On 28 February EXAUDI and James Weeks premiere Oliver Leith’s Hallelujah amen as part of a programme curated by the composer for London’s Kings Place. A 10-minute work for unaccompanied mixed voices in six parts, Hallelujah amen was commissioned by Parabola Foundation. Read an interview with Leith discussing the programme here.
It is cast in two sections. The first sets the two words of the title, though Leith disturbs and distorts his ‘Hallelujah’ with extra syllables – as if a tongue-twister – and asks the singers to give it a blurry, loose character, creating a complex melismatic surface. By contrast, the ‘Amen’ – clear and open – floats above this dancing filigree. The following section sets the words ‘Sanctus O’ and ‘gloria’. The latter receives the same smudged treatment as ‘Hallelujah’, with long smooth glissandi, whistling, and wolf howls also emerging from the texture.
The programme is titled Thrilly Marvel Chants. Inspired by a grainy film of the Deller Consort singing madrigals around a table, the concert ranges from Hildegard von Bingen to Ligeti and Luboff, and a few surprises of Leith’s own devising. Alongside the eclectic selection of styles, Leith’s experimental curation sees pieces superimposed, affected with highly stylised deliveries, and presented with drastically altered and distorted pitches and tempi. He is inspired by “the spirit of singing” evoked in the film – “wild sound”. EXAUDI, like the Deller Consort, will present the programme gathered around a long, large table.
They will also perform Cassandra Miller’s Guide, a 13-minute piece based on one of Miller’s mother’s folk records: ‘Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah’, recorded by Maria Muldaur in 1968. “I knew right away”, said Miller of Guide, “that I would attempt to write a piece about ‘the feeling of freedom one gets from singing’.” Premiered by EXAUDI in 2013, the group also performed it the 2023 Aldeburgh Festival, where Miller was an artist-in-focus.
6 February will see the US premiere of Leith’s acclaimed debut chamber opera Last Days from the LA Philharmonic and longstanding collaborators GBSR Duo at Walt Disney Hall, conducted by Thomas Adès; the production is co-directed by Anna Morrissey and librettist Matt Copson. Last Days features as part of the orchestra’s California Festival and presented as part of their Green Umbrella subscription series.