Five Books: First Series – the Journey

 

music, scenario and libretto by Craig Harris

 

None of you

Five Books: First Series – the Journey is an oratorio composed and produced in 2008, under a commission from the Sabes JCC Center for Jewish Arts and Humanities. The oratorio presents a series of reflections on the Five Books of Moses, viewed through the eyes of Moses as he travels along his life’s path, and as his life’s work unfolds. The work explores Moses’ role as leader and mediator between God and his people, and probes his personal challenges as an individual called to act.

Seminal moments and important individuals are represented as the stories unfold, with key themes rising to the surface, triggering our shared memories as we consider their significance, pointing the way towards how their essence is passed on from generation to generation. The focus is on the importance of how we travel the path, and not on the destination.

Five Books: First Series – the Journey was created for two principal soloists, a youth soloist, piano, digital soundscape and still image projection. All performers are visible on stage, except for the youth soloist, who only appears at the end of the composition. The stage was hung with several translucent scrims, allowing projected images and lights to cascade across the stage, and to facilitate defining regions of activity. One projector cast images onto the entire stage from the front; another projector portrayed translations of Hebrew text from a position far downstage left. Throughout the oratorio a series of approximately 40 images create a sequence of slowly transforming visual environments that help to characterize the piece as it unfolds. Bradley Greenwald performed the role of both Moses and God. God speaks only in Hebrew, and translations of God’s words translate and project onto the scrims. Norah Long performed the role of “the people,” Tom Linker played piano, and Lea Harris performed the role of “youth.”

“Never again” and “Tribulation” are two scenes from the oratorio.

 

Never again

 

In “Never again” God ponders the flood, and conveys the covenant to never again “doom the earth because of Man.”

The translation of the Hebrew text for Never again is:

Never again will I doom the earth because of man.
So long as the earth endures –
Seed time and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Summer and winter,
Day and night –
Shall not cease.

 

 

 

Tribulation

 

“Tribulation” characterizes the collective crisis of faith in the desert:

 

In the wilderness – Wandering.
No food – no water. No end in sight.
The people muttered against Moses, And against God.
Moses doubted himself.
God questioned the creation of humankind.

 

 

 

 

Performers

Moses & God:                                  Bradley Greenwald

The People:                                      Norah Long

Youth:                                                 Lea Harris

Piano and Music Director:         Tom Linker

Artistic Team

Lighting Designer                                                  Mike Grogan

Video Designer                                                        Anthony Karna

Costume Designer                                                   Candy Kuehn

Set Designer                                                              Craig Harris

Image Designer                                                       Candy Kuehn with Damian Day

Stage Manager/Projection Operator               Sean Tonko

JCC Production Manager                                     Todd Bruse

Costume Construction                                           Candy Kuehn and Susan Day

 

Artistic Team Biographies

Bradley Greenwald (Vocals – Moses and God) performs opera, theater, music-theater, concert and recital repertoire with several Twin Cities’ arts organizations, including Theatre de la Jeune Lune (Figaro/Don Juan Giovanni), Guthrie Theater (She Loves Me), Children’s Theatre Company (The Snow Queen), Jungle Theater (I Am My Own Wife), Nautilus Music-Theater (Man of La Mancha), Minnesota Dance Theatre (Carmina Burana, Rumblings), VocalEssence, Lyra Baroque Orchestra, 10,000 Things, Skylark Opera and Ballet of the Dolls. Bradley is the recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship in music, the McKnight Fellowship for Theater Artists, and a 2006 Ivey Award.

Mike Grogan (Lighting Designer) has been active in the Minneapolis arts scene since 1990. In that time he has worked for numerous groups as a designer and technician, some groups include: Ballet of the Dolls, Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum, Outward Spriral Theater Co., and Zenon Dance Co.  Mike is currently the Production Manager and Resident Lighting Designer at the Ritz Theater in Minneapolis.

Craig Harris(Composer, Librettist) is the Artistic Director of Interference Arts and is a composer, performer and writer who has been at the forefront of several creative waves, including computer music development, electronic arts evolution and arts-based community development initiatives. His composition The Hill Has Something to Say, commissioned by renowned soprano Renée Fleming, premiered in Alice Tully Hull at Lincoln Center in New York; his multimedia oratorio Five Books—First Series was commissioned and produced by the Sabes JCC Center for Jewish Arts and Humanities. He is a former President of the International Computer Music Association, and former Executive Director of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology. In Minneapolis he has been Executive Director of Ballet of the Dolls and the Ritz Theater Foundation, where he led the initiative to renovate the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis, and has been Managing Director and Interim Director at the Playwrights’ Center. Harris received his Ph.D. in Composition at the Eastman School of Music.

Lea Harris (Vocals – Youth) has been studying music since the age of five, playing piano, saxophone and singing. Currently she studied voice at MacPhail Center for Music with Jeanie Brindley-Barnett, and played saxophone in the South High School Concert Band.

Anthony Karna (Video Designer) works with light, sound, video, stages, screens, performers, and even doctors and dentists and hockey players. He has done technical design and operations at nearly a decade of Fringe Festivals, dozens of shows with the Ballet of the Dolls and other dance ensembles, hundreds of comedy-variety shows for the Scrimshaw Brothers, thousands of educational and theatrical events for the University of Minnesota, and a cornucopia of other productions, lectures, documentaries, and gigs-at-large. If you need something done, he may have done it already, and he hopes that he did a good job of it.

Candy Kuehn (Costume Set and Image Designer) creates wearable art, wall pieces, costumes, set pieces and sculptures in numerous media. She makes art pieces that are functional, reversible and have multiple uses that sometimes change with the passage of time. Many works live as well on the wall as they do on the body, on the ceiling, on the floor and on the stage. As a painter her medium ranges from cloth to ceramic glazes, and her work features whatever makes a person or piece of art beautiful and moving. Her work has appeared at the Textile Center of Art-in-Motion shows and About Place Shows, at the American Craft Council Fair and Minnesota Craft Council Fair Market Place at the State Fair grounds, and at the Phipps Center for the Arts. She has designed and created costumes for Circus Juventas’ shows “Swash” and “Dyrnwych,” and for the dance theater company Ballet of the Dolls productions of “The Red Shoes,” “Enchanted Night,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Nutcracker (not so) Suite,” and “Cinderella.” She is currently the Resident Artist at the Textile Center.

Tom Linker (Piano and Music Director) has received degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Eastman School of Music. He was co-artistic director of the new music ensemble Zeitgeist for 11 years and Music Advisor to Nautilus Music Theater. Tom currently is a freelance musician in the Twin Cities. In addition to his work as a solo pianist he frequently collaborates with other musicians in jazz, popular and classical performance as music director, conductor and composer with theaters, musicians, and ensembles, touring and recording. He has a solo recording, Time Was, as well as other recordings on the Sony Classics, Innova, O O Discs, New Albion labels and independent labels. Recently he has written music for ballet, The Enchantment, for the Minnesota Dance Theater and composed music for a method book, Da Capo al Fine, with writer Kathie Goodale.

Norah Long (Vocals – the people) is a professional singer-actor based here in the Twin Cities. Her experience ranges from classical theater to concert, opera, musicals, and CDs. Credits include leading roles at the Guthrie where she recently portrayed Abigail Adams in 1776, Denver’s Arvada Center for the Arts, Florida Stage, Riverside Theatre (Vero Beach), Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, Ordway Center, Children’s Theater Company, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, Skylark Opera (formerly North Star Opera), and many others. As a concert soloist, she has performed with Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Opera Roanoke, Plymouth Music Series, and has toured Japan and Germany. Her fourth CD project, a collection of Nelson Eddy-Jeanette MacDonald duets called Sweethearts of Song, has just been released and is available online. She has been on the music staff at St. Philip the Deacon ELCA Church since 1994.

Special Thanks

Bradley Greenwald, Norah Long and Tom Linker, for their astounding creativity, their willingness to explore the world created in this work, and their generous and creative suggestions during the development of the piece. It has been an honor to work with artists of such amazing ability and experience, and that has made our journey together an amazing experience for me.

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman for his insights into the Five Books, devoting countless hours in discussions about the story, the path and the piece. Those biweekly study sessions helped immensely to make this work what it became.

Steve Barberio and the Sabes JCC Center for providing me with this tremendous opportunity to explore my relationship to this foundation of my heritage.

Ben Krywosz for dramaturgical insights, and Nautilus Music Theater for supporting a workshop of Five Books in January, an important step in the development of the work.

David Harris for his assistance with Hebrew pronunciation and grammar during the development of the libretto.

Melisande Charles for guidance with the image concepting.