The Crossing Wins Second Consecutive Grammy for Best Choral Performance
The Crossing and Donald Nally have won the 2019 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance for their recording of Lansing McLoskey's Zealot Canticles. The award was presented yesterday, February 10, 2019, at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. This marks the Philadelphia new-music choir's second consecutive Grammy in the category, previously winning the 2018 Grammy for Gavin Bryars' The Fifth Century with PRISM Saxophone Quartet on ECM. The Crossing's recording of Thomas Lloyd's Bonhoeffer (Albany 2016) was nominated for the 2017 Grammy in the same category.
Donald Nally, conductor of The Crossing, says: "Having our work heard by an ever-increasing audience is part of the reason we make art, and we are grateful to the Recording Academy and its members for recognizing our work. It is truly humbling to have so many artists and friends invest everything into a project that means so much and has a strong message, and then see that it is being heard by many people beyond our local, and amazing family. This award belongs to our singers, instrumentalists, and the composer."
Based on Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka's Twelve Canticles for the Zealot - a strangely beautiful and terrifying look into the minds of fanatics - Lansing McLoskey's Zealot Canticles is a concert-length choral 'oratorio' for clarinet, string quartet, and 24-voice choir. The work makes virtuosic demands on all the artists, particularly on the clarinetist, here, Philadelphia's Doris Hall-Galuti. The string quartet on the album is comprised of violinists Rebecca Harris and Mandy Wolman, violist Lorenzo Raval, and cellist Arlen Hlusko.
Soyinka's texts and Lansing's responses are universal pleas for peace and tolerance, yet they force us to look into the mirror and recognize the thin line between devotion and intolerance, zealotry and radicalism - themes that dominate our public discourse every day. Zealot Canticles was premiered on March 19, 2017 at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia, The Crossing's home venue, and was commissioned by Donald Nally and The Crossing, with generous support from The Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University, and the University of Miami.
Wole Soyinka (b. 1934) is a Nigerian poet, playwright, novelist, and recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature, the first African American recipient of the award. In 1967, Soyinka was arrested and imprisoned for civil defiance after denouncing the suppression of human rights and free speech by the military dictatorship of General Yakubu Gowon, intervening in an attempt to avoid the Nigerian/Biafran civil war, and condemning the genocide of the Igbo people. In the decades following his release, Soyinka has remained an outspoken advocate for human rights. In 2002, Soyinka published a set of poems titled ''Twelve Canticles for the Zealot,'' a strangely beautiful and terrifying look into the mind of fanatics, containing a subtle catalogue of the horrific results, past and present. Throughout the set of canticles, Soyinka makes universal pleas for peace from multiple languages and religious cultures. Seven of these poems form the core of the libretto of Zealot Canticles. Interwoven with these poems are excerpts from Soyinka's book The Man Died, his play Madmen and Specialists, and interviews, lectures, and speeches reflecting on his upbringing in an environment of tolerance, and condemning the current climate of intolerance, bigotry, and violence.
Of the work, McLoskey says, "From the opening poem I couldn't help but reflect upon the parallels between the delirium of the religious fanatic and the delirium of Soyinka himself during hunger fasts. Self-deprivation and hallucinations are not the sole prerogatives of the unjustly imprisoned, after all, but also common among zealots of another sort. Soyinka's own renunciations of self, 'I need nothing...I feel nothing... I desire nothing,' are renunciations and exhortations echoed in ultra-devotees from Buddhist monks and Hindu ascetics to Christian hermits and the Taliban. Is there then not a thin line between extreme devotion - zealotry - and radicalism? And that line is both personal and public. The words of Wole Soyinka are not just generalizations or universal in nature, but specifically about us. Right here, right now."
About Lansing McLoskey
Lansing McLoskey came to the world of composition via a somewhat unorthodox route. The proverbial "Three B's" for him were not Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, but rather The Beatles, Bauhaus and Black Flag. His first experiences at writing music were not exercises in counterpoint, but as the guitarist and songwriter for punk rock bands in San Francisco in the early 1980's. It was actually through these years in the visceral world of punk that he first developed a love for classical music (but that's another story).
McLoskey has been described as "a major talent and a deep thinker with a great ear" by the American Composers Orchestra, "an engaging, gifted composer writing smart, compelling and fascinating music" by Gramophone Magazine, and "a distinctive voice in American music." His music has been performed in 20 countries on six continents, and he has won more than 12 national and international awards, including two awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Aaron Copland House Award, the Robert Avalon International Composition Competition, the Omaha Symphony International New Music Competition, the Kenneth Davenport National Competition for Orchestral Works, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra Composition Competition, and the Charles Ives Center Orchestral Composition Competition. He has been commissioned by the Fromm Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Meet The Composer, Pew Charitable Trusts, Barlow Endowment, the New Spectrum Foundation, the International Joint Wind Quintet Project, and numerous ensembles. Professor at the Frost School of Music, he has given masterclasses and presentations at more than thirty schools and festivals, and has been the Composer-in-Residence at many festivals around the country. His music is released on 16 CDs on Albany Records, WergoSchallplatten, Innova, Capstone, Tantara, Beauport Classics, and published by Theodore Presser, American Composers Press, Mostly Marimba, and Subito Music. He is an avid cyclist, surfer, and skateboarder. www.lansingmcloskey.com
About The Crossing
The Crossing is a Grammy-winning professional chamber choir conducted by Donald Nally and dedicated to new music. It is committed to working with creative teams to make and record new, substantial works for choir that explore and expand ways of writing for choir, singing in choir, and listening to music for choir. Many of its over seventy commissioned premieres address social, environmental, and political issues.
Highly sought after for collaborative projects, The Crossing's first collaboration was as the resident choir of the Spoleto Festival, Italy, in 2007. The Crossing has appeared at Miller Theatre of Columbia University with the International Contemporary Ensemble, with whom they have appeared at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. They joined Bang on a Can for its first Philadelphia Marathon; and have sung with the LA Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra, Network for New Music, Lyric Fest, Piffaro, Tempesta di Mare Baroque Chamber Orchestra, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Toshimaru Nakamura, Beth Morrison Projects, Dolce Suono, Allora & Calzadilla, Pig Iron Theatre Company and The Rolling Stones. Venues include National Sawdust, Disney Hall in Los Angeles, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, The Kennedy Center in Washington, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, Northwestern University, Colgate University, and the Winter Garden in New York with WNYC. In 2014 they premiered John Luther Adams' Sila: the breath of the world at Lincoln Center. The Crossing holds an annual residency at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in Big Sky, Montana where they are working on an extensive, multi-year project with composer Michael Gordon and filmmaker Bill Morrison. Their concerts are broadcast regularly on WRTI, 90.1 FM, Philadelphia's Classical and Jazz Public Radio. In the 2018-19 season they made their debut at the New York Philharmonic, Park Avenue Armory, and Peak Performances at Montclair State University.
The Crossing has presented over seventy commissioned world premieres. Major new works have included Michael Gordon's Anonymous Man (2017), Michael Gilbertson's Born (2017), Anna Thorvaldsdottir's Ad genua (2016), Lansing McLoskey's Zealot Canticles (2017), Caroline Shaw's To the Hands (2016), John Luther Adams' Canticles of the Holy Wind (2013, co-commissioned with Kamer), Gavin Bryars' The Fifth Century (2014, written for The Crossing and PRISM), Stratis Minakakis' Crossings Cycle (2015/2017), Gregory Brown's un/bodying/s (2017), David Lang's statement to the court (2010), Lewis Spratlan's Hesperus is Phosphorus (2012, co-commissioned with Network for New Music), Ted Hearne's Sound From the Bench (2014, co-commissioned with Volti) and, from Kile Smith, The Arc in the Sky (2018), The Consolation of Apollo (2014), The Waking Sun (2011), and Vespers (2008, a commission of Piffaro). In 2016, The Crossing presented Seven Responses with new works including those of David T. Little, Hans Thomalla, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, and Santa Ratniece. That same year, The Crossing commissioned and presented Jeff Quartets, a rare compilation of quartets from fifteen of the world's leading composers, presented as a concert-length set and collected in an omnibus edition. In June 2019, The Crossing will present its largest project to date - Aniara: fragments of time and space, a collaboration with Klockriketeatern in Helsinki, and composer Robert Maggio. Future projects include composers Julia Wolfe, Toivo Tulev, Edie Hill, Daniel Felsenfeld, Gregory Spears, Tawnie Olson, James Primosch, Stacy Garrop, Jacob Cooper, and Aaron Helgeson.
With a commitment to recording their commissions, The Crossing has fifteen commercially-released recordings, two Grammy Awards and three nominations. Their collaboration with PRISM, Gavin Bryars' The Fifth Century (ECM, October 2016), was the winner of the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance and named one of The Chicago Tribune's Top 10 Classical CDs of the 2016. Lansing McLoskey's Zealot Canticles won the 2019 Grammy and Thomas Lloyd's Bonhoeffer (Albany 2016) was nominated for the 2017 Grammy, both as Best Choral Performance.
The Crossing, with Donald Nally, was the American Composers Forums' 2017 Champion of New Music. The Crossing's 2014 commission Sound from The Benchby Ted Hearne was named a 2018 Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music. They were the recipient of the 2015 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence, three ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, as well as the Dale Warland Singers Commission Award (with composer Joel Puckett) from Chorus America.