Brian Current

The River of Light

multi-movement cycle for soloists, choir and orchestra

About the work

The River of Light is a multi-movement cycle for soloists, choir and orchestra. The music is about transcendence and is based on the texts of writers for from various traditions (Jewish, Chinese, Indigenous Canadian, Secular, Christian, Islamic and Hindu) that describe mystical journeys towards an exalted state. The premiere performance was by the Vancouver Bach Choir and Orchestra at the Vancouver Opera Festival on May 3 of 2019, conducted by Leslie Dala. The cycle is modeled on the religious oratorios of the past while celebrating the diverse beliefs of the urban communities of North America today. The work is inspired by Dante's vision in the Paradiso where he enters the glowing core of heaven and declares: “And I saw a light in the form of a river, radiant as gold,”. Canadian writers from diverse backgrounds were asked: “What do you have in your tradition that resembles Dante’s vision?” and each has produced a beautiful text based on early scriptures and beliefs from their respective traditions. The goal of the oratorio is not only to create a musical journey through these wonderful texts, but also to show that no matter where we come from, or to whom we pray to, a profound fascination with transcendence into light permeates nearly all our religious beliefs and unites us.

SPECS

Duration:

about 70 minutes

Movements:

Part I: The Heavenly Halls
Part II: Heaven’s Eye
Part III: Naka
Part IV: If Love is Woe
Part V: Magnificat
Part VI: Light Upon Light
Part VII: Three Fires: Agni, Indra, Surya, Three Rivers of Light

All movements are also designed to stand on their own.

Instrumentation:

Instrumentation:
Soprano Solo, Tenor Solo, Narrator, Chorus and Orchestra

Orchestra:
2 Flutes (2nd with picc.) 2 Oboes (2nd with E.H.) 2 Clarinets (2nd with B. Cl.) 2 Bassoons (2nd with Cntr. Bass.) 2 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, 3 Percussion players, Harp, Piano, Strings.

Perc 1:
Vibraphone, Pitched Gong Eb, Large zipper, Bass drum, Whirly tube, Sus cymbal, Crash cymbals, Tom toms, Auxiliary cymbals, Bell Tree

Perc 2:
Marimba, Bass Drum, Bell Tree, Large rainstick, Glock, Steel Pans, Large Tam tam, Sizzle Cymbal, Tom toms, Xylophone, Whirly tube, Crotales, Maracas (small, coarse), Timpani 28’ or 26’Triangle

Perc 3:
Sus cymbal, Med Tam tam, Glock, Large Tam tam, Timpani 23’, 28’, Marraca (sandy), Sizzle Cymbal, Bass drum, Pitched Gong on E, Tom toms, Steel Pans lead size, Waterphone, Chinese Cymbal, Wire brushes, Ratchet, Rocks/Stones, Dog Chain (for visual), Thunder sheet, Tube chimes, Xylophone, 4 Tablas, tuned , Tanpura , Ribbon Crasher, Other auxiliary cymbals

Tech:

Slight amplification is intended for the Tenor in Mvt 1 and Delay Pedal and amplification for Soprano in Mvt 4.

BACKGROUND

Date of composition:

2019

Commissionner:

Part I: Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Chorus as winner of Azrieli Commissioning Prize
Part II: Vancouver Opera and Vancouver Bach Choir with support from the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University
Part III: Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, 21C Festival and Koerner Hall, sponsored by Kris Vikmanis and Denny Creighton
Part IV: Vancouver Opera and Vancouver Bach Choir
Part V: The Ora Singers (UK)
Part VI: Vancouver Opera and Vancouver Bach Choir
Part VII: Vancouver Opera and Vancouver Bach Choir

Performances:

Premiered with the Vancouver Bach Choir and Orchestra in May of 2019

Part 1 was awarded the Azrieli Commissioning Prize

ABOUT THE COMPOSER

Brian Current writes music that is brimming with energy – sometimes with the propulsive rhythms of so-called minimalist music, sometimes with a more delicate sense of flux, but almost always with a sense of motion and playfulness about the treatment of time and texture. These features have won him numerous honours, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Barlow Prize for Orchestral Music, and Italy’s Premio Fedora for his new chamber opera Airline Icarus.

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