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  • Writer's pictureYunona Tabala

Boston Globe review of Mass for the Endangered

In Fall 2022, Yunona joined the Boston Based group Shift Orchestra Project and was excited to perform together with this group at a much talked about Mass for the Endangered, on September 11 at the Emmanuel Church. Website of the Shift Orchestra Project: www.shiftorchestraproject.com


The Boston Globe review to follow.


MUSIC REVIEW

Shift Orchestra Project debuts with visually stunning ode to the Earth

The new musical initiative presented Sarah Kirkland Snider's 'Mass for the Endangered' in collaboration with Cappella Clausura.

Conductor David Allen Flowers leads the Shift Orchestra Project and Cappela Clausura performing the multimedia collaboration "Mass for the Endangered" at Emmanuel Church in Boston.

JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE


The pandemic unleashed the same kind of destruction on much of the performing arts

ecosystem that a wildfire does on a forest. Like animals fleeing an inferno, workers in all

sectors of the industry shifted gears and career tracks (some of them permanently). But

new growth, however fragile, carries hope and potential.

The Shift Orchestra Project's debut concert Sunday at Emmanuel Church embodied such

new growth. The newborn self-described "musician's collective," which is largely made

up of local young professional musicians and graduate-level conservatory students,

collaborated with the longstanding local vocal ensemble Cappella Clausura to present

Sarah Kirkland Snider's "Mass for the Endangered," a 45-minute piece for chorus and 12

instruments that reimagines the traditional Catholic Mass in honor of the Earth and all

its non-human inhabitants.

With the concert beginning at the unorthodox time of 5:30 p.m. (which was then delayed

by a few minutes on account of the sparks and smoke at Park Street Station) — the sky

clouded over, and the lights in the sanctuary dimmed - the room already had the

contemplative feel of an evensong service, if a somewhat surreal one. There was a mobile

sculpture of gargantuan fabric flowers dangling from the nave and various person-sized

animal puppets scattered throughout the pews, which I later learned were not affiliated

with the Shift performance.

The ensemble itself was almost entirely hidden from view throughout the performance

by a large projection screen. Earlier this year, I listened with interest to the recording of

the piece released on New Amsterdam Records; more recently, I learned that artist

Deborah Johnson, also known as CandyStations, had created an animated visual

counterpart to the entire piece, but I went in not knowing what to expect.

Based on most of my prior multimedia concert experiences, I wasn't expecting too much.

In the first piece, Sven-David Sandström's "To see a world" for unaccompanied chorus

which gets where it's going, which is gorgeous, but takes its time getting there — the

visuals were only a sparse field of twinkling white dots on a black background, which

looked like a screen saver and very well could have been. I wondered if I might end up

closing my eyes for most of the concert.

Five minutes later, I was wishing I didn't have to blink. Johnson's visuals were stunning:

pulsating, panning, expanding and contracting in concordance with the ebb and flow of

the music's dynamics and textures, conducted with invisible grace by Shift director David

Allen Flowers. Slender wireframes and webs onscreen reflected the eerie, shimmering

cadences of Yvonne Cox's solo harp during the "Gloria" movement. In

"Sanctus/Benedictus," the orchestra and chorus flourished like the earth after rain,

accompanied by images of constantly shifting rose windows and heavenly visions with

angels replaced by animals. I would pay to see this again; I'd pay even more to see it in a

space that had the acoustics of Emmanuel Church but the projection facilities of the

Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science.

The text, which blended the traditional Latin Mass with poetry by Nathaniel Bellows, was

hard to understand when sung, and hard to read in the darkness, but I scarcely wished

for captions or anything to draw my attention away from the visuals. I was perfectly

satisfied to read it after the lights came up. Before that, however, there was an a cappella

postlude: Ayanna Woods's resolute, chantlike Bound,” which planted the audience back

on terra firma as the screen again displayed the generic star field: the same, yet not the

same. I, the listener not the image - had been transformed.

Applause was swift and enthusiastic, even more so after three people hauled the screen

away and the audience saw the musicians for the first time and with any luck, not the

last.


THE SHIFT ORCHESTRA PROJECT AND CAPPELLA CLAUSURA

Sept. 11. At Emmanuel Church, Boston.


www.shiftorchestraproject.com;

www.clausura.org


By A.Z. Madonna Globe Staff, Updated September 12, 2022


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