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The Crossing

Donald Nally's professional chamber choir is featured on the New York Philharmonic's new recording of Julia Wolfe's 'Fire in my mouth'

 

Grammy winning new-music choir, The Crossing, is featured on the New York Philharmonic's new recording of its world premiere performance of Julia Wolfe's Fire in my mouth, out digitally since 30 August 2019, and in physical format on 4 October 2019 on Decca Gold, Universal Music Group's newly established US classical music label. Thirty-six women of The Crossing, conducted by Donald Nally, comprise the choral ensemble for which the work was conceived and they are featured prominently in all four movements of the work.

The New York Philharmonic premiered Julia Wolfe's Fire in my mouth in January 2019 at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center. The work, co-commissioned by the orchestra, features The Crossing along with the Young People's Chorus of New York City, directed by Francisco J Núñez. The New York Times called the work 'ambitious, heartfelt, often compelling... There is both heady optimism and a sense of dread in Ms Wolfe's music ... Mr van Zweden led a commanding account of a score that ... ends with an elegiac final chorus in which the names of all 146 victims are tenderly sung to create a fabric of music and memory'. The performance earned the coveted spot in the highbrow / brilliant quadrant of New York Magazine's Approval Matrix.

Fire in my mouth is a reflection on the New York garment industry at the turn of the twentieth century through a focus on the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory that employed 146 garment workers, most of them young immigrants. The title refers not only to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, but also to Ukrainian immigrant and labor activist Clara Lemlich, who, when looking back on her radical youth, said, 'Ah, then I had fire in my mouth'. The music evokes the roar of hundreds of sewing machines and the language of protest to recreate the world of women working in New York garment factories in the early twentieth century, the majority of whom were Jewish and Italian immigrants. Fire in my mouth was co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic; Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley; the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; and the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In writing the piece, Julia Wolfe used her signature intensive research methods, drawing on oral histories, speeches, interviews and historical writings.

The Crossing is a professional chamber choir conducted by Donald Nally and dedicated to new music. It is committed to working with creative teams to make and record new, substantial works for choir that explore and expand ways of writing for choir, singing in choir, and listening to music for choir. Many of its nearly ninety commissioned premieres address social, environmental, and political issues. With a commitment to recording its commissions, The Crossing has issued sixteen releases, receiving two Grammy Awards for Best Choral Performance (2018, 2019), and three Grammy nominations in as many years.

The Crossing collaborates with some of the world's most accomplished ensembles and artists, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra, Network for New Music, Lyric Fest, Piffaro, Tempesta di Mare Baroque Chamber Orchestra, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Toshimaru Nakamura, Annenberg Center Live, Beth Morrison Projects, Dolce Suono, Allora & Calzadilla, Pig Iron Theatre Company, The Rolling Stones, and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), with whom they have appeared at Miller Theatre of Columbia University in the American premiere of James Dillon's Nine Rivers, Peak Performances at Montclair State University, The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the National Gallery in Washington D C, and the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center.

The Crossing joined Bang on a Can for its first Philadelphia Marathon. Similarly, The Crossing often collaborates with some of the world's most prestigious venues and presenters, such as the Park Avenue Armory, the Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania, National Sawdust, David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, Disney Hall in Los Angeles, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, the Haarlem Choral Bienalle in The Netherlands, The Kennedy Center in Washington, the Philadelphia Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Delaware Museum of Art, Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space in New York, the WNYC Winter Garden, and Duke, Northwestern, Rowan, Salisbury, Colgate, and Notre Dame Universities.

In 2014, they premiered John Luther Adams' Sila: the breath of the world at Lincoln Center with Jack Quartet and eighth blackbird. The Crossing holds an annual residency at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in Big Sky, Montana where they are working on an extensive, multi-year project with composer Michael Gordon and filmmaker Bill Morrison. Their concerts are broadcast regularly on WRTI 90.1FM, Philadelphia's Classical and Jazz Public Radio. In the 2019-2020 season The Crossing will return to Carnegie Hall and make debuts at The Met Cloisters in New York, The Mann Center in Philadelphia, and the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki.

The Crossing has presented nearly ninety commissioned world premieres. Major new works have include Michael Gordon's Anonymous Man (2017), Michael Gilbertson's Born (2017), Anna Thorvaldsdottir's Ad genua (2016), Lansing McLoskey's Zealot Canticles (2017), Caroline Shaw's To the Hands (2016), John Luther Adams' Canticles of the Holy Wind (2013, co-commissioned with Kamer), Gavin Bryars' The Fifth Century (2014, written for The Crossing and PRISM), Stratis Minakakis' Crossings Cycle (2015/2017), Gregory Spears' The Tower and the Garden (2019), Gregory Brown's un/bodying/s (2017), David Lang's statement to the court (2010), Lewis Spratlan's Hesperus is Phosphorus (2012, co-commissioned with Network for New Music), Ted Hearne's Sound From the Bench (2014, co-commissioned with Volti) and Animals (2018, co-commissioned with the Park Avenue Armory), and, from Kile Smith: The Arc in the Sky (2018), The Consolation of Apollo (2014), The Waking Sun (2011), Vespers (2008, a commission of Piffaro), and The Arc in the Sky (2018).

In 2019, the women of The Crossing collaborated with The New York Philharmonic on the world premiere of Julia Wolfe's Fire in My Mouth. In 2016, The Crossing presented Seven Responses with new works including those of David T Little, Hans Thomalla, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, and Santa Ratniece. That same year, The Crossing commissioned and presented Jeff Quartets, a rare compilation of quartets from fifteen of the world's leading composers, presented as a concert-length set and collected in an omnibus edition. In June 2019, The Crossing presented its largest project to date, Aniara: fragments of time and space, a collaboration with Klockriketeatern in Helsinki, and composer Robert Maggio.

Future projects include composers Edie Hill, Tawnie Olson, Daniel Felsenfeld, Tawnie Olson, Harold Meltzer, Stacy Garrop, Jacob Cooper, David Shapiro, Aaron Helgeson, Martin Bresnick, Caroline Shaw, Gabriel Kahane, and Marcos Balter.

The Crossing's collaboration with PRISM, Gavin Bryars' The Fifth Century (ECM, October 2016), was the winner of the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance and named one of The Chicago Tribune's Top 10 Classical CDs of 2016. Lansing McLoskey's Zealot Canticles won the 2019 Grammy and Thomas Lloyd's Bonhoeffer (Albany 2016) was nominated for the 2017 Grammy, both as Best Choral Performance.

A performance by The Crossing. Photo © Jill Steinberg
A performance by The Crossing. Photo © Jill Steinberg

The Crossing, with Donald Nally, was the American Composers Forums' 2017 Champion of New Music. The Crossing's 2014 commission Sound from The Bench by Ted Hearne was named a 2018 Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music. They were the recipient of the 2015 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence, three ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, as well as the Dale Warland Singers Commission Award (with composer Joel Puckett) from Chorus America.

Further information: www.crossingchoir.org

Posted 4 September 2019 by Katy Salomon

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