Take another look. Zoom in. Zoom out. Reverse the frame. Let it sit. Poke it a little. Reimagine the context. Add a dimension. Ask a question. What am I not seeing yet? What more is there to see? What possibilities are still out there, requiring only our willingness to imagine to bring them into reality?
A Far Cry exists because of questions like these. So does a whole lot of my favorite art. And the first time I heard the Lorelei Ensemble, I felt that same thrill of recognition. I’d never imagined that sound - both fortunately, others had, and here I was, listening to their work like a kid in a candy store and bearing witness to a wonderful new reality.
This collaborative program came out of a series of conversations between Beth Willer and myself that kept touching on these thoughts. What does it mean to look at an iconic work or art and then look more deeply and discover something unseen? When Beth and I found our way to Emily Wilson’s magnificent new translation of the Odyssey, we knew that we’d come across an intensely compelling piece that did exactly that. Wilson’s clear-eyed scholarship references dozens of other Odyssey translations, and in the process, tracks conventions that have calcified over time. When those conventions that enable each other stray from the original, Wilson discards them without regret. The results can sound new, but they are ancient; the living story that did not survive our centuries-long translation process, but which can be revived.
We found a wonderful creative partner in Kareem Roustom, who had already thought deeply about the Odyssey and who approached this project and the translation in a spirit of open-hearted curiosity. The story that he pulled from the pages flips the tradition of focusing on Odysseus and instead allows us to gaze through a variety of other eyes, each of which shows us something new.
As we thought about how the first half of the concert might support these themes - and lead us to this piece - we found ourselves drawn to two underlying concepts; music that speaks to the Odyssey, and a more timeless search for home. The many different pieces on the first half act as a sort of narrative mosaic to bring us to that spot.
We begin as sailors often do, with the chaos of a storm at sea, depicted by Telemann. Our ship - I guess that’s Jordan Hall - then finds its way to the Sirens. We present two different takes on these endlessly fascinating musical beings, contrasting the boldness of Kate Soper’s vision with the extreme loveliness of Lili Boulanger’s. Jessica Meyer’s Sappho setting takes one step further into this world, allowing us to see through the eyes of the poet and experience longing in an even purer form.
With that turn, the program shifts - away from antiquity and towards the same themes in our own American history. The last three works on the first half are still very much about an Odyssean journey, now taking place on our own soil. I’ll Fly Away, gorgeously re-wrought by Caroline Shaw, Wayfaring Stranger, conjured up by Jonathan Woody, and Sinner Man, brought to life by Adam Simon, each struggle with questions of traveling and finding home. What is the place that you dream of flying away from? What does it mean to be a long way from home? Where will you run to now?
Can a journey show you where home is?
To me and to Beth, that question is essentially the same as the one we began with: What more is there to see? What is invisible to the eye, until a little unconventional work - a different way of looking - makes it appear? That question always has something new to reveal. We hope it brings you a very interesting evening.
- Sarah Darling and Beth Willer