Sara Kirkland Snider ~ Composer of Music

The Blue Hour: World Premiere and Tour

A Far Cry, photographed in South Boston, MA, USA on Tuesday, September 29, 2015. (Photo by Yoon S. Byun)



It was magical to bring The Blue Hour to life a couple weeks ago. The work premiered at Washington Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and from there began a U.S. tour. The piece received rave reviews from The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Boston Musical Intelligencer, and I Care If You Listen. From the A Far Cry website:

The Blue Hour features Grammy-winning singer Luciana Souza in a song cycle written by a collaborative of five leading composers – Rachel GrimesAngélica Negrón, Shara NovaCaroline Shaw, and Sarah Kirkland Snider. The text that serves as the libretto is by 2017 Windham-Campbell Prize winner Carolyn Forché. The excerpted poem, “On Earth,” is from Forché’s 2003 collection Blue Hour. The remarkable poem takes the form of an abecedarium: a listing of images, thousands of them, in alphabetical order, like a flurry of memories from a life coming to its end.

A Far Cry and the composers collaborated through ongoing communication and artist retreats. Mirroring A Far Cry’s democratic creative process, the composers worked together to develop the text adaptation from Forché’s poem for this musical setting, maintaining the abecedary form. While each composer created individual songs, they also worked together on instrumental transitions, refrains, and musical themes to create a continuous, integrated work.

A group of Criers (A Far Cry musicians) first met with the composers in July 2016 to begin work on the project. Everyone agreed that the new work should be as collaborative as possible. The composers wanted the freedom to create individual songs on their own, yet they also wanted to immerse themselves in the collective process to sculpt the larger experience with each other and with the orchestra. The Criers will also embody a dynamic link between the music and text, including passages of spoken word and stage choreography, possibly reciting poem fragments in the concert space as the audience enters.

Luciana Souza, vocalist

The group has also talked a great deal about structure: the orderly alphabetical structure of the poem juxtaposed with the nonlinear narrative of the subject’s life, remembered haphazardly, but gradually coming into focus. Scale then becomes a critical element, considering the enormity of the poem, making it possible to zoom in on a single image, but also to zoom out and see thousands. That sense of dimension – from the micro to the macro – will be a core guiding principle for the eventual work.

Finally, at the meeting in July, the group asked themselves, “Why do this project? What does it represent?” and from that, the following statement emerged:

“In a time when we are seeing masses of people dehumanized – by war, displacement, poverty – we are looking here at a single life, the beautiful detail of one human existence. There is something precious in that; that through our sense of empathy with this one individual, we are given a lens through which to see our own world with greater clarity.

— A Far Cry

The world premiere of the work will be presented by co-commissioner Washington Performing Arts in Washington, DC on November 4, 2017. The other co-commissioners are Bucknell UniversityUniversity of Iowa’s Hancher Performances, and Florida State University.

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