IN: Reviews

Cosmos and Well-Charted Waters


Soprano Rose Hegele and pianist Julia Scott Carey presented “From the Cosmos to the Soul: A Celebration of Women’s Music” at Illuminate Women’s Music Digital Live-Stream Wednesday afternoon.

Their mission to illume the maze of ten women composers more realistically provided an hour-long environment where sampling was the order of the day. That had both its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, Hegele and Carey graciously allowed the music to speak for itself, presenting only the titles and composers on the screen. And on the other, the multifarious electronics and styles recalled Gunther Schuller’s comparing the multi-directional expeditions of the 20th century to that of a rudderless ship.

That these composers were given “voice” by two entirely committed performers alone might well have put the ship back on course. And while each work on the program exhibited a wide range of navigational skills, all opted to cross well-charted waters.

Young, enterprising Boston-based musicians Hegele and Carey are no newcomers to the local scene, earning their degrees from Eastman and Boston Conservatory of Music at Berklee and from Harvard and New England Conservatory respectively. The enclave, Illuminate Women’s Music, appears to be of recent naissance, its website yet to be filled out.

An oft-exploring gaze of Hegele and a masked Carey were not the only features making a match. Their keen musicianship and dedication caught attention. All in all, smooth sailing for the duo who had obviously amply prepared for their live streaming hour with no chance of going back for edits. Still-life videography helped as anchor.

Sabrina Peña Young’s “Light” from Creation Oratorio for soprano and electronics trusted on words, at times hanging onto long notes for expressive moments. Freely turning electronics played the accompanist’s role.

Anne Phillips’s “Why Faith Abides,” “Romancing Ketchikan” and “An Enduring Imbalance” from An Alaskan Trilogy delivered warm memories and nostalgia as in an American song tradition familiar to many. For these, clear diction throughout was wanting.

Mari Kotskyy’s “Winter Song” fired up an early 20th century storm and perhaps an icy heart under Carey’s deftness.

Kamala Sankarm’s “Ololyga” for vox and electronics disclosed the composer as psycholinguist, “why do we choose the words we do…what are the words here?” Electronically altered voices pronounced an indecipherable background—the sub-consciousness, perhaps. At her best, Hegele pivoted from pitch-less plosives and guttural sounds to a spacy singing that allowed for a liftoff.

Svjetlana Bukvich’s “Tattoo” from Interior Designs brought together soprano, piano and electronics tainted with classical and pop designs. Slow piano chording in major and minor underpropped movie-like vocal drama from a sotto voce “if I cannot love you” to an impassioned “I love you so,” electronics furnishing an exclamation point.

Margaret Bonds’s settings of poems of Edna Saint Vincent Millay at times took to expected melodrama.

Sungji Hong’s improvisatory “Song of the Bell” recast piano tremolos into a clanging bell.

Niloufar Nourbakhsh’s “The Window” allowed Hegele’s low register to glow through quietly gonging electronics.

Mason Bynes’s “The House” sounded out affecting melodic reminiscences.

Hegele and Carey responded sensitively to Beata Moon’s folkish “Time to Reflect,” rounding out their cosmic-to-soul coursing.

David Patterson, Professor of Music and former Chair of the Performing Arts Department at UMass Boston, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen in Paris and holds a PhD from Harvard University.  He is theauthor of 20 Little Piano Pieces from Around the World (G. Schirmer).

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