MasterVoices – the country’s first interracial and interfaith chorus, founded by famed American choral conductor Robert Shaw in 1941 – continues its presentation of Myths and Hymns by award-winning composer and lyricist Adam Guettel (The Light in the Piazza) with Work, the second chapter of his four-part theatrical song cycle, which forms the group’s central season-long project (the first chapter, Flight, launched on January 13). Conceived and supervised by Artistic Director and Conductor Ted Sperling, the latest installment of the free digital production will premiere on Wednesday, February 24, at 6:30 pm.
Guettel’s 1998 cycle, inspired by ancient Greek myths and a 19th-century Presbyterian hymnal, explores the nature of faith and longing in a secular world through a variety of musical genres. For MasterVoices’ virtual series, new short musical films supplement the music, illustrating each song in the protagonist’s search for completion and fulfillment through Flight, Work, Love, and Faith.
In the second chapter, Work, the possible resolution to the quest comes in the forms of dedication, striving, and struggle. The pieces move from an ebullient call to action to feeling a sense of futility, from humorously optimistic vain attempts to ruefully questioning the tenor of life, to a release after all of the efforts through music and dance.
Work, with additional lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh and orchestrations by Don Sebesky and Jamie Lawrence, features the MasterVoices chorus, soloists Shoshana Bean, Daniel Breaker, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Michael McElroy, Ailyn Pérez, and Nicholas Phan, and actor John Lithgow, along with short musical films created by directors Anthony Roth Costanzo, Doug Fitch, Anne Kauffman, and Ted Sperling, and visual artists Manik Choksi, Erik Freer, Thomas Nguyen, Adrienne Rogers, and Ray Charles White.
On the evening before the installment’s public launch, MasterVoices will present a private virtual screening with additional content for patrons, hosted by Sperling and the MasterVoices Gala Committee. The live event will include a Q&A and virtual cocktail session with some of the artists, and the opportunity to spend time together in receptions rooms for more in-depth conversation and socializing.
The song list and artists are as follows:
“Down and Up and Over and Over” – MasterVoices; Ted Sperling, director;
“Children of the Heavenly King” – Anthony Roth Costanzo, soloist and director; Erik Freer, visual artist;
“At the Sounding” – MasterVoices; Ailyn Pérez and Nicholas Phan, soloists; Anthony Roth Costanzo, soloist and director; Erik Freer, visual artist;
“Build a Bridge” – Michael McElroy, soloist; Ted Sperling, director; Adrienne Rogers, textile artist; Ray Charles White, photographer;
“Sisyphus” – MasterVoices; John Lithgow, narrator; Daniel Breaker, soloist; Anne Kauffman, director; Manik Choksi, animator;
“Life is but a Dream” – Shoshana Bean, soloist; Ted Sperling, director;
“Every Poodle” – MasterVoices; Daniel Breaker, Ailyn Pérez, and Nicholas Phan, soloists; Doug Fitch, director; Thomas Nguyen, animator.
Free digital installments of the third and fourth chapters (Love and Faith) will be released on April 14 and May 26. All chapters will remain available for on-demand streaming from their respective launch dates until June 30, 2021.
Work, the second chapter of Myths and Hymns, begins streaming on Wednesday, February 24, at 6:30 pm, on MasterVoices’ website and YouTube channel. Public viewing is free and registration is not required. Tickets for the private screening on February 23, at 6 pm, begin at $150. To reserve your spot, go online.