The Crossing reflect on 1680 composition with new Seven Responses
The Crossing | photo by Mark Conti Photography

More and more, contemporary composers seem to be engaging with and drawing inspiration from early music. The ascetic beauty, stark melodicism and raw emotion of pre-Classical music seems to enjoy a particular resonance with the most modern of composers and ensembles. That bridge between future and past can’t help but appeal to The Crossing, Philly’s remarkable new-music chamber choir. Dedicated to both the newest of creative music and the oldest of instruments (the voice), The Crossing engages in that era-spanning dialogue every time they perform.

Seven Responses, The Crossing’s newest and most ambitious project to date, brings that conversation to the fore with seven new pieces directly inspired by a landmark choral composition that dates back more than three centuries. Danish-German Baroque composer Dietrich Buxtehude penned “Membra Jesu Nostri (The Limbs of Our Jesus)” in 1680 as an intense meditation on the body of Christ; each of its seven cantatas agonizes over a separate piece of anatomy, from feet to heart to head.

Crossing conductor Donald Nally asked seven of today’s leading composers to write pieces responding to Buxtehude’s originals, and the two will be juxtaposed when Seven Responses premieres this weekend at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral before being presented as part of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival in NYC in August. Pulitzer winners Lewis Spratlan and Caroline Shaw, American opera phenom David T. Little, and Danish radical Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen are among the stunning and diverse roster of composers whose work will be performed by the choir along with Quicksilver Baroque and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). Performed in a church which no doubt hosts its own depictions of Jesus’ body, the resultant work promises to be a meditative hall of mirrors, music contemplating savior, music contemplating music, audience contemplating all (and, depending on what you believe, being contemplated from on high).

The Crossing will debut Seven Responses on Friday, June 24th and Saturday, June 25th at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral; tickets are available here.

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