Choral Work Based on Robert Lax Writings Misses Out on Grammy But Inspires Italian Magazine Spread

I mentioned in a previous post that The Crossing’s recording of Kile Smith’s “The Arc in the Sky,” a choral composition based on Lax’s poems and other writings, was up for a Grammy this year. Unfortunately, it didn’t win. But the Italian online magazine Vengodalmare has a piece on Lax inspired by Smith’s composition. The piece is in Italian, but it includes several Lax poems in English: “Jerusalem” and “so bird, so spirit…” along with selections from “sea & sky.”

If you scroll down below the “sea & sky” excerpt, you’ll find a short video of a Los Angeles group performing part of Smith’s work.

Grammy Nomination for Choral Recording Based on Lax Writings

(Image from the Clipart Library)

I just learned from composer Kile Smith that The Crossing’s performance of his composition “The Arc in the Sky,” a choral arrangement based on Lax’s poetry and other writings is a finalist for a 2020 Grammy Award!

Here’s what Smith wrote about the news on his website this morning:

When The Arc in the Sky was thrown into the Grammy hat a couple of months ago, I thought the chances were slim of its advancing, just because of how large the pool is at that stage. And since The Crossing won Grammys the last two years in a row, those chances, to me, felt even slimmer. But now The Arc is one of the finalists, it’s up against all worthies, including great friends of mine, and so here we go. See you January 26th!”

January 26 is the date the Grammy Awards will take place and the winners will be announced.

Here’s a full list of the finalists in Best Choral Performance:

  • Boyle: Voyages, Donald Nally, conductor (The Crossing)
  • Durufle: Complete Chroral Works, Robert Simpson, conductor (Ken Cowan; Houston Chamber Choir)
  • The Hope of Loving, Craig Hella Johnson, conductor (Conspirare)
  • Sander: The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Peter Jermihov, conductor (Evan Bravos, Vadim Gan, Kevin Keys, Glenn Miller & Daniel Shirley; PaTRAM Institute Singers)
  • Smith, K.: The Arc in the Sky, Donald Nally, conductor (The Crossing)

You can read all about Smith’s composition and The Crossing’s recording of it (under the direction of conductor Donald Nally) here.

You can buy the recording here.

You can see the complete score at MusicSpoke here.

And here it is at Navona Records, and on Spotify.

Congratulations to Kile Smith, Donald Nally, and the entire ensemble of The Crossing!

Listen to Robert Lax Poem “Jerusalem” Set to Music

Last June, a group called The Crossing performed composer Kile Smith’s “The Arc in the Sky,” a choral composition of Lax poems set to music by Smith. (See my write-up about the performance here.) The concert was widely praised by critics and a CD of the full performance is set to be released soon.

In advance of its release, Smith has posted one of the tracks, “Jerusalem,” in which Lax writes of “lovely, ruined Jerusalem.” You can listen to the choir’s haunting rendition here.

I’ll post details when the CD is available. For now, enjoy this taste of the combined talents of Lax’s words, Smith’s music, and these excellent choral voices. (I’ve included the poem below so you can follow along as you listen.)

Jerusalem by Robert Lax

reading of lovely Jerusalem,
lovely, ruined Jerusalem.

we are brought to the port
where the boats in line are
and the high tower on the hill
and the prows starting again
into the mist.

for we must seek
by going down,
down into the city
for our song.
deep into the city
for our peace.
for it is there
that peace lies
folded
like a pool.

there we shall seek:
it is from there
she’ll flower.
for lovely, ruined Jerusalem
lovely sad Jerusalem
lies furled
under cities of light.

for we are only
going down,
only descending
by this song
to where the cities
gleam in the darkness,
or curled like roots
sit waiting
at the undiscovered
pool.

what pressure
thrusts us up
as we descend?

pressure
of the city’s singing

pressure of
the song
she hath witheld.

hath long witheld.

for none
would hear
her.

–Robert Lax (1915-2000). Used with the permission of the Robert Lax Literary Trust and the Robert Lax Archives at St. Bonaventure University.

FREE Online Broadcast of Concert Based on Lax’s Poetry and Prose–Sunday, October 28

The Crossing’s concert of The Arc in the Sky, Composer Kile Smith‘s 65-minute musical composition using Lax’s poetry and prose, will be on broadcast online at WRTI.org at 4-6 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, Oct 28.  The show will probably not be archived, so you’ll have to listen while it’s streaming.  You’ll find more information about the broadcast at:

For more about the concert itself, go to:

A New Musical Composition with Text by Robert Lax and Music by Composer Kile Smith To Premiere in Philly June 30

Composer Kile Smith, whose spiritually-inspired work has been praised by publications from the Philadelphia Inquirer to the Miami Herald to the Boston Classical Review, spent much of the past year working on a new composition featuring poems and other writings by Robert Lax.  The work, called “The Arc in the Sky,” will premiere as part of the “Month of the Moderns” at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 30 at The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia.  For tickets or to learn more about the premiere, go to the website for The Crossing, which is sponsoring the show.

You’ll find a long write-up about the show’s origins and contents, as well as Smith’s thoughts on Lax’s work and some of the Lax poems featured in his composition, at Smith’s blog.

 

Composer Kile Smith