Review: Conspirare’s “Path of Miracles”
At Conspriare’s concert this weekend, Joby Talbot’s “Path of Miracles” started with a sort of meeting of the occult, with a group of singers facing inwards, away from the audience, as a fog machine billowed out smoke and the singers began chanting in a deep bass.
What followed was an engaging, delicate piece of about an hour, that uses a pastiche of folk songs, modern choral sounds and patterns, and poetic lines, to trace and pay homage to the famous Spanish pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela.
Talbot, the English composer, is now gaining attention for writing film scores (2005’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”), and this work too, rolls with a lovely, cinematic scope. The chanting gave way to a folk tune that’s either catchy or eerie, depending on your point of view. There’s also some gorgeous interplay between the voices, while a different section mines “Einstein on the Beach.”
But it’s the third section — the “Leon” — that’s worth the price of admission.
This sparkling, austere soprano duet is almost breathtakingly beautiful. Bass Glenn Miller also had some solos that were incredibly rich at a pitch so deep it’s hard to conceive.
Talbot’s choice of text occasionally seems a heavy handed. “That we are here is a miracle” the voices repeat in one section. Yet the words aren’t delivered with a sense of wonder, but seem to loudly beat the listener over the head.
Artistic director Craig Hella Johnson made clever use of the space in the ungainly hall of St. Matthew’s, by moving the singers around, into the aisles and into partitioned groups to create a more dynamic stereo effect. A couple of slips of unity seemed to arise, but didn’t detract from this compelling performance.
Coming in at about an hour, this was a slimmer concert from the choir, unlike the usual sprawling (almost over-generous) concerts.
But considering Conspirare last sang it in 2012, the filled house certainly didn’t object. They’d probably line up to hear it sung again tomorrow.