University of Iowa News Release
Oct. 10, 2005
Photo: Upshaw, left; Golijov, right
Upshaw And Golijov Celebrate Spanish Folk Music In 'Ayre' Oct. 27
Soprano Dawn Upshaw will be joined by the contemporary-music ensemble eighth blackbird and guitarist Gustavo Santaolalla in a performance of composer Osvaldo Goiljov's "Ayre," an eclectic celebration of 15th-century Spanish folk music, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27 in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.
"Ayre" will fill the complete second half of the concert, following duos for voice and guitar by Upshaw and Santaolalla, and a performance of Derek Bermel's "Tied Shifts" by eighth blackbird.
A pre-performance discussion at 6:30 p.m. in the Hancher greenroom will be free to concert ticket holders. Denise Filios, a faculty member in the UI department of Spanish and Portuguese, will discuss "Judaism, Christianity and Islam in 15th-century Spain: The Roots of 'Ayre.'"
"Ayre" received its premiere at Zankel Hall in New York on March 31, 2004, followed by a performance at Tanglewood. Commissioned by Carnegie Hall, at the request of Dawn Upshaw for her astounding "Perspectives" tour de force in 2004, "Ayre" -- meaning "air" and "melody" in medieval Spanish -- is a 40-minute cycle of 11 songs that utilizes an unusual chamber ensemble that includes harp, klezmer clarinet, accordion, guitar and electronics (at one point producing multiple Dawn Upshaws), as well as flute, horn, viola, cello and bass.
A review in the Boston Herald responded, "When it's time to write the history of early 21st century music, there surely will be a chapter on the collaboration between composer Osvaldo Golijov and soprano Dawn Upshaw. It's becoming clearer with every new piece that Golijov is fast becoming one of the most important composers for voice today -- and that Upshaw is both his perfect muse and prophet."
Hancher Auditorium and Iowa audiences have been intimately involved with that collaboration and its artists, including the Upshaw/Kronos Quartet world premiere of Golijov's "Tonight is the Night," during Hancher's Millennium Festival, which was made possible by the commissioning support of Iowans.
Hancher has commissioned several other performances from Golijov, a musically adventurous Argentine Jew who now lives in the United States, and he came to the UI for the performance of "The Dream and Prayers of Isaac the Blind" by Kronos and clarinetist David Krakauer. The St. Lawrence String Quartet recent performed his "Yiddishbbuk" at the UI.
Of all the artists in the "Ayre" collaboration, only Santaolalla, the famed Argentine guitarist who combines Latin and rock and roll influences, is new to Hancher audiences.
"Ayre," which has also been released on CD, was described as "full of passion, humor, tragedy and all the complexity of life" by Richard Dyer of the Boston Globe. And Newsday reported of the premiere, "You could feel a shiver run through the audience: the visceral recognition of a work of freshness and genius."
Representing the three prominent cultures in Spain at the time (Christian, Jewish and Arab), the music is a lush mix of Spanish and Mediterranean influences and reflects a range of human conditions and emotions stemming from the collision and synthesis of cultures. Tales of love and war, religion and rage are contained in texts sung in Ladino (the nearly lost language of the Spanish Jews), Arabic, Hebrew, Sardinian, Spanish and even the ancient Aramaic.
Justin Davidson wrote for Newsday, "Golijov moves about the topography of music more fearlessly and unself-consciously than any other composer working today. 'Ayre' is a deliriously disjunct excursion around the Jewish Mediterranean, gathering up Sephardic folk tunes, Semitic electronica, Arabic poetry and songs of Solomonic sensuality.
"Another composer might have arranged this material into a sterile pastiche; Golijov follows his ears, scooping up whatever he feels like hearing and molding it with the strength of memory. Golijov does not enshrine or elevate the music he finds lying around the world. He composes the way well-traveled people furnish their houses, with objects collected en route and arranged according to an idiosyncratic logic, unified not by origin or style but by the collector's sensibility.
"If he feels like exploding a reverent atmosphere with a burst of computerized Middle Eastern dance rhythms, simultaneously unleashing the clarinet and accordion into a dervish-like frenzy, then he does so -- no explanation required. And having proved early on that he can do a big finish, he avoids it at the end, preferring to leave Upshaw's voice hanging softly by itself and letting the final song flicker into silence.
"Golijov framed her mother- of-pearl voice with a throbbing, gaudy accompaniment -- a pocket orchestra supplemented by a roaring accordion, a Latin guitar and a battery of digital percussion. This is a work that would be as much at home in a jazz club as it was at Carnegie's Zankel Hall."
Upshaw, a multi-Grammy Award-winner, is renowned for the unaffected beauty of her singing and her emotionally charged performances. Applauded in the opera houses of New York, Paris, Salzburg and Vienna, she is equally at home performing the music of our time. In addition to her Grammys, Upshaw has been honored with the Gramophone and Edison prizes for recordings of works written specifically for her.
Described by The New Yorker as "friendly, unpretentious, idealistic and highly skilled," eighth blackbird is widely lauded for its performing style-- often playing from memory with virtuosic and theatrical flair -- and its efforts to make new music accessible to wide audiences.
The sextet has been the subject of profiles in the New York Times and on NPR's "All Things Considered"; it has also been featured on CBS's "Sunday Morning," "St. Paul Sunday," "Weekend America" and "The Next Big Thing." The ensemble is in residence at the University of Richmond in Virginia and at the University of Chicago.
The Oct. 27 concert is supported by Betsy Fahr in memory of Sam Fahr, and by Rhoda Vernon in memory of David Vernon, through the University of Iowa Foundation.
Tickets are $38/35/32; UI student $34.20/15; senior citizen $34.20/31.50/28.80; youth $26.60/24.50/22.40.
Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.
Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website: <http://www.hancher.uiowa.edu>.
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