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Discover the Grammy-winning choir The Crossing on WRTI 90.1, every Sunday in September

The Crossing
Clara Weishahn
The Crossing

Join us to hear four recently performed concerts by The Crossing, led by Donald Nally. A professional chamber choir based in Philadelphia, The Crossing is dedicated to commissioning, performing, and recording new music that addresses environmental, social, and political issues. We’re so happy to bring you these unique choral experiences every Sunday throughout September at 4 PM on WRTI 90.1.

September 4th, 4 to 5 PM:
In a House Besieged, with organist Scott Dettra

Recorded live March 27, 2022 at St. Mark's Church, Locust Street in Center City, Philadelphia

In a House Besieged (2022) – Stacy Garrop

The Memory of Rain (2010) – Lansing D. McLoskey

Stacy Garrop's new work In a House Besieged fuses writings of Lydia Davis into an extraordinarily unique libretto reflecting the fear and anxiety around the aging process. In it, we see our homes and the world around us crumble and decay with time; can we admit that our bodies and minds will do the same? Through her mastery of choral textures, Stacy ponders: is our topic a crumbling society, cognitive collapse, moral deprivation, or the devastating disintegration of our environment? Also on the program, a 2010 Crossing commission, Lansing McLoskey’s provocative, gloriously mystifying The Memory of Rain, on poems of Philip Levine capturing Francisco Franco’s devastated Spain of the 1950s: jet fighters, tranquilizers, and TVs.

Full concert program is here.

September 11th, 4 to 5 PM:
Month of Moderns I: The Books of Colors and of Never

Recorded live June 11, 2022 at The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia

The Book of Colors (2022) – Marcos Balter

The Book of Never (2022) – Aaron Helgeson

Darest thou now O Soul (2022) – Gabriel Jackson

The opening concert of The Crossing's Month of Moderns, an annual summer festival of new music. Marcos Balter’s The Book of Colors explores the historical, philosophical, social, and cultural ways we interact with and understand colors. The work engages coloristic aspects of vocal music as a door into historic symbolisms relating to identity, cultural appropriations and misappropriations, synesthesia, astronomy.

History also lies deep in the origins of Aaron Helgeson’s monumental The Book of Never, a fascinating adaptation of the Novgorod Codex, a wooden book of psalms from 999 believed to be owned by a monk sent to convert the village of Novgorod from Paganism to Orthodox Christianity. After his excommunication, the monk focused on preserving history of the village through writing and overwriting many layers in the Codex, a technique that Aaron masters musically as he overlays these ancient texts of Novgorod with 20th-century liberal writers Wilde, Neruda, Stein, Angela Davis, and Thanhha Lai.

Novgorod was a town in what is now Ukraine. It is a sad irony of art being life that the work is born out of an authoritarian overlord, The Church, attempting to take over another land; in its failure to do so, it instead attempts to annihilate it, its people, and its culture. A concert that leaves us pondering the ingenuity and complexity of humans as we reflect on “how we got to this moment.”

Finally, a new work from Gabriel Jackson, who celebrates a long-time collaborative relationship between composer and ensemble with Darest thou now O Soul, a Whitman setting, written as a birthday gift to conductor Donald; It draws on an ‘everything we’ve got’ mentality – virtuosic, insightful, acrobatic, and a hell of a lot of fun – a fitting, rowdy, triumphal close for opening concert of The Month of Moderns 2022.

Full concert program is here.

September 18th, 4 to 6 PM:
Month of Moderns III: Sumptuous Planet

Recorded live July 8, 2022 at The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia

Sumptuous Planet: a secular mass (2021) – David Shapiro

Beloved of the Sky (2020) – Tawnie Olson

with archival studio recordings:
The Years from You to Me (2010) – David Shapiro
It Is Time (2008) – David Shapiro
Breathturn (2010) – Kristin Broberg
Psalm (2005) – Frank Havroy

The closing concert of The Crossing's Month of Moderns 2022. An expression of belief about the nature of life, and the joy we can find in understanding it, told through Richard Dawkins’ decidedly secular world view, paradoxically organized by Philadelphia composer David Shapiro in the shape of a Christian Mass. Sumptuous Planet: A Secular Mass captures the famed biologist’s thoughts on the magnificence and staggering beauty of nature, as well as its utter indifference to our presence here. David’s musical world is one of anticipation and question – there is always another dimension we are invited to consider, to expect, to seek. Here, a Kyrie that reads, “If there is mercy in nature, it is accidental” and a Gloria follows: “Nature is a magnificent structure.”

Tawnie Olson’s Beloved of the Sky also receives its world premiere. Setting excerpts from Canadian artist Emily Carr’s journals, Tawnie has created a series of vignettes in which words and paint seem to intermingle, capturing Carr’s ideas on creating, aging, juxtapositions, and loneliness.

Rounding out the broadcast program are four recordings from The Crossing's 2011 studio album "It Is Time" all on poems of Paul Celan. Two additional works by David Shapiro ("The Years from You to Me" and "It Is Time") celebrate the long history between composer and ensemble, and join works composed by Kristin Broberg and Frank Havroy.

Full concert program is here.

September 25th, 4 to 5 PM:
Titration: A Summer Celebration

Recorded live August 13, 2022 at The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia

TITRATION (2022) – Shara Nova

Fresh from its world premiere in Big Sky, and performances in Ventura, California and at NPR’s Tiny Desk, Shara Nova’’s Titration is an hour-long choral song cycle that examines difficult emotions like fear, sorrow, disgust or rage through the lens of the nervous system and utilizes body-centered practices that develop one’s capacity to calm oneself when such emotions arise. In these times of conflict and crisis, how can we feel more, rather than less?

With simple actions like humming, shaking, holding hands or intentional laughter, the song cycle explores ways that we can soothe our nervous systems, foster a sense of safety, and grow in our capacity to connect with each other. The music is greatly influenced by the Somatic Abolitionist body of work and practices of Resmaa Menakem.

“Somatic Abolitionism is a living embodied Anti-Racism practice and culture building that requires endurance, agility, resource cultivation, stamina, discernment, self and communal discipline cultivation, embodied racial literacy and humility. These can be built, day by day, through reps. These communal life and invitational reps will temper and condition your body, your mind, and your soul to hold the charge of race.” - Resmaa Menakem

By exposing a person to distress, then taking a pause to calm the body, one learns to pay close attention to the body sensations experienced and when revisiting the traumatic event, a person gradually becomes better able to process the pain.

Full concert program is here.

Listen to The Crossing broadcasts every Sunday in September at 4 PM on WRTI 90.1, streaming live on WRTI.org, on the WRTI mobile app, and on your favorite smart speaker.