The following paragraph appeared in The New York Times on August 16.
“In his Magic Songs (1988), the Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer did away with literal meaning, giving his singers strings of phonemes instead of words and creating a ritualistic drama partly through movement and partly through the way the vocal sounds were ordered and shaped. Chants, declarations, call and response and communal celebration were all suggested in turn, indicating that the magic of a ritual can have more to do with the physicality of its enactment than with its text.”
I’m pleased to say that I was in the audience at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall for this performance. I was in New York, attending a music critics’ conference (yes, there are such things), and so I went with a group of critics to hear the Scuola Cantorum Venezuela.
As I took my seat, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this group. And when I opened the programme book, and saw that a choir from Venezuela was about to sing a work by a Canadian composer – in New York – I was a little astounded. That’s not the way the musical universe normally operates, is it? But perhaps things are changing. Maybe the day will come when it won’t be unusual for Canadian musicians to perform Canadian works in New York. Or is that too much to hope for?
What NY Times critic Allan Kozinn curiously fails to mention is that Magic Songs is a beautiful and fascinating piece, the performance was excellent, and the audience was clearly drawn into Schafer’s sound-world.