I was first approached by Robert Kyr during a summer in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he told me about this new composition he was writing for Conspirare as part of an exciting series Craig Hella Johnson had planned called “Renaissance & Response.” The concert would be a blend of old and new, with music of Josquin and Robert’s newly commissioned work. Robert and I sat together and read through the texts, and I spoke the Spanish aloud as he took notes. It was a subtle and detailed process of hearing the inflections of my speech, but this is what is most striking about this work for me personally. It is a rare privilege when a singer is able to directly influence a composer’s process in such a personal way. When I finally performed the work, it was imbued with an immediacy and intimacy that moved me deeply. The text seemed to emerge from a place inside me that felt to be an experience I had known my whole life. The uniquely crafted melodic solo lines seemed to be a direct reflection of who I was and how my own passion could be expressed.
Aside from this personal aspect of the composition process with the baritone solo writing, I think Robert Kyr was able to create a work of great spiritual power and personal introspection. His formal structure referencing a Bach cantata is an effective template for conveying a unity of emotional intent while telling this story of the soul’s journey from despair to transcendence. Its palette of choral colors and textural varieties beautifully paint a sonic picture of this experience.
It’s with this in mind that I am now thrilled to revisit this work. For me, it’s like coming to visit a new friend with whom I fell in love not too long ago – there is already a lovely knowing, but yet so much more to explore and learn, and a real excitement about that new encounter. I am very excited to perform Songs of the Soul this time with my beautiful soprano friend, Estelí Gomez.