Crossing chamber choir performs Spratlan’s new piece

Tim Eads "Species of Spaces"
Tim Eads "Species of Spaces"
Posted: June 01, 2012

MEMBERS of The Crossing, a Philadelphia professional chamber choir whose sound the New York Times has described as "lush" and "mesmerizing," sing a lot more than your typical Bach cantatas and oratorios. That’s evident this weekend with the all-vocal "Hesperus is Phosphorus," the second concert in the group’s fourth annual Month of Moderns series. The series fulfills conductor Donald Nally’s initiative to commission new music for the group. This year’s theme has been pieces related to or inspired by poetry; "Hesperus" draws from modern vespers.

"Hesperus" was composed by Lewis Spratlan, the 2000 winner of the Pulitzer Prize in music, and father of Dan Spratlan, a Crossing bass singer. Although vespers are now associated with Christianity, the composer decided to channel ancient Greece in the work. The word "vespers" comes from the ancient Greek term for evening and a name for the evening star, Hesperus, which eventually was discovered to be the same as the morning star, Phosphorus — and, actually, the planet Venus.

The piece also pays homage to famed American poets, playwrights and physicists Wallace Stevens, Richard Feynman, Wallace Shawn and Adrienne Rich, among others. "I sent [Spratlan] a bunch of texts that I am fond of that are relative to this topic — to a greater or lesser extent — dealing with reality, perception, truth in a variety of contemporary circumstances described by some of the most profound minds of the 20th century," Nally said.

Nally said he is proud to have had a part in presenting the new work. "It’s in a great lineage of topic-specific cantatas or oratorios that take on their own form, arranged around the text."

Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8 p.m. Saturday, 8855 Germantown Ave., $27, www.crossingchoir.com.

— Mary Sydnor

ESCAPE ARTIST

Rebekah Templeton Contemporary Art this weekend becomes a collage of color, sound and scent with artist Tim Eads’ multisensory sensation "Species of Spaces." The environment fuses digital prints, mechanical devices, conceptual sculpture and sound instillation to create an escape from the present. Sound artist Austen Brown contributes the experimental electronic music made from devices in the exhibit.

Despite the art’s oddities and its seemingly silly elements, the instillation conveys an experiential togetherness while encouraging dialogue among participants. "Much of my work deals in either childhood fantasies or things I did in my youth. As an artist, I try to recreate that experience," Eads said. "I think about my installation work in a similar way the role of movies plays for us. They take us out of our existence and transport us to another world." n

Rebekah Templeton Contemporary Art, 173 W. Girard Ave., through June 30. Reception 6-9 p.m. Saturday. 267-519-3884, rebekahtempleton.com.

— Amanda Wagner Art Attack is a partnership with Drexel University and is supported by a grant from the Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge, administered by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

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