Singing the Blue Ridge

Movement 3:: Night

Instrumentation: Mezzo, baritone, orchestra
( / / 2 perc. / strings),  and electronics made from indigenous wild animal calls
Duration: 14:00
Commission: Wintergreen Performing Arts, through Americans for the Arts Animating Democracy Program
Premiere: 08/03/02
Wintergreen Orchestra, Conductor David Wiley, Soprano Angela Horn, Baritone Thomas Barrett
Wintergreen, VA

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Program Note:
Singing the Blue Ridge was commissioned by Wintergreen Performing Arts through the Animating Democracy Initiative of Americans for the Arts.. It is part of a project called Preserving the Rural Soundscape. The aim was to use Art-Based Civic Dialogue to raise awareness of issues of growth and planning with citizens in Nelson County. I taught improvisation classes, led assemblies for schoolchildren, worked with civic groups, and led soundwalks, getting to know many members of the community. All of these activities helped people connect more strongly with the soundscapes in which they live and think about what the sounding environment meant to them. Singing the Blue Ridge was a capstone. It invites us into the habitat we share with other living creatures in this area – such as deer, frogs, otter, raccoon, wolf, peeper and toad. It brings the calls of animals right into the concert hall. Singing the Blue Ridge combines the wonderful timbres of mezzo, baritone, orchestra, and electronics made from those animal calls.

Four poems were commissioned  for this composition from the distinguished poet Barbara Goldberg. The first sings of a glorious spring morning celebrated in the wild; the second, of the fate of frogs and people when they collide; the third, of the natural cycle of eat or be eaten; the last, of the havoc wreaked by humans through greed or carelessness, as well as the hope for better stewardship to come. Singing the Blue Ridge is dedicated to my mother, Dr. Harriet Evelyn Sommer Shatin, from whom I learned the miracles of the natural world and so much else. –JS

Press Quote:
“Judith Shatin is a nationally-and internationally-known composer, recipient of many commissions and awards, and a professor of music at UVA. She has composed electronic music as well as music for conventional instruments and voices. Singing the Blue Ridge combines all these media with superb success. It can be described as a cantata in four movements…with an environmentalist message. The vocal soloists, Brenda Patterson and Woodrow Bynum, sang four poems written for the work by Washington-based poet Barbara Goldberg, each relating to the wildlife and sound-environment of the Blue Ridge. Taped sounds of animals, birds and insects are integrated with the orchestra in a successful symbiosis. The vocal parts, one movement each for the two singers and two movements for both together, were highly expressive and beautifully sung. Colorful, atmospheric and intense, the performance relied on the intrinsic musicality of its ingredients, including traditional tonality and masterful orchestration.”   –Charlottesville Weekly

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