Heroic Coloratura and piano. 60 minutes.
Saga of Laïs on texts of Becky Gould Gibson for Sarah Tannehill. Set in medieval Northumbria, Gibson's texts illuminate the lives of the abbesses of Whitby. Additional program notes are below the videos.
Premiered in 2010 by Sarah Tannehill and Michael Kirkendoll, the concert-length saga Need-Fire for heroic coloratura and piano sets texts of Becky Gould Gibson concerning the women of Medieval Whitby Abbey in Northumbria. The need-fire was a rural British ritual of lighting a sacred fire in time of famine, illness, or strife. All community fires were extinguished, and a new one ceremonially lit, often using new-felled wood rubbed together by teams of men. Livestock were then driven between the coals to spiritually purify them. This piece, Need-fire, similarly attempts to extinguish some of the ailing flames of traditional European art music in favor of a fire made of the native timber of my own country. Ms. Gibson's texts are composed, with few exceptions, of words of Anglo-Saxon origin, complete with half-line breaks and conspicuous alliteration. Their virtuosic word-play finds heroism in the lives of the women who worked, prayed and lived on the furthest edges of civilization.