Third Sound seeks to commission a new work for voice and ensemble from composer Kati Agócs, whose work the Boston Globe has described as “music of fluidity and austere beauty.” The new work will mark a collaboration with mezzo-soprano Lucy Dhegrae, praised for her “dramatic volatility and cool command,” “alluring sound and narrative urgency” (New York Times). The premiere performances will be presented over the course of the spring 2021 and 2021-22 seasons in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and elsewhere.
Third Sound’s artistic partnership with Kati Agócs dates to the ensemble’s earliest project: in November 2015, Third Sound made its debut at the Festival de Música Contemporánea de La Habana, presenting a program of contemporary American music by ten composers, including Agócs’s Microconcerto [in memoriam György Ligeti]. The ensemble worked closely with the composers on preparing the program, and each composer traveled with the ensemble to Cuba. Following the Havana residency, Third Sound subsequently recorded Agócs’s Microconcerto for its debut album, Heard in Havana (innova Recordings).
Building on the ensemble’s previous history with and affinity for Agócs’s music, and recognizing the composer’s keen instinct in writing for voice, Third Sound seeks to commission Agócs to compose a multi-movement vocal work. Given the visceral, dramatic quality of Agócs’s musical language, Lucy Dhegrae–a “riveting” musical story-teller in her own right (New York Times)–represents an ideal collaborator to bring this project to life.
The new work is a chamber cantata in seven uninterrupted movements. Agócs’s conception of the work was prompted in part by The Processing Series, Lucy Dhegrae’s artist residency at National Sawdust exploring how music can address the aftermath of trauma.
The text interweaves excerpts from the Book of Revelation and selected Psalms with survivor testimony from victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. The survivors evoked represent diverse cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, and gender identities. Their words are presented in fragmentary quotes, woven together into a composite meta-narrative. These fragments come from victims’ recollections as adults of their prior experience of abuse—in some cases, stories that the victims have waited decades to tell. The texts form an abstract narrative of abandonment and redemption, casting the singer as a kind of ‘angel of the apocalypse’ who integrates the roles of survivor and deity. The piece explores themes of reclamation of agency, the power of words, and spiritual resilience.
Agócs writes: “This piece was inspired in part by my visit to the Catholic cathedral in Havana during the Third Sound residency in 2015. I went to the church alone for mass one evening. From researching survivor testimony, I have noted that it is often in poorer, geographically isolated, or culturally marginalized areas that people are most dependent upon the church, and where children are most afraid to tell their parents that this is happening. Since there are no support systems in place for survivors there, I was struck by how especially alone and isolated children who are experiencing this kind of abuse in that cultural context must feel.”
Kati Agócs: The Debrecen Passion (2015)
for twelve female voices and chamber orchestra
performed by the Lorelei Ensemble and Boston Modern Orchestra Project
featured on ‘The Debrecen Passion’ (Boston Modern Orchestra Project)
Start and End Dates
03/05/2021 — 06/01/2022