Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presents The Drop of Dawn in ReviewDistinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presents The Drop of Dawn Distinguished Concerts Orchestra, Distinguished Concerts Singers International Jonathan Griffith, Music Director; Christopher Tin, composer-in-residence Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY April 13, 2014
In a concert entitled The Drop of Dawn, Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presented the music of Christopher Tin. The title makes reference to the two works on the program, Calling All Dawns, and the World Premiere of his latest work, The Drop That Contained the Sea. Featuring eight vocal soloists and chorus members from Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois, Washington, California, Wisconsin, Vermont, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Canada, England, and “individuals around the globe” (the program listed 543 singers!), it was what I have come to expect from DCINY – an extravaganza.
Christopher Tin (b. 1976) is a composer whose works cover diverse genres. Mr. Tin has written for orchestra, electronica, film and television, and video games. Calling All Dawns won two Grammy awards, for Best Crossover Classical Album and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists (for Baba Yetu).
The concert opened with Calling All Dawns. This is the second time DCINY has programmed this work, the first time at Avery Fisher Hall on April 7, 2013. I had the privilege of reviewing that performance for New York Concert Review. For information about the background of Calling All Dawns and my impressions of that performance, interested readers can refer to that review by clicking here: Calling All Dawns in Review April 7, 2013. Since that occasion, I have had the opportunity to hear the recording of this work and study parts of the score, and have found my initial reaction to this crowd-pleaser to be mostly unchanged.
What was especially interesting about this performance was that the soloists often took multiple roles (in multiple languages), whereas the prior performance had featured a multitude of soloists in singular roles. This was no mean feat, considering that many of the languages were not ones that one would usually encounter in the concert hall. Tenor soloist Saum Eskandani was at times inaudible in the Baba Yetu and Rassemblons-Nous movements, which I would attribute to excessive exuberance from the orchestra (especially the percussion section) coupled with the failure to quickly correct a microphone level that was too low. When Mr. Eskandani could be heard clearly, he delivered emotionally charged performances. Fadista Nathalie Pires and Mongolian vocalist Nominjin invested every last ounce of passion in their songs, while Anonymous 4 singer Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek and Indian Classical vocalist Roopa Mahadevan showed everyone why Mr. Tin had selected them for the Calling All Dawns recording. Finally, Jerome Kavanagh delighted the audience when he came on stage in Maori tribal dress, chanting in Maori and dancing in the final movement.
Conductor Jonathan Griffith led the large forces with his customary skill, while the chorus was having the time of their lives swaying to the music as one. It was everything a performance should be – polished technically and delivered with uninhibited joy by individuals who truly love what they are doing.
At the start of the second half, Jonathan Griffith and Christopher Tin joined together for an impromptu conversation onstage about The Drop That Contained the Sea. Mr. Tin stated that he had been travelling around the world seeking the specific vocal sounds of different cultures to use for this work. The Drop That Contained the Sea is a ten-movement work. As with Calling All Dawns, each movement is in a different language, those languages being Proto-Indu-European, Turkish, Bulgarian, Xhosa, Mongolian, Portuguese, Sanskrit, Ancient Greek, Old Norse, and Lango. Even though one can say that the blueprint is similar, the end product is reflective of Mr. Tin’s deepening maturity as a composer. While retaining his marked ability for writing music with a wide appeal, he has also formed his own distinct voice without any obvious influences (including from his own Calling All Dawns). The Drop That Contained the Sea is a powerfully dramatic work, well-conceived and skillfully realized. For those persons unable to attend (or for those who want more), a recording of The Drop That Contained the Sea (due for release on May 8, 2014) is available for purchase at www.christophertin.com
The soloists had smaller roles than in Calling All Dawns, but all delivered strong performances. It was especially gratifying that Saum Eskandani’s voice was consistently heard here in its full resonance. Nathalie Pires, Roopa Mahadevan, and Nominjin returned and were joined by Mezzo-soprano Charity Dawson, who proved herself to be a powerhouse. This was a winning combination of talents, and one might hope they appear on the soon-to-be released recording.
The chorus handled the demands of the often complicated writing and the diverse languages with remarkable ability, and the Distinguished Concerts orchestra was very effective in handling the different colors and moods, from the serenity of Devipravaha (Goddess River) to the fierce Viking-like intensity of Haf Gengr Hríðum (The Storm-Driven Sea). Once again, one must praise Jonathan Griffith for leading an excellent first performance of a complex and emotionally charged work.
The final movement Waloyo Yamoni (We Overcome the Wind) ended with all the soloists, the on-stage choir joined by several hundred more singers in the balconies, and the full orchestra in an explosion of sound bringing this fine work to a exultant conclusion. Recalling what I had written in the April 7, 2013 review, “The audience reacted after the final notes with the loudest and longest standing ovation I have ever heard at any concert. Mr. Tin was called to the stage and the ovation became deafening.” The reaction tonight moved the bar up many decibels! It was a fitting end to a wonderful evening, and I eagerly await the next collaboration between Mr. Tin and DCINY.