AETHERIA: Music of the sky, air, and atmosphere
The Esoterics concludes its series of three “choral ecologies” with AETHERIA, a collection of music that draws its inspiration from the ever-changing breath of the earth and the creatures who inhabit our skies. For the first time, The Esoterics has chronicled the work of its winning 2014 POLYPHONOS composers.
Each of three POLYPHONOS composers was required to choose and set a text that resonates with the “airy” theme of this concert. For her piece entitled Lyft, International prize winner Stef Conner (from Surrey, England) has set three riddles in medieval English from the Anglo-Saxon Exeter Book (Codex Exoniesis). For his commission, National prize winner Greg Simon (Ann Arbor, MI) set poetry by his wife, Jodi-Renee Giron. Simon’s work, Pneuma, contemplates breath as a metaphor for the spirit. Dale Trumbore (Los Angeles, CA), winner of the Young Composer prize, set Barbara Crooker’s poem, After the storm passes, which describes a sinuous journey on the wind following the rain.
Other works on AETHERIA include The Beaufort scale,a humoresque by the Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen. The text for this work is taken from descriptions in the Beaufort wind force scale, which relates wind speed to observed conditions on land or sea. Winging wildly, a triptych of avian poems (by Sara Teasdale, Paul Dunbar, and Siegfried Sassoon) set by the celebrated San Francisco composer Kirke Mechem, soars and thrills the listener with sweeping, fast moving harmony. The Esoterics have also reprised Nine sunset watercolors by Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, an atmospheric commission in which a constellation of vocal quartets sing haiku-like vignettes in sequence.
Former POLYPHONOS winner Zachary Wadsworth will also be heard with his work To the roaring wind, which was composed for HARMONIA composer Dominick DiOrio’s Contemporary Vocal Ensemble at Indiana University. In Wadsworth’s setting, every phoneme of this four-line stanza by Wallace Stevens is stretched beyond recognition, into a “storm” of extended choral sounds. Completing the disc is Founding Director Eric Banks’ four-movement work, The Syrian seasons. Each movement is based on ethereal lines from Nizar Qabbani’s One hundred love letters, and is sung in both Arabic and English.