"Transcendent ...a triumph and a gift."
-The New York Times
Evan Chambers brings to life the epitaphs etched in stone so many years ago in Jaffery, New Hampshire in his first release on Dorian Sono Luminus with his new work The Old Burying Ground, performed by the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Kenneth Kiesler, this world premiere release intertwines powerful orchestral movements, moving vocal passages and poems commissioned by world renowned award winning poets in a way that connects the listener with each of those that have passed on and inspired the piece.
The album features a powerful cast of vocal soloists led by world famous folk singer Tim Eriksen, who beyond releasing numerous recordings exploring a wide range of musical styles, was the music consultant for the film 'Cold Mountain' working with the musicians and tutoring the actors in Sacred Harp singing, appearing in the film and ultimately performing his shape-note arrangement of an Oscar-nominated Elvis Costello song on the Academy Awards. Eriksen is the only musician to have shared the stage with both Kurt Cobain and Doc Watson. Anne-Carolyn Bird (Soprano) is a brilliant and award winning voice who can be heard as the 'Voice of the Fountain' on the Grammy Award-winning recording of Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar. Nicholas Phan (Tenor) who has performed with the numerous opera companies including Glimmerglass, New York City, LA, and Chicago, has proven to be a stellar up and coming artist. The album also features poetry commissioned for the work by internationally acclaimed poets including Keith Taylor, Thomas Lynch, Richard Tillinghast, Paula Meehan, Jane Hirshfield, read by the poets throughout the work.
This powerful piece of music is a guaranteed top selection in the play lists of the traditional classical music listener, and bridges the gap to reach music lovers of all genres. The folk undertones paired with the poetry and intricate orchestral composition truly give new life to those interred at The Old Burying Ground.
This haunting and rather strange work (easily accessible) is also possessed of a quiet beauty that one must hear in contextual terms. Evan Chambers, currently Chair of Composition at the University of Michigan, uses epithets found on the tombstones from two historical cemeteries, The Old Burying Ground in Jaffrey, NH, and St. John's Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, NH as the basis for a unique cantata. A soprano and tenor give the piece a strange seriousness that is interrupted by what feels like a common-man commentary on the more formal declarations of the "classical" artists by the folksinger. The texts used are poems created by writers that were selected by Chambers and are used in conjunction with the epithets.
One might think that such a paean to death would be too overtly depressing for toleration, but this is not the case. In fact, the poems adroitly bring out the possible unexamined stories and situations of the people commemorated here, and as such actually are comforting, reflective, and ultimately life-affirming, as the words by Jane Hirschfield in the last number affirm when speaking about one Miss Fanny Drown, who died May 14, 1811 at the age of 26: "The grip of life is as strong as the grip of death."
This is a wonderful composition that is moving and inventive, and I wish it a long life. All here give their all, and one would be hard-pressed to think of a better performance. If I have any complaint, it would only be that sometimes the U. of M. student orchestra strings sound a little underpowered, hardly a novel problem among university orchestras as the players have not yet reached full mastery of bringing out full tone from the instruments. But they are technically in line and totally in tune, so this is an admitted quibble. Otherwise the sound is very good. Most enjoyable on all accounts!
. - Steven Ritter, Audiophile
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Tim Eriksen Music- All Rights Reserved.