Orches­tra 2001 hits the water­front with George Crum­b’s The Riv­er of Life’

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Mezzo-soprano Chrystal E. Williams will perform at 'The River of Life.' (Photo courtesy of the artist)
Mezzo-soprano Chrystal E. Williams will perform at 'The River of Life.' (Photo courtesy of the artist)

George Crumb’s “American Songbook” series takes standard songs and runs them through the mind of one of most individualistic composers in the United States. The result is a set of treatments that adds new meanings and places the songs against backgrounds that can be haunting and even cosmic. Orchestra 2001 will begin its season with a free performance of Crumb’s The River of Life: nine “hymns, spirituals, and revival tunes” arranged for mezzo-soprano, percussion, and amplified piano.

The songs include familiar items like “Amazing Grace” and “Nearer My God to Thee” along with Southern rural hymns that modern urbanites may not have encountered before. Crumb’s versions always surprise you with unpredictable moods and inventive sonic techniques, whether you’re hearing a novelty or an old favorite.

The mezzo-soprano for the occasion will be Chrystal E. Williams, an AVA graduate and former Astral Artist whose bio includes four paragraphs of credits, crowded with appearances with organizations like the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Washington National Opera.

George Crumb will also be in attendance.

The River of Life will be presented—appropriately—in Orchestra 2001’s permanent home in Philadelphia’s new waterfront culture center, the Cherry Street Pier. On September 30, Orchestra 2001 will be the host organization for the pier’s free Monday night move series. It will host—what else?—Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The evening’s entertainment will include Orchestra 2001 percussionist Phillip O'Banion playing “Stop Speaking,” for snare drum and laptop computer by the eclectic contemporary composer Andy Aikho.

What, When, Where:

Orchestra 2001 will present The River of Life on Friday, September 20 at 7:30pm at Cherry Street Pier, 121 North Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia. It will host 2001: A Space Odyssey on Monday, September 30 at 6:30 pm. Admission to both events is free. For more information visit online.

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