After the Fires

Lembit BeecherSaturday evening’s Cinq à SeptLiza Balkan for program book concert in the 21C Festival at the Royal Conservatory was intriguing.  The first half of the programme was a new song cycle, After the Fires, with words by Liza Balkan and music by Lembit Beecher.  It set seven pieces about the 2020 fires on the central California coast and their aftermath based on interviews with local residents.  It’s a really interesting piece scored for piano, clarinet, soprano, mezzo-soprano and baritone.  It’s very “text first”.  Although the accompaniment is often intricate it never overpowers the words and there’s a real harmony between words and music.  The mood varies but, given it’s about really awful events, it’s more elegiac and lyrical and even funny than angry or sad.  It got a fine, nuanced performance from Henry From (piano), Zachary Gassenheimer (clarinet), Xin Wang (soprano), Andrea Ludwig (mezzo-soprano) and Korin Thomas-Smith (baritone). Continue reading