It is very rare to witness a multitude of moving artistic parts come together so ingeniously in the name of creating one body of work. This is just what occurred at the Weis Center on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 9 with an exquisite performance of a piece entitled the “The Blue Hour” by A Far Cry string orchestra and vocals from Brazilian jazz singer Luciana Souza. The piece was a creative collaboration that came to fruition from the works of five notable female composers – Rachel Grimes, Angélica Negrón, Shara Nova, Caroline Shaw and Sarah Kirkland Snider – and featured text excerpted from American “poet of witness” Carolyn Forché’s poem “On Earth.” The Weis Center is a proud co-commissioner of the piece, along with Washington Performing Arts, Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa and Florida State University’s Opening Night Series.
Boston-based A Far Cry, consisting of 18 “Criers” within the group, are a self-conducting orchestra that make decisions collectively with rotating leadership roles. Taking such an innovative approach to classical music positions them as the perfect fit to such an expansive and experimental collaborative piece. Intricate and unique string techniques were abound throughout the performance. The fluctuating instrumental patterns combined with Souza’s masterful voice and sustained notes resulted in portions of the piece coming across as operatic and even similar to what is heard in pop music today.
Souza’s voice was commanding. Her clear voice and beautiful tone took listeners on a journey through Forché’s words. Souza’s jazz background suits her well for this performance as her vocal abilities were on full display as she took us backwards, forwards, and in between the words in the text. She worked well with A Far Cry, creating a symbiotic relationship between herself and the group where no one force was too dominate onstage.
Various lines in Forché’s piece consist of very vivid imagery that one can’t help but linger on until Souza serves the next few set of words, presenting a new idea on top of another. “On Earth” serves as a stirring text that complements the musicality of A Far Cry and Souza. The fluid presentation of Forché’s text by these two artists is akin to the “murmuration of birds” in the sky, as Forché pointed out earlier in the day during the afternoon Artist Talk. We were fortunate to have been able to witness such a magnificent display of talent from many disciplines.
The next performance in the Weis Center’s 2017-18 Season is a Classical performance by the Shanghai Quartet featuring pianist Qing Jiang on Sunday, November 12 at 2 p.m. at the Weis Center.
For more information about the Weis Center for the Performing Arts, go to Bucknell.edu/WeisCenter or search for the Weis Center on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
~Caroline Clancy, Class of 2018