Penn Live Arts Blog / By / Donald Nally

poor hymnal

Posted December 6, 2023

come and rest with us

One-syllable words.
A command.
No, an invitation.
A compellingly stark appeal.

I need your kindness

I do.
We do.

This is the world of David Lang’s poor hymnal, premiering December 15 in Philadelphia. Read more...

Thoughts on Martin Bresnick’s Self-Portraits 1964, Unfinished

Posted March 13, 2023

If the fundamental demand of the self-portraiture artist is “Look at me,” then I ask if the same may be said of the self-portraiture composer. In a way, every piece of art is a self-portrait: a way of saying, “this is how I see the world.” But when the artist places themselves in the picture, the direction of the view has changed and the eyes of the artist are not looking, with us, at something, but are instead looking at us, the viewer. “This is how I see the world” is quite different than “This is how I want you to see me in the world.” Read more...

The Crossing @ Christmas: Thoughts from the conductor

Posted November 30, 2022

Accelerator Program Holiday Music New Music Philadelphia Premieres World Premieres

I remember the first time I encountered Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias,” with its chilling reference to the ephemerality of civilizations. 

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Some thoughts on In a House Besieged

Posted March 16, 2022

The front page of the morning newspaper features a photo of an elderly woman in Ukraine being helped across a pile of rubble by a middle-aged man.

Perhaps it is her son?
Or someone she doesn’t know?
Or someone related to her that she no longer remembers?
She looks confused.
The photo becomes music in our heads. It is brooding music. Cloudy. Prayerful. Read more...

Carols after a Plague

Posted December 8, 2021

Artwork by Sasan Saidi
Silence not Holy Black Madonna
Mother of All
Offer sacred praise to her
If not, thy tongue should silence give
Holy tone she is
Wholly listen in
- Shara Nova, from Carols after a Plague: II. Tone-policing

Like so much that has happened in the last twelve or more months, Carols after a Plague is the solution to a problem. In fact, so much of creativity, whether artistic or scientific, is the result of facing a challenge that needs solving. In this case, the challenge posed was multi-faceted: “How to record these conflicting feelings, born of isolation, fear, and social unrest? How to make a record of this time? How to better reflect the community we live in?” Read more...

The Month of Moderns 2021

Posted May 25, 2021

New Music U.S. Premiere World Premieres

The Crossing is grateful to be presented by Annenberg Center, our frequent partner.

Entering our second summer of a global pandemic, it could be easy to feel things are quickly returning to “normal,” due to the amazing efficiency of scientists, a surprisingly responsible government (we’d come to expect the opposite), and vigilance on the part of our singers. Yet, the wounds are deep, and the virus lingers nearby, worse than ever in parts of the world that are not able to invest the extraordinary resources available to us in the United States.

I say this because our festival this summer - while being a full Month of Moderns, with three different programs in three weeks – is anything but “normal.” Entirely outside, designed for distance and safety during the pandemic, and capturing this moment in time – a moment when we are confused in balancing hope and caution, fear and defiance, all couched in humility. So, the works we sing this summer address these emotions head on, and that makes me more excited than ever for a Month of Moderns because not only will we be together, but we’ll be mining every bit of what we’ve been through. Read more...