Exclusive Interview: Georgia Shreve Discusses Her Debut Album PARADISE
Georgia Shreve, composer and writer, announced the release of her first album entitled "Paradise" featuring the Manhattan Contemporary Chamber Ensemble on May 17th worldwide. The album is made up of three original compositions by the New York composer: Dante's Paradise, Portraits of the 20th Century, and Fantasia on Celtic Themes. A digital release of the album is now available on iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay, and Amazon.
Dante's Paradise features original music composed by Georgia Shreve, with text by Dante. Music is performed byYeon Jung Lee, Soprano; Gene Stenger, Tenor; Xiaoming Tian, Baritone; and the Manhattan Contemporary Chamber Ensemble.
The composer's work has been performed at Carnegie Hall seven times, most recently in her first solo multi-media concert for chamber orchestra, piano, choir, and vocal soloists. The sold-out concert included her new setting of Alice in Wonderland featuring Salvador Dali's paintings based on Alice; her new film Protopia, which she set to music; as well as her multi-media piece, The Four Seasons, composed of time-lapse video over the course of a year created on iconic New York terraces, accompanied by her piano concerto. Also performed was her new choral piece, Let Us Gather in a Flourishing Way.
Fresh off the success of her latest Carnegie Hall concert, BroadwayWorld Classical sat down with the noted composer in her New York City home to discuss "Paradise," her new digital album and latest of several musical projects.
"I try to find hope and optimism in everything I do," observes Georgia Shreve. "My recent concert at Carnegie Hall found optimism and hope in our midst, especially in Protopia - a word I coined to express visionary work moving toward a better world - which projects a universal spirit that connects us all."
Her new album also sends the message of optimism through the journey of life. In "Dante's Paradise," Dante and his beloved Beatrice, having passed through Hell and Purgatory, journey through the glories of Paradise, encountering wondrous sights and characters along the way.
"The miracle of this final Cantica of the Divine Comedy is that it is at once poetry, autobiography, pilgrimage, travelogue, theology, allegory, history, cosmology, and a treatise on politics, religion, morality, the arts, the imagination, and Dante's own creative process and development," Georgia explains. "It is also a hymn to music, beauty, love, human virtues, and the ineffable spirit. It still makes sense and has relevance seven centuries after it was conceived."
Oratorio: Portraits of the 20th Century: Environment, Art of War, Depression features original music composed byGeorgia Shreve, with text by Hildegard Von Bingen, Sun Tzu, and James Agee. Music performed by Yeon Jung Lee, Soprano; Gene Stenger Tenor; Thomas Goodheart, Baritone; Xiaoming Tian Baritone; and the Manhattan Contemporary Chamber Ensemble.
"Portraits of the 20th Century, mines the work of several past centuries to tie their significance and timelessness to some of the darkest moments of our last century," says Georgia. "The year 2000 closed not just a century but a millennium and the maladies and horrors of our civilization stood out in stark relief. The 12th century writing of Hildegard of Bingen contains prescient warnings about the desecration of the environment. The ironic setting of The Art of War by Sun Tzu from the 6th century evokes the decades of gruesome war. James Agee's more recent text vividly chronicles the poignant experiences of the depression. In the last two decades alone we have witnessed the recurrence of all these nightmares. Oratorio: Portraits of the 20th Century speaks not just to the last century, but to all centuries."
"One of the themes of the oratorio is that we failed to learn from the disasters of the past," she observes. "There is a sense that civilization is always evolving in a positive direction, but in fact that is an illusion. The only cure for that misconception is the study of history and increasingly powerful evocation of this trend through the arts."
Fantasia: featuring music by Georgia Shreve, is inspired by Celtic folk songs. The music is performed by Erin Stewart, Soprano, Michael Slattery, Tenor and Jim Busterud, Baritone. The Celtic folk songs that inspired Fantasia date back as far as the 19th Century, and possibly earlier. They include: Being Here Has Caused My Sorrow, Lad of Lovely Hair, When A Man's In Love, The Nobleman's Wedding, and My Darling Ploughman Boy.
"The songs included in Fantasia grew out of many years of interest in folk songs of the British Isles and were chosen from almost 1000 songs I went through, some dating back several centuries," the composer explains. "I even went to the archives for Irish folk music in Dublin and copied some from there. My family roots are British and I think that increased my interest in their folk heritage."
Fanfare Magazine, in a review of the composer's new digital album, wrote that "Shreve's writing in the final Canto of Dante's Divine Comedy is impeccably disciplined, her vocal lines grateful. Tenor Gene Stenger is a fine presence, strong and confident in his delivery, while Yeon Jung Lee, the soprano, is clarion clear; Xiaoming Tian's strong baritone completes the vocal trio. A small chamber chorus offers commentary, but what shines through is the tenderness of Shreve's writing and her awareness of each of the text's nuances. The flowing, mellifluous, florid penultimate Canto (XXXII) is a lovely outpouring for tenor before the climatic final moments."
"The use of texts by a variety of writers deepens Shreve's response to the last century in her oratorio Portraits of the Twentieth Century," adds Fanfare Magazine. "For the first movement, Shreve uses Hildegard of Bingen's remarkably forward-looking writing; for the second, Sun Tzu (Art of War), and finally James Agee's response to the Depression. Thomas Goodheart is a stunning baritone, resolute and powerful. The first movement works to a powerful climax at its close, fervent and convincing while the energy of the granitic, chorale-like opening of Art of War is sustained throughout. Finally, Depression, which bears the weight of its subject aurally."
"Perhaps most magical of all is the Fantasia, a setting of five Celtic folksongs," concludes Fanfare Magazine. "Soprano Erin Stewart has a beautifully artless way about her delivery of Being Here Has Caused my Sorrow ...that tissue-delicate way Shreve has with scoring is heard to arguably its finest effect during the course of this piece. The soloists come together beautifully in When a Man's in Love. The joy underlying The Nobleman's Wedding is palpable, and all credit to Stewart for negotiating that super-high soprano line. The recording throughout is close and involving. Detail is remarkable, a testament to both engineers and performers."
Georgia Shreve is an artist who is fueled by creative challenges and new artistic horizons. "Next, I am going outside my genre, I am premiering my Rock Opera, entitled Lovesick, for which I wrote every note and every word. Lovesick,will be premiered in the fall of 2018 in New York City.
Paradise featuring the music of Georgia Shreve performed by the Manhattan Contemporary Chamber Ensemble is available on iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay, and Amazon.
Georgia Shreve is a noted composer, fiction writer, playwright, and poet. She holds degrees from Stanford, Brown, Columbia, and PENN. Her poetry and fiction have been published in magazines such as the New Yorker, New Republic, and New Criterion, and her short story, The Countess of M-, won the Stanford Magazine Fiction award. She is in the process of putting the final touches on her novel, Spring Lake. Her plays and musicals have received numerous readings and workshops across New York. In 2012 The New York Times praised the musical composition of Georgia Shreve, writing that "the program also included Georgia Shreve's expansive, psychologically-pointed setting of part of T. S. Eliot's 'Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' in an artfully blended performance."