Pandemic’s New Reality Inspires Art Song in World Premiere of ‘A Village Funeral in the Time of COVID-19,’ Featuring Artists with Crane School of Music Ties
A pandemic that has altered how we learn, think and conduct ourselves also continues to drive new innovation, online collaboration and alternate modes of expression at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.
Sunday, Sept. 20 marks the world virtual premiere of a new collaboration between two current Crane faculty and a past visiting director of opera at the School. “A Village Funeral in the Time of COVID-19” is Crane Professor of Composition Dr. Gregory Wanamaker’s setting of a beautiful and heart-wrenching poem by Garth Bardsley, who was visiting director of opera at Crane in 2008-09. A narrative monologue, the poem addresses the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic upon mortality and emotional gatherings, as well as the awkward reality of social distancing.
“The idea of a virtual premiere is apropos for ‘A Village Funeral,’ simply because this medium has become the performance space of most performing musicians during these difficult times,” said Wanamaker. “It is a sad reality that composers and performers alike have to reinvent themselves while performance spaces are closed.”
The world web premiere of “A Village Funeral in the time of COVID-19” will take place on Sunday, Sept. 20, at 2:15 p.m., on YouTube, at the following link: https://youtu.be/CCfnn5WU4YI. Wanamaker and Bardsley will be virtually “present” to respond in the live chat and answer any questions about the work.
The art song for tenor and piano, premiering on YouTube, will feature the voice of Crane Professor Donald George and is populated with his photographs, taken in Germany. Garth and Wanamaker collaborated remotely through FaceTime and email, then sent the work to George, who did the recording in Percha, Germany. As they discussed the possibility of performance venues, George suggested that he would photograph churchyards, cemeteries, flora and fauna in the region, which became the basis of a stirring video setting created by his daughter, Meggie George, featuring the photographs and Bardsley’s words.
“Garth makes a strong comparison with the mandatory six feet of distance between people as a ‘corpse-length space between,’” Wanamaker said. “His words are filled with such imagery and are fraught with surprising and emotionally-charged observations of an observer at a funeral in real time.”
While the collaboration is the first between George and Wanamaker, Bardsley and Wanamaker have collaborated on several works, including “Laude!,” which was featured on the 2016 Crane Candlelight Concert, and “Adirondack Songs” for Crane Youth Music’s 2014 season. The latter was recorded by the Crane Chorus and Crane Wind Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Brian Doyle, Crane professor and director of bands, for Mark Records.
About The Crane School of Music:
Founded in 1886, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music has a long legacy of excellence in music education and performance. Life at Crane includes an incredible array of more than 300 recitals, lectures and concerts presented by faculty, students and guests each year. The Crane School of Music is the State University of New York’s only All-Steinway institution. For more information, please visit www.potsdam.edu/crane.