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The Crossing Releases THE TOWER AND THE GARDEN


Featuring Gregory Spears’ The Tower and the Garden, Joel Puckett’s I enter the earth, and Toivo Tulev’s A child said, what is the grass?

The Crossing Releases THE TOWER AND THE GARDEN

Today, GRAMMY-winning choir The Crossing, led by Donald Nally, releases its 23rd commercial album, THE TOWER AND THE GARDEN on Navona Records. The album features Gregory Spears' The Tower and the Garden, Joel Puckett's I enter the earth, and Toivo Tulev's A child said, what is the grass? All three virtuosic works were written for and premiered by The Crossing, which has commissioned over 110 works since its inception. The Crossing's latest release on Navona, CARTHAGE, is nominated for a 2021 GRAMMY Award for Best Choral Performance.

Toivo Tulev's A child said, what is the grass? was premiered by The Crossing's annual festival of new choral music, The Month of Moderns, in 2015. Tulev sets poetry from Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" from Leaves of Grass. In the poem, Whitman tries to answer a child's simple question, "What is the grass?," concluding, "to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier." In reviewing the premiere, The Philadelphia Inquirer described the piece as, "a triumph of internationalism, never resorting to any false Americana while dramatizing Whitman's words, but creating distinctive musical symbolism with the composer's characteristically complex, high-style harmonies." A child said, what is the grass? was commissioned by The Crossing with support from the Estonian Ministry of Culture.

Gregory Spears' The Tower and the Garden (2018) is a setting of three poems for choir and strings based on texts of Thomas Merton, Keith Garebian, and Denise Levertov. The subject matter explores the relationship between technological innovation and its dangers that can often lead to haunting sociological change, juxtaposing the dangers of unchecked technological advancement (the tower) and the need for a place of refuge (the garden) in a world threatened by war and ecological disaster. The first text, written by Trappist monk and social activist Thomas Merton, is a meditation on the garden of Gethsemane and the search for truth amidst the uncertainties of the modern world. The second movement sets a poem of Catholic activist Denise Levertov - a meditation on the Tower of Babel and the dangers of technological collapse. The final poem, written by Keith Garebian, is an homage to queer filmmaker Derek Jarman and his small cottage garden at Dungeness, England. Situated precariously between a nuclear power plant and the sea, the cottage and garden were Jarman's austere refuge during the final months of his struggle with AIDS. The Tower and the Garden was commissioned through a grant from the Ann Stookey Fund for New Music.

Joel Puckett's dizzying, entrancing I enter the earth was also premiered at The Month of Moderns 2015. Puckett set words spoken by a shaman of northwestern Botswana in 1971. The words were recorded in Dr. Marguerite Anne Biesele's 1975 Harvard PhD dissertation, Folklore and ritual of Kung hunter gatherers, and read "When people sing ... I enter the earth. I go in at a place like a place where people drink water. I travel a long way, very far. When I emerge, I am already climbing." I enter the earth was commissioned through an award from Chorus America: The Dale Warland Singers Commission Award, funded by the American Composers Forum.

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