Nature in verse

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The Nightingale Vocal Ensemble of Boston, Massachusetts are all set to wow audiences at the three-day Ketevan Sacred Music Festival that begins today, April 6. NT BUZZ gets in touch with the Boston group to know more

ANNA FERNANDES | NT BUZZ

On Day One of the online Ketevan Sacred Music Festival – a festival that combines musical traditions from different eras from the East and the West – the Nightingale Vocal Ensemble will present the world premiere of ‘The Divine in Nature’. NT BUZZ talks to co-artistic director of the Boston-based ensemble, Benjamin Perry, to get more details of their performance.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. Tell us about the programme ‘The Divine in Nature’ that The Nightingale Vocal Ensemble will premiere at the Ketevan Sacred Music Festival.

At this year’s Ketevan Sacred Music Festival, the Nightingale Vocal Ensemble will be contributing a cycle of five original part songs based on poetry from the United States. Our contribution offers a lens of universal appreciation for nature and its cycles using these stunning poems about the natural world. The programme takes listeners from the light of day to the dark of midnight, as each piece describes a special moment along Earth’s twenty-four hour light cycle.

Q. What significance do these particular songs carry?

The order of songs on the programme reflects a logical flow through human time: Day (‘Day’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar) turns to afternoon (‘A certain slant of light’ by Emily Dickinson) which becomes evening (‘A Hymn to the Evening’ by Phyllis Wheatley) which fades to night (‘Night’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar). The set ends with Robert Frost’s poem ‘Nothing Gold can Stay’ emphasising the ever-changing dynamics of cosmic forces in our world which reflect the impermanent, precious nature of our human lives.

Q. In the time of the pandemic and forced virtual interactions, what impact did this have on the music-creating process, technical aspects of the ensemble, and the way you collaborate with each other?

Creating virtual concerts is a challenge that Nightingale has fully embraced. Since the Fall of 2020, we have created a number of virtual concerts and world premieres of original music in the virtual-multimedia realm. While this work is technically quite different from rehearsing in person, we have discovered that the basic building blocks of rehearsing and performing are essentially the same, but they take place over a larger expanse of time. We have all learned to be more efficient recording artists and audio engineers. In a way, we’ve become an audio/visual production troop! Working in a virtual space has also caused us to collaborate with artists from outside of Boston, and indeed all around the world.

Q. What can the global audience expect from this performance at the festival?

We hope you enjoy the stunning compositions in Nightingale’s programme ‘The Divine in Nature’. While each piece is from a different composer using their own unique language, the songs complement and contrast each other beautifully. The visuals for our set were filmed in the lovely Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, and it is our hope that the beautiful, snowy landscape of the arboretum underlines the poetry and music in our programme to instil a sense of awe and wonder for the cycles in nature and our lives.