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WordSong Channels Blake

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In “Tyger Circus,” mezzo-soprano Krista River, baritone Keith Phares and pianist Linda Osborn will offer 18 musical settings of William Blake’s eponymous poem. WordSong, Boston’s singular interactive concert organization, will be marking its 10th anniversary at First Church Boston on Friday, April 26th at 8pm.

We co-founding composers [Howard Frazin and Tom Schnauber] have spent the last 10 years exploring the idea that all listeners have an intuitive musical understanding. The unique concert format presents a collection of new settings of the same poem, usually something well-known to the general public, and performs each piece in tandem with a conversation that has the audience telling musicians and composers what they hear. In the past decade, what audiences heard from us and what we heard from audiences has been the inspiration for more than 70 concerts featuring 12 different programs presented in Boston and throughout New England, as well as in New York, Washington, Minneapolis, and as far away as Vancouver and Bulgaria.

Now we present 18 musical interpretations of the same poem. Is this really a good idea? Well is it a good idea for a trapeze artist to walk a tightrope without a net? It’s certainly not safe, but it’s almost always memorable one way or another.

One thing is for sure: While many arts organizations aspire to thematic programming these days, it is highly unlikely that any other music presenting organization in Boston (or anywhere else) has taken up the idea of a theme with the tenacity WordSong has. And to bring our best game to this challenge we have two remarkable singers, Krista River (a longtime Emmanuel Music soloist who has sung with the Boston Symphony) and Keith Phares (who helped the opera Elmer Gantry win the Grammy for Best New Work in 2012, singing the lead), and the wonderful pianist Linda Osborn (from BMOP) as our Tyger tamers.

Circuses are supposed to be fun, but they’re a little scary too. They present life at its contorted extremes. Maybe all art does that in some way. Eighteen expressive reflections on one thing is probably a little extreme. WordSong and its composers and performers are nonetheless trying to honestly reflect on complicated realities in meaningful ways. Will that sell newspapers? Probably not. Is it news, or something worth reporting on? We can only hope so.

Timothy Dusenbury, Howard Frazin,Herschel Garfein, Christopher Hossfeld, Mark Bolan Konigsmark, John McDonald, Robert Merfeld, Benjamin Pesetsky, Eric Sawyer, Tom Schnauber, Adam Simon, Bert, Van Herck, Tianyi Wang, Ian Weise, Yanchen Ye will each set the 24 lines (some more than once).

Krista River, mezzo-soprano
Keith Phares, baritone
Linda Osborn, piano

with guest performers Tyler Bouque, John McDonald, and Tianyi Wang

Suggested: $20 general / $10 student • wordsongboston.org

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