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The Crossing Releases WORDS ADORNED


The release celebrates an exchange of musical cultures and ideas that greatly stretched the ensemble and expanded its horizons.

The Crossing Releases WORDS ADORNED

GRAMMY-winning choir The Crossing, led by Donald Nally, today released its 25th commercial album, WORDS ADORNED, on Navona Records. WORDS ADORNED features The Crossing with the Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture's Takht Ensemble - led by Hanna Khoury, who served as musical coach for the project - and Palestinian vocal soloist Dalal Abu Amneh in commissioned works by Kareem Roustom and Kinan Abou-afach inspired by Andalusian poetry, and the traditional muwashshah When He Appeared by Muhammad 'abd al-Rahim al Maslub.

The release celebrates one of The Crossing's favorite collaborations, an exchange of musical cultures and ideas that greatly stretched the ensemble and expanded its horizons. The recording was made and originally released as part of an Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture multimedia project inspired by Andalusian poetry, with a series of events and newly commissioned works bridging the traditions of east and west. This re-release on Navona Records is produced by The Crossing's Executive Director Jonathan Bradley, conductor Donald Nally, and assistant conductor Kevin Vondrak. Major support for WORDS ADORNED was provided to Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage with additional support from the Arab Fund for Arts & Culture and the William Penn Foundation.

Kareem Roustom's Embroidered Verses consists of four Anadalusian poems translated by Ahmad Almallāh, each is based on a poem on a theme common to the muwashshah. The first text extols the natural beauty of al-Andalus, and the second is a lively re-setting of a well-known drinking song. This re-setting of text to new music is also part of the tradition and is a nod to Aleppo's rich musical heritage. The third text is a love poem composed by poetess Umm al-Kiram, and the final text is a war-themed poem. Each setting showcases the virtuosic capabilities of the takht - an Arabic chamber group composed of oud, qanun, violin, cello, and percussion - and requires The Crossing to sing intricate harmonies and long embellished lines mixing quarter tones, speaking, whispering, and full-throated singing.

Of Nights And Solace by Kinan Abou-afach is a fantasia on Andalusian muwashshah poetry, also translated by Almallāh. Abou-afach was inspired by the pre-Islamic era (al-Jahiliyya) in the Arabian Peninsula, where poets were treated as rockstars and tribes celebrated having a poet in residence. The Andalusian era wasn't an exception, and the muwashshah developed and flourished. Of Nights and Solace is a virtual trip to Andalusia, a story with multiple characters that begins at sunset and ends at the break of day, progressing from classical style to a broken form that still hints at the muwashshah. The piece begins with a poem by Ibn Zuhr on the love and lament for parting with a beloved one; followed by a tearful longing for the creator by Sufi poet and philosopher Ibn Arabi; undeclared love and the difficulty of keeping this love in Ibn Isa al-Khabbaz's poem; a beautiful rhythmic poem by al-Qazzaz; and finishes with Sahl Bin Malik's poem about sunrise. The piece uses a wide range of harmonic styles, from simple to complex, also incorporates quarter tones, and has canon-like sections that begin and end the piece.

Donald Nally says of the release, "This is one of those great collaborations in which everyone is equally vital, no one is fully in charge and no one is in the background; everyone is driving the energy of the project and the music forward with physical, intellectual, and emotional energy. The result is something The Crossing really loves; amazing music, written for us by two uniquely gifted composers, and shaped by Hanna Khoury and the Takht players. And, of course, Dalal is a miracle. We are so fortunate that Al-Bustan asked us to join them for WORDS ADORNED and to have the album, years later, finally reach a larger audience!"

About The Crossing
The Crossing is a GRAMMY® Award-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 nearly 120 commissioned premieres address social, environmental, and political issues.

The Crossing collaborates with some of the world's most accomplished ensembles and artists, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra, Network for New Music, Lyric Fest, Piffaro, Beth Morrison Projects, Allora & Calzadilla, Bang on a Can, Klockriketeatern, and the International Contemporary Ensemble. Similarly, The Crossing often collaborates with some of world's most prestigious venues and presenters, such as the Park Avenue Armory, Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Pennsylvania, National Sawdust, David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, Disney Hall in Los Angeles, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Menil Collection in Houston, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Haarlem Choral Biennale in The Netherlands, The Finnish National Opera in Helsinki, The Kennedy Center in Washington, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space in New York, Winter Garden with WNYC, and Duke, Northwestern, Colgate, and Notre Dame Universities. The Crossing holds an annual residency at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in Big Sky, Montana.

With a commitment to recording its commissions, The Crossing has issued 24 releases, receiving two GRAMMY® Awards for Best Choral Performance (2018, 2019), and six GRAMMY nominations. The Crossing, with Donald Nally, was the American Composers Forum's 2017 Champion of New Music. They were the recipients of the 2015 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence, three ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, and the Dale Warland Singers Commission Award from Chorus America.

Recently, The Crossing has expanded its choral presentation to film, working with Four/Ten Media, in-house sound designer Paul Vazquez of Digital Mission Audio Services, visual artists Brett Snodgrass and Steven Bradshaw, and composers David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Paul Fowler on live and animated versions of new and existing works. Lang's protect yourself from infection and in nature as well as Paul Fowler's Obligations, based on a poem of Layli Long Soldier, were specifically created to be within the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Crossing's pandemic response daily series, Rising w/ The Crossing, a series of 72 past live performances with notes by Donald Nally, has been archived by the Library of Congress as "an important part of the collection and the historical record."

The Crossing is represented by Alliance Artist Management. All of its concerts are broadcast on WRTI, Philadelphia's Classical and Jazz public radio station. Learn more at

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