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Concert Preview: The Tudor Choir

October 11, 2010

In assembling his 1991 Savage Altars (for choir, violin, viola, and tape) American composer Ingram Marshall was inspired by chant and medieval British song—namely the Magnificat and the famous Reading rota, Sumer is icumen in—but he wanted more. “The text for the Magnificat wasn’t enough,” he wrote at the time. “There had to be others as the piece wasn’t really a Magnificat per se (indeed, it is more a “deconstruction” of the text than a setting of it). I wanted another Latin text and I remembered some lines from Tacitus that had been shown to me by an old friend, the Swedish artist Jan Håfström, about ten years ago. These lines taken from the First Book of Tacitus’ Annals describe the reaction of a group of Roman solders coming across the unburied remains of fallen comrades in a German forest some six years after the slaughter. The imagery of bleached bones and skulls nailed to trees, and the proximity of ‘savage altars,’ created more than a chilling effect; it was a simple metaphor for the insidious beauty of a war’s aftermath, or as Håfström said― ‘the perfect image of the World―a dying, vanishing world―loaded with a sublime beauty of insanity and decay.’ The fact that the Desert Storm was in the Persian Gulf was happening as I wrote the piece was no coincidence. Savage Altars speaks of beauty, death and decay, resurrection and rebirth, never literally, but with a constant sense of irony. The music itself, however, is never less than straightforward and direct in its expression.” The Tudor Choir, directed by Doug Fullington, and joined by Maria Sampen, violin, and Timothy Christie, Viola, pairs British song—medieval, renaissance, and folk—with Marshall’s Savage Altars and works by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt in their Moore Theatre debut.

The Tudor Choir: Songs of War and Heaven Saturday, October 16 at 8:00 PM Moore Theatre

Presented by Seattle Theatre Group Tickets: $21 in advance; $23 at the door

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