Posted by Liz
Today saw the start of the much-anticipated The Rivered Earth series of concerts featuring music by Alec Roth and libretti by Vikram Seth. Part 1, introduced by Lucy Van Oldenbarneveld and Seth, was a performance of Songs In Time Of War, written by Seth after the Chinese Tang Dynasty poet Du Fu. Lawrence Wiliford‘s voice was elegantly restrained and fitted with the violin, harp and guitar accompaniment of Philippe Honoré, Michelle Gott and Daniel Bolshoy. The set of 12 songs transported the spellbound audience to far away worlds. In particular I enjoyed the 4th and 8th songs, ‘A Fine Lady’ and ‘ The Old Cypress Tree at the Temple of Zhu-ge Liang’. Meanwhile, number 11 ‘Ballad of the Army Carts’ conjured up images from epic films such as Red Cliff. Roth’s music narrated along with the libretti, with effects such as ‘scratch’ violin to match the story.
Rivered Earth Part 2 featured Shared Ground and Ponticelli, each inspired by the Stuart poet George Herbert and for unaccompanied chorus and solo violin respectively. In the Ex Cathedra/Philippe Honoré recording, each work is played through, though it is possible to perform them as an interlocking sequence, which we heard today.
Seventeen Voyces, Larkin Singers and soloist Isaiah Bell provided a stellar performance, but in my mind the greatest plaudits go to Honoré for his performances. Heard alternately, each part of Ponticelli at least in some way referenced the preceding Shared Ground song. Ponticelli 1 ‘Flat Bridge’ and 3 ‘Arched Bridge’ had to my ears a fleeting similarity to some of the works of Icelandic indie-classical artist Ólafur Arnalds. The vocal settings had an almost song-like structure, with most verses having the title as a bridge/chorus.
From one super violinist to another, this time with a radically different sound: Rachel Barton Pine and her band Earthen Grave. Also a rather different setting – a metal band playing a church, albeit de-consecrated. Playing a set list predominantly from their current self-titled album, Earthen Grave executed a very professional performance and managed to engage the audience (which was mostly Music and Beyond passholders), although it did take a while mainly due to the type of venue and the relatively small crowd. There were a few of us up at the front, but compared to a more typical rock live music venue, it must have been weird for the 6 performers (including excellent stand-in drummer Chad Walls) to see people sat in pews! Some more concertgoers were standing for the final track, a rendition of Black Sabbath’s Children of the Grave. The special violin Viper definitely added an extra timbre to their sound. Based on this performance, the band and album are highly recommended!
Both Honoré and Pine are performing tomorrow in The Rivered Earth Parts 3 and 4 and Paganini: The Complete Caprices.