Underdog history comes to life through new music and old Irish songs in composer Donnacha Dennehy’s opera about the Great Famine of 1845-52. The story itself is rooted in Asenath Nicholson’s harrowing first-person account in Annals of the Famine in Ireland. Acclaimed ensemble Alarm Will Sound and celebrated Irish folk singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, imagines soprano Katherine Manley as Nicholson and Ó Lionáird as the voice of the voiceless, with instrumentalists integrated into the staging. Old recordings of traditional sean nós songs dovetail seamlessly with Dennehy’s score, while video clips of interviews with Noam Chomsky, Paul Krugman, and others underscore the political roots of this tragedy that brought a nation to its knees.
Catch Alarm Will Sound performing The Hunger September 17th at the Touhill in St. Louis and September 30th or October 1st at BAM in New York City.
Join us September 30th for opening night of The Hunger at BAM and celebrate with us afterwards at a special post-performance party with the artists! Tickets are $150 and include one orchestra seat ticket and in invitation to the after-party. Purchase tickets here.
Terror is often the first response to unfamiliarity, and some of the boldest forays into the unfamiliar have launched under the banner of Modernism. Listening to new sounds can be akin to watching a horror movie—with ears covered rather than eyes—but given time, what was once disturbing can become intriguing.
Alarm Will Sound ventures into the outer reaches of propriety on Modernists. The album is bookended by tributes to two masterworks of modern recorded sound that have been arranged for the ensemble: “Revolution 9” by The Beatles (arranged by Matt Marks) and “Poème électronique” by Edgard Varèse (arranged by Evan Hause). Each piece is strange and otherworldly in its own way, with a provocative history of upsetting as many, if not more, listeners than they have won over.
The 23-piece band led by Alan Pierson, AWS Artistic Director, also performs work written for the ensemble by Wolfgang Rihm, Charles Wuorinen, AWS pianist John Orfe, and Augusta Read Thomas (whose “Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour” features vocal performances by Kirsten Sollek and Caleb Burhans).
As the Denver Post has noted, “Alarm Will Sound has grabbed the future of classical music and made it now—merging styles, erasing boundaries, championing experimentation and obviously having fun along the way.” This joyful and adventurous spirit fuels the beating heart of the Modernists album.
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Payton MacDonald, one of our percussionists, and Jessica Johnson, our founding flutist, arranged this track for our Acoustica project.
Visit our Soundcloud for more recordings.
She would have played the cello if she’d had a choice, but her parents loved the violin and put one in her hands before she knew the difference. Courtney grew up in Kutztown, PA and wanted to be a veterinarian. But music took over early in high school and Courtney decided to go to Temple University. Sometimes music school isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be, though, and for Courtney, she says she became “un-enamored (is that a word?)” playing the same music over and over while trying to perfect excerpts for orchestral auditions. She tried music theory and pedagogy while at Eastman for her masters degree but went back to the violin for a DMA after getting swept up by the Ossia new-music crowd—maybe being a musician didn’t mean having to play in orchestra after all.
Courtney now lives in Brooklyn and freelances in the city while teaching ear-training for half of every week at Peabody in Baltimore. She never got away from her veterinarian dreams and volunteers at the SPCA walking and taking care of dogs.
Read articles by our members, get behind-the-scenes reports about our projects, and share your thoughts at Alarmists, our blog.