On Friday evening, February 27, at the First Parish Cambridge in Harvard Square, I had the privilege of attending a uniquely powerful and moving concert performance by "Anthology", a 4-voice women's a cappella group which has burst upon the Boston area music scene within the last year. Their debut took place at the debut of International SWAN Day (Support Women Artists Now Day), March 29, 2008 in Cranston RI, and their first Boston-area appearance was at last year's Boston Regional Harmony Sweeps at Tufts University in Medford. Since then, they have appeared at a number of church venues in Boston and Cambridge, as well as at the Lily Pad (an art gallery/jazz venue) and Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, both in Cambridge, and at the World AIDS Day Benefit last December in Boston.
The group may be new to Boston, but as individuals they have been studying, performing, conducting and/or teaching here for some time. A look at their bios on the Anthology website (www.anthologyvoices.com) lists undergrad and graduate degrees including vocal performance, theater, dance, choral conducting and music therapy, among others; many roles from operas and musical theater; past or present membership in various high-quality amateur and professional early music ensembles; prestigious names from the classical music world with whom they have studied; and on, and on. DON'T LET THIS FOOL YOU! These women know how to rock the house with kickass pop tunes, and make you swoon with their lush purple jazz chords. They can do it all.
For their current concert program, "Songs Of Protest and Social Unrest", Anthology took the rather daring step of commissioning eight Boston area composers to write works on the theme, with no other limiting conditions. They wound up with a wide array of historical references in as wide a variety of musical styles, from Henry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" to the women's suffrage movement, to the carnage of World War I, to the historical as well as modern plight of immigrants and detainees, to the blacklisting of Hollywood artists during the McCarthy era, to the civil rights movement and the Birmingham church bombing that killed four young children in 1963, to the camps at Guantanamo Bay. The subjects are emotional and at times controversial, and the music reflects the themes with stark melodies, sometimes harsh dissonances, unsettling rhythms, starts and stops; but these new works really showed off the artistry and purity of Anthology's voices. Add to these some South African anti-apartheid songs, traditional labor union songs (arranged by Anthology members), a song of the "desaparecida" ("disappeared") in Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador by Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert, and you have a thought-provoking, heart-breaking but ultimately uplifting musical experience.
Luckily for you, you'll have another chance to hear this concert program. Anthology will be performing it on Sunday, April 26 at 4 PM, at the First Parish in Cohasset, MA. I encourage you all to attend!
Anney Gillotte, soprano
Allegra Martin, mezzo-soprano
Vicky Reichert, soprano
Michelle Vachon, mezzo-soprano
"Songs Of Protest and Social Unrest"
Sunday, April 19, 2009 4:00 PM
23 North Main Street
$15 suggested donation. $10 for students and seniors.
- David Traugot