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The Crossing Releases Gavin Bryars' A NATIVE HILL On Navona Records

A Native Hill is the long-anticipated follow-up to Gavin Bryars' The Fifth Century, which won The Crossing its first GRAMMY award in 2018.

The Crossing Releases Gavin Bryars' A NATIVE HILL On Navona Records

On Friday, April 9, 2021, The Crossing, led by Donald Nally, will release its 24th commercial album, English composer Gavin Bryars' concert-length musical essay A NATIVE HILL, on Navona Records. A Native Hill, based on the early writings of American author and activist Wendell Berry, is Bryars' most substantial work for a cappella choir and was written as a gift for The Crossing. Physical CDs will be available on Friday, June 11, 2021.

The long-anticipated follow-up to Gavin Bryars' The Fifth Century, which won The Crossing its first GRAMMY award in 2018, the 12-movement A Native Hill was premiered by the ensemble in October 2019 at their home, The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia. Wendell Berry's text, from his 1968 essay of the same title, offers meditations on how life is, and can be, experienced, through detailed descriptions of the minutiae of rural existence, where simple natural events reveal themselves as metaphors for universal truths. Bryars has a close working and personal relationship with The Crossing, and draws on his intimate knowledge of the singers' individual characteristics to create a further thoughtful and even more profoundly meaningful work for the ensemble. The New York Times has called Bryars' music "accessible and defiantly personal," and A Native Hill exemplifies his organic synthesis of sophisticated musical ideas with an earthy, insightful understanding of daily life.

Donald Nally, conductor of The Crossing, remarked, "The combination of Wendell Berry, with whom we share a deep (and at times outspoken) concern for our relationship with the earth, and Gavin Bryars, whose vocal writing for The Crossing can reach deep into memory and emotional introspection, is like many roads converging in an inevitable way. Gavin's music inspires us to stop, listen, and ponder. It is less a call to action than an invitation to remember again the beauty of the natural world and the life available to those who listen to that world."

Of the world premiere, critic David Patrick Stearns wrote in The Philadelphia Inquirer, "The final movement Sunday was punctuated by a chord built on 24 gently dissonant pitches, creating a sonority unlike anything I've heard - something that can only be vaguely compared to what might happen if someone lay down on an organ keyboard. The expression of that sound simultaneously conveyed exaltation and unresolvable grief, suggesting what the composer experienced this past year with the death of a loved one and birth of a granddaughter while he was writing A Native Hill. The chord is also borderline impossible to sing, but The Crossing under conductor Donald Nally seemed not to break a sweat. Elsewhere in the piece, the closer you listened, the more it was anything but what it seemed to be."

A Native Hill is dedicated to Bryars' granddaughter and is in memory of her father, whose sudden death during the writing of A Native Hill, had a profound impact on the work.

About Gavin Bryars:

Gavin Bryars, born in 1943, studied philosophy but became a jazz bassist and pioneer of free improvisation with Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley. Early iconic pieces The Sinking of the Titanic and Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet achieved great popular success. Works include five operas, a large body of chamber music, several concertos and much vocal music including 6 books of madrigals - performers include The Hilliard Ensemble, Trio Mediaeval, Red Byrd, Latvian Radio Choir, Estonian National Male Choir, Iarla O'Lionaird, Singer Pur and The Crossing, whose recording of The Fifth Century was awarded a GRAMMY. He has collaborated widely with visual artists (Juan Muñoz, Bruce McLean), choreographers (William Forsythe, Merce Cunningham, Edouard Lock, David Dawson, Carolyn Carlson), theatre directors (Robert Wilson, Atom Egoyan), as well as writing music for the films of his wife Anna Tchernakova. He has also worked with non-classical performers such as Charlie Haden, Bill Frisell, Tom Waits, Natalie Merchant, Gavin Friday, Father John Misty, Bertrand Belin, Mocke. Since 1986 he has performed internationally and recorded with the Gavin Bryars Ensemble, his preferred performers. A French book on his work, Gavin Bryars, en paroles et musique, appeared in 2020 and a second book is due for publication in England in April 2021 He lives in a Leicestershire village and on Vancouver Island. He is a Transcendent Satrap and a Regent of the Collège de 'Pataphysique and has made many recordings - for ECM, Point, Philips, Naxos, Decca, and his own label GB Records. Learn more at

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