Verdigris Ensemble Sings Of Human Resilience Amidst Dust Bowl Destruction
"It looked like the end of the world." The dust storm on Palm Sunday 1935 is engraved in the memories of witnesses as a day of apocalyptic nightmare. One of the worst storms of the Dust Bowl, Black Sunday punished the already beleaguered Great Plains with a tsunami wave of airborne dust. An environmental disaster brought about by human shortsightedness, changing regional weather patterns, and the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl brought death and darkness to the plains during the 1930's. Jackrabbit infestations, dust pneumonia, grasshopper plagues, and economic collapse created a profound setting for human resilience amidst death and loss. This February, Dallas-based professional choir Verdigris Ensemble brings the trials of this environmental catastrophe to audiences with a groundbreaking piece of documentary performance that redefines the boundaries of choral music. This genre-redefining work tells the story of the Dust Bowl with blistering honesty and deep empathy.
An event defined by human ignorance and error, the story of the Dust Bowl is not only an important part of 20th century regional history but is cogent to current times as anxiety about climate change rapidly mounts. In order to bring this well-documented period of history into new light, Sam Brukhman, Verdigris Ensemble artistic director, commissioned a full-length work from composer Anthony Maglione and librettist Ron Witzke. This summer, Witzke traveled the Great Plains compiling primary source documents, interviews with survivors, news reports, and original poetry into a world premiere libretto set to music by commissioned composer Anthony Maglione. Brukhman met Maglione while both were involved with choral studies at Westminster Choir College, and Brukhman knew that Maglione's compositional ingenuity would bring this project to life.
With the intention of bringing audience and performer alike into the world of the Dust Bowl, the concert will be performed nearly in the round, with the audience seated around the performers on three sides. The production team of the AT&T Performing Arts Center have worked closely with Brukhman to create a set that immerses the audience in prairie life, with singers standing on a stage covered in sand. Projections created by visual artists Camron and Courtney Ware will surround the stage, and musicians and audience will be transported back to the Great Plains in the 1930's.