Roomful of Teeth
JANUARY 25 & 26 , 2016
THE FOX CABARET | 232 MAIN STREET | Google map
Doors at 7:00 PM | Concert at 8:00 PM
TICKETS|$29/$15 (regular/student) General admission seating. Ages 19+.
Cameron Beauchamp, bass
Dashon Burton, bass-baritone
Martha Cluver, soprano
Eric Dudley, tenor
Estelí Gomez, soprano
Thann Scoggin, baritone
Caroline Shaw, alto
Virginia Warnken, mezzo-soprano
Brad Wells, founder
Fearless pieces that are both beautiful and groovy as hell.The Thoroughfare
It’s about new frontiers in music. It’s about mining the expressive potential of the human voice. And it’s about repertoire without borders.
Roomful of Teeth: the Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble that’s a band, not a choir.
Join us for an intimate, powerful performance where you’ll hear eight vocalists at the top of their game sing music for the 21st Century, including Partita, the game-changing piece of music that won Music on Main’s Composer In Residence Caroline Shaw the Pulitzer Prize.
If you like vocal music, great performances, or art that’s packed with optimism, you’ll love Roomful of Teeth.
Partita for 8 Voices
High Done No Why To
Partita for 8 Voices (2009-2011)
The score’s inscription reads: “Partita is a simple piece. Born of a love of surface and structure, of the human voice, of dancing and tired ligaments, of music, and of our basic desire to draw a line from one point to another.”
Each movement takes a cue from the traditional baroque suite in initial meter and tone, but the familiar historic framework is soon stretched and broken, through “speech, whispers, sighs, murmurs, wordless melodies, and novel vocal effects” (Pulitzer jury citation). Roomful of Teeth’s utterly unique approach to singing and vocal timbre originally helped to inspire and shape the work during its creation, and the ensemble continues to refine and reconsider the colors and small details with every performance. Allemande opens with the organized chaos of square dance calls overlapping with technical wall drawing directions of the artist Sol LeWitt, suddenly congealing into a bright, angular tune that never keeps its feet on the ground for very long. There are allusions to the movement’s intended simulation of motion and space in the short phrases of text throughout, which are sometimes sung and sometimes embedded as spoken texture. Sarabande’s quiet restraint in the beginning is punctured in the middle by an ecstatic, belted melody that resolves quietly at the end, followed soon after by the Inuit-inspired hocketed breaths of Courante. A wordless quotation of the American folk hymn “Shining Shore” appears at first as a musical non sequitur but later recombines with the rhythmic breaths as this longest movement is propelled to its final gasp. Passacaglia is a set of variations on a repeated chord progression, first experimenting simply with vowel timbre, then expanding into a fuller texture with the return of the Sol LeWitt text. At Passacaglia’s premiere in 2009, there was spontaneous applause and cheering at the explosive return of the D-major chord near the end — so feel free to holler or clap any time if you feel like it.
Of the premiere of Partita, New York magazine wrote that I had “discovered a lode of the rarest commodity in contemporary music: joy.” And it is with joy that this piece is meant to be received in years to come.
Vesper Sparrow (2012)
Vesper Sparrow was written for Roomful of Teeth at their 2012 residency at Mass MoCA. The text comes from Farnoosh Fathi’s poem Home State, from her recent book Great Guns. The piece is an eclectic amalgamation of imaginary birdsong and my own interpretation of Sardinian overtone singing. In this piece I tried to capture the exuberance and energy of these individual singers as well as a bit of the magic that is created when this group comes together.
Kalief Browder (2016)
Far less publicized but no less tragic than the fates of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin (and many others), Kalief Browder’s life was lost at the hands of U.S. law enforcement over years rather than minutes or seconds. In 2010 at the age of 16, Browder was arrested for the alleged theft of a backpack. A well-liked African American high school student in the Bronx, he never swerved from avowing his innocence. Only after serving over three years in Rikers Prison was he released without trial and with the charges dropped. Two of those years were served in solitary confinement, in a 12 X 7 foot cell, during which he was sometimes beaten and regularly hungry (still young and growing). He would notice pieces of bread, left uneaten, on other inmates’ trays and ask, ‘can I get that bread?’ As Jennifer Gonnerman wrote in her extraordinary profile in The New Yorker, “[s]ometimes they would slip him an extra slice or two; often, they refused.” In June 2015 at the age of 22, two years after he was released, he succumbed to the psychological trauma of prison and hanged himself.
Run Away (2009)
Run Away was written at Mass MoCA in the summer of 2009, during the first-ever assemblage of Roomful of Teeth. I came up for the second week of their 2-week residency, not knowing what the group was capable of doing — a forgivable sin since the group itself was just beginning to learn their own abilities and capacities. With me, I brought some sketches that I felt could be adapted to whatever sounds I heard the singers produce; these were études of sorts, studies in rhythm and harmony that left a lot of room for different sounds in different places. Once I heard what the group was able to do, I adapted some of these with their varied techniques in mind, creating fully-formed pieces that combined my sketches with the sounds of the ensemble.
Run Away is a simple song that I wrote to feature the voice of Virginia Warnken. She sings over a “pad” that the men lay down, a blend of vocal sounds that approximates Tuvan singing but is mellowed considerably. The other women join Virginia at the end of the song, carrying the story on into the future.
into the forest
pick the flowers that you find
make a bouquet
cut the stems
place them in clear water
to throw away all the roots
and the thorns
of the thing
that once as born
from the dirt
and through the soil
coming to rise up
among the trees
in the forest
not a noble thing
but the whole thing
finds a way
to find the daylight
on a May night
you run away
Cesca’s View (2009)
I spent three weeks at a retreat in the Pyrenées. My apartment had this extraordinary view. Every night this lovely woman named Cesca fixed all of the residents dinner in her home. She and her husband Luis served us. We stayed late to talk about life and art over bottles of their excellent wine. Every morning I was awakened to the sound of bells – goats were being herded down the mountain.
Otherwise features Sardinian cantu a tenore-inspired singing, belting, and some yodeling all in a melange to highlight a baritone in full bel canto glory. The title comes from one of my favorite Jane Kenyon poems but uses no text, only non-sense syllables as lyrics. It’s a celebratory little vocalise for Roomful of Teeth.
The January 25 concert is generously sponsored by Grossman & Stanley Business Lawyers.
This concert is presented with the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.