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Turn, Turn, Turn to A Far Cry


Karl Doty A Far Cry  bassist
Karl Doty A Far Cry bassist

While camping in the White Mountains a year ago, bassist Karl Doty and violinist Liesl Schoenberger Doty ran into David Upham, conductor of the UNH Symphony Orchestra. David introduced them to Norman Dello Joio’s Meditations on Ecclesiastes. Thus began the genesis of this weekend’s season opener for A Far Cry, the Jamaica Plain-based 18-member self-organized string orchestra. Performances come this Saturday, September 10th at 4 pm at St. John’s Church in JP and at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on Sunday at 1:30.

The Crier’s process of curating has gradually evolved, so that by their fourth season (this being the 10th), any Crier could propose a program for the ensemble to consider. On the walls of Kneisel Hall in Blue Hill ME last weekend, the ensemble mapped out its whole 2017 season.

From the seed of the familiar Ecclesiastes text, “To everything there is a season” which Dello Joio translated into 10 musical statements, one for each verse, Karl and Liesl came up with “Point of View”, pulling together works that each offer a different way of encountering experience.

In Steve Reich’s Clapping Music, just two sets of clapping Criers  repeat a simple African rhythm, one group going more and more out of phase until it all comes ‘round again. This is music in the most basic, physical aspect.

Liel Doty (file photo)
Liel Doty (file photo)

After the Ecclesiastes encounter Haydn’s “Philosopher” Symphony No. 22, having an intellectual point of view, also suggested itself. The quiet opening movement features English horns and French horns over a slow walking bass—balanced, temperate, considerate.

At the center comes what Karl sees as the natural view of the world in Vaughn Williams’ The Lark Ascending. He says, “this is the truth; this is what’s happening outside, all around us.” It brings forth our full being. Ayano Ninomiya takes the lofty violin solo.

The Dello Joio, despite its spiritual tone, has that 1950s Hollywood feel that sets us up for a wild ride to the end. Kip Jones, composer of LDMT, is Karl’s old buddy from Duluth; we heard him several seasons ago in Jones’s double concerto (violin, double bass). Like LDMT, that concerto includes singing as well as playing. [See BMInt’s interview with Doty and Jones here]

Commissioned by the highest bidder on a Kickstarter campaign, a biker who wanted something to accompany him on his way to a race, LDMT stands for Long Distance Motorcycle Transit. It’s rhythmically ecstatic—a hybrid integrating all aspects of our being, and like the entire concert, it turns our point-of-view upside-down and inside-out. 

Pam Kristan wrote criticism for Portland ME publications (The Maine Times, the Portland Press Herald, the Portland Independent et al.) and program notes for Boston Cecilia and Cantata Singers. She has written two books, the more recent, Awakening In Time: Practical Time Management For Those On a Spiritual Path. She lives in Jamaica Plain.

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