November 18, 2017 @ 8:00 pm
Baldwin Auditorium
1336 Campus Dr
Durham, NC 27705
$38 - $20
Duke Performances

A Far Cry

Since its launch in 2007, Boston’s A Far Cry has taken an unusual approach to the making of orchestral music. Seventeen musicians opted to start a communal, self-conducted string symphony in which leadership was shared and feedback was offered ground-up, not top-down. The approach has worked beautifully, generating a record label, a GRAMMY nomination, commissions, and critical accolades, including a spot on the year-end lists of New Yorker critic Alex Ross.

Luciana SouzaFor The Blue Hour, a new evening-length commission, A Far Cry engaged a group of five composers — Rachel Grimes, Angélica Négron, Caroline Shaw, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and Shara Nova — to work, like the ensemble, as a collective, creating a collaborative work for string orchestra and voice. The composers set excerpts from Carolyn Forché’s poem On Earth, an abecedarium — in which the poet starts each new section, and in this case each line in that section, with a new letter of the alphabet. The poem offers a recitation of memories from a life nearing its end:

a barnloft of horse dreams, with basin and bedclothes
a bit of polished quiet from a locked church
a black coat in smoke
a black map of clouds on a lake

a blackened book-leaf, straw and implements
a blue daybook hidden in my bed with his name
a branch weighted with pears

The resulting song cycle is performed by A Far Cry and the acclaimed Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza. Composer Shara Nova says of the sprawling new composition, “In a time when people are dehumanized by war and displacement, this poem abounds with the beauty and detail of a single human life. The whole is seen through the lens of one individual. The project will have its greatest impact if we can, through our musical undertaking, engender a sense of empathy with this person’s experience of being alive.”

“A Far Cry brims with personality or, better, personalities, many and varied.” – The New York Times