Expressive and Supportive Audience at Lincoln Center
Composer Angela Rice presented her Easter Oratorio at Lincoln Center in NYC on March 16th, 2018. The National Chorale, celebrating its 50th year this season, brought her ideas to life. Under the direction of Everett McCorvey, this filled out Choir and Orchestra reached for our better angels while working with Rice’s Oratorio. It was a beautiful thing to be a part of this audience that was so expressive and supportive of the composer and the artists on this night.
For many years, 384 to be exact, many have celebrated Christmas with J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Angela Rice aptly saw the glaring omission and so set out to write an Oratorio celebrating Easter. It was first conceived in 2011 and this is the first time it was performed in New York City.
The music is set to thirty-six moments or stations, from Genesis, through Judas’ betrayal, to Christ’s crucifixion and his legacy. Rice, in the tradition of JosquinDePrez and perhaps even Henry Purcell, uses word painting – a technique first used by Renaissance composers to musically score (similar to film scoring) texts so as to give the declamations more meaning by way of musical color and sound inflection – to enhance each word, each sentence, each of the thirty-six stations.
From the beginning we know, by way of a regal horn entrance, that this is a deep, powerful, important, lasting, golden set of mental and aural images we are going to be with for the next two hours. Throughout the stations, the music moves between minor, despairing chords to major, bright chords of radiant hope in sometimes very agile ways – like a time lapse of cloud cover where every once in awhile, bright beams of light break through – only to be covered up again. Sometimes the strings, as in No. 6 – The Temptation of Jesus – moved in close and anxious spaces, while the Devil (Baritone singer Anthony Clark Evans) deftly communicated the idea that the ground was shifting beneath us as in a slow motion earthquake.
These juxtapositions worked well in other stations as well especially No. 25 as Judas’ (Bass singer Kevin Thompson) impossibly low voice was backlit by the insidious scaling of neurotic vines creeping upward as played by the violins.
The conductor and artistic director, Everett McCorey, so obviously cares deeply about this music and knows how to achieve real fire with it. With wit, force and grace, he executed all of these high contrast moments to great effect.
Although we sensed some grounded forces in motion, this band and Angela Rice seem to need to work together more tightly – from this musician and composer’s perspective- As we felt the despair of Jesus (Tenor Gregory Turay) in No.23 at Gethsemane, we sensed this despair from a distance, almost as if it was relayed to us second hand, when what we longed for was to be in the garden with him in this darkest hour. This may ask for a more specific quiet horror and inner terror from the writing and the musicians - the stations steeped in love and hope felt similar. Let us stand in the unique, haunting, life affirming, relentless and complex sunlight with spring coming up all around. We felt perhaps instead that we were in the flower shop with eyes closed, doing our best to find our way into the brilliance and the wonder of the uncut snapdragons.
Lincoln Center continues to host cutting edge performances – music, dance, theater, opera, and more. To find out more about upcoming performances visit the Lincoln Center website.
About the Author -- Composer and Musician David Cieri:
"David Cieri is a master composer and a true artist. Fearless on the piano, a combination of virtuosity, sensitivity and curiosity, he is constantly discovering new ways to express complex emotions through music that has served as the backbone of our films."
"This is real music, not trapped by boxes, definitions and genres, but creating its own style. Cieri delivers beautiful moods…honest, imaginative, fearless."
David Cieri is a Composer and Musician. Cieri’s film-scoring work includes Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War (Florentine Films, 2017), The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (Florentine Films, 2014), The Address (Florentine Films, 2014), Prohibition (with Wynton Marsalis, Florentine Films, 2011), Baseball: The Tenth Inning (Florentine Films, 2010), and Emmy-winning National Parks (Florentine Films, 2008), Barak Goodman’s Emmy-nominated The Emperor of All Maladies (Ark Media, 2015), and “The Heart of the Matter,” a short directed by George Lucas for The Academy of Arts and Sciences (2014). His original score for Raymond De Felitta's Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story was longlisted for an Oscar nomination in 2013. His recently completed scoring project, Oklahoma City, premiered at The Sundance Film Festival in 2017. Cieri has just completed a score for the two time Pulitzer Prize winning Lynn Nottage for her project, This is Reading. Most recently, he has released a recording on Ropeadope Records with Pulitzer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa entitled White Dust, which was released September 1, 2017. The follow up record with Yusef Komunyakaa, Dark Furniture, will be released in June 2018 and a compilation of original score compositions for Ken Burns’ Florentine Films – Notes From The Underscore - will be released by Ropeadope Records on December 1st, 2017.