting, maintaining the abecedary form. While each composer is creating individual songs, they are also working together on instrumental transitions, refrains, and musical themes to create a continuous, integrated work.
A group of Criers (A Far Cry musicians) first met with the composers in July 2016 to begin work on the project. Everyone agreed that the new work should be as collaborative as possible. The composers wanted the freedom to create individual songs on their own, yet they also wanted to immerse themselves in the collective process to sculpt the larger experience with each other and with the orchestra. The Criers will also embody a dynamic link between the music and text, including passages of spoken word and stage choreography, possibly reciting poem fragments in the concert space as the audience enters.
The group has also talked a great deal about structure: the orderly alphabetical structure of the poem juxtaposed with the nonlinear narrative of the subject’s life, remembered haphazardly, but gradually coming into focus. Scale then becomes a critical element, considering the enormity of the poem, making it possible to zoom in on a single image, but also to zoom out and see thousands. That sense of dimension - from the micro to the macro - will be a core guiding principle for the eventual work.
Finally, at the meeting in July, the group asked themselves, “Why do this project? What does it represent?” and from that, the following statement emerged:
The world premiere of the work will be presented by co-commissioner Washington Performing Arts in Washington, DC on November 4, 2017. The other co-commissioners are Bucknell University, University of Iowa’s Hancher Performances, and Florida State University.
photo credits top to bottom, left to right:
Kim Fox, Jessie Kriech-Higdon, Quique Cabanillas, Shervin Lainez, Alex Lee, Willy Somma, Don J. Usner, Yoon S. Byun