The Esoterics unites with Skyros String Quartet to present vivid choral settings of poetry in pursuit of the divine, with rapturous texts from medieval Germany, post-Industrial-Revolution New England, and contemporary Seattle and Nebraska. The a cappella portion of the program includes Pulitzer Prize -winner Aaron Jay Kernis’ Ecstatic meditations (1999) and Eric Banks’ I am among them (2013). Skyros joins in for Tarik O’Regan’s The ecstasies above (2006) and Charlie Leftridge’s Of seasons have I sung (2015).
Drawing on such eclectic influences as jazz, Renaissance polyphony, and the North African folk music of his heritage, O’Regan’s Ecstasies weave bold modal harmonies into driving rhythms through strings and triple chorus to create an ethereal sonic portrayal of Edgar Allan Poe’s Israfel, a poetic reflection on the Muslim archangel of song. Kernis’ four-movement cycle, with from texts from Mechtild of Magdeburg’s 13th-century tome The flowing light of divinity, uses perfectly-matched musical textures to evoke imagery of holy inspiration ranging from divine love’s lilting, effortless flow to a fervently whirling dance.
The works of Banks and Leftridge consider the prospect of euphoric liberation in the hereafter. The text found in I am among them (premiered by The Esoterics in 2013’s AEONIA concert series) comes from the poetry of Seattle’s own Dan-Eric Slocum, best known locally as a longtime KOMO television and radio anchor. Slocum’s bittersweet, yearning poetry grapples through the agony of illness to the promise of release. Banks’ seamless settings of fragments from Slocum’s unfinished writings are dedicated to Slocum’s memory. Leftridge’s setting of his own text traces the course of grief over the loss of one “wrapped in earth and heaven,” eventually leading to a wish for the hope of eternal reunion in the afterlife.
5 June 2015 | 800 pm | St Stephen’s Episcopal Church | 4805 NE 45th Street | Seattle
6 June 2015 | 200 pm | First Christian Church | 1314 SW Park Ave | Portland
7 June 2015 | 300 pm | Holy Rosary Catholic Church | 4210 SW Genesee St | West Seattle