A bit of writing about an upcoming concert with Craig Hella Johnson of Conspirare (Feb 2018, Austin):
I love the idea of The Poet Sings because of the myriad opportunity in that. The body of work is so massive in poetry and song, and the combination of them is as old as humanity. I want to dig my hands in the deep earth that brought us these shared feelings, these experiences, all conveyed to us from those who wrote before we were here. In that, I hope we can find repertoire that bursts off the page and out of our hearts with enough passion to invigorate us. Schumann's Dichterliebe does this for me every time, and especially Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's pristine versions. The urgency, the raw anticipation of a response, when he confesses his longing in the first song... It hits me every time, and I am powerfully convicted that these words would even be handled by Craig so deftly in his playing. We all know how special his playing is, and I hope I'm not raising the bar too high in saying that Craig will play this unbelievably sensitively, and the experience of hearing it live, catching the nearly imperceptible difference in tone for each phrase, must be felt as the music deserves a chance.
We will invite the audience into our world in the same way that Schumann and many other great souls since have done. In their chamber rooms, they filled the air and the hearts of so many with an affect, ripped from a page. In our great technological age we have so many opportunities to be amazed, and I love to imagine what the impact would be, if we went back before times when these sounds were easily reproduced, when you didn't know that you could easily hear that exact moment again. In that space is what we and our audience will, simply, play.
And even in that play, we will choose works of other devoted masters who gave us lots of fun along with amazement. It helps me stay grounded when writing about the effervescent beauty of art. :)
To work with Craig and his amazing family of friends always gives me a truly open view into what art, and the arts can be. If I had to describe Conspirare in one word, it would be unmissable.
From our Nobel Laureate Poet/Singer himself:
“It frightens me, the awful truth, of how sweet life can be...” -Bob Dylan