`Voices of Light' blends music, film

An evening of music and classic cinema merges Carl Dreyer's 1928 silent film, "The Passion of Joan of Arc," with a live performance of "Voices of Light," the critically acclaimed oratorio by composer Richard Einhorn, on Oct. 27 and 28 at 8:15 p.m. in Glenn Memorial Auditorium.

A blend of naturalism and surrealism, "The Passion of Joan of Arc," made in the late 1920s, seems remarkably modern in its camera angles and editing. For years, all original prints of "The Passion of Joan of Arc" were thought to have been destroyed by fire until an intact copy turned up in a Norwegian mental institution in 1981.

As Einhorn watched the Dreyer French treatment of the Joan of Arc story for the first time in 1988, he immediately felt that the film should be set to music. "It is a strange combination of the deeply emotional and the highly structured. It is the avant-garde with a human face. Its profound ambiguity, its ravishing beauty, its brilliant performances, its astounding story: `Joan' is one of the 20th century's masterpieces. Hardly anyone knew about it, outside film buff circles. All of this drew me to the film," said Einhorn.

Einhorn's musical style and choice of texts--female poets and mystics of Joan's time and slightly before--as well as some passages from the Bible, place Joan's familiar story in a provocative social context, one that audiences are beginning to understand in greater depth, as a result of the sudden popularity of Gregorian chant and such remarkable mystic figures as Hildegard of Bingen (whom Einhorn quotes in the oratorio). The words give a human resonance to the drama, in their contrasting views of women that include everything from a crude misogynistic poem to bold, visionary declarations of equality.

The touring ensemble features the medieval vocal quartet, Anonymous 4, who performed at Emory in spring 1995, with the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra and I Cantori chorus, directed by Lucinda Carver. Soloists include Norman Goss, Daniel Ebbers and Camille King. An interesting instrumental addition is the actual bell sound, recorded by Einhorn, from Joan's church in Domremy, France.

"Voices of Light" has received positive reviews wherever it has toured in the country. "`Voices of Light' is without question the most powerfully emotional piece of new music that I've ever had the privilege to program." (Colorado Public Radio).

".... Einhorn has composed an oratorio that amplifies and comments on the film, sometimes directly, almost obliquely... Musically, the score pivots between Joan's world and ours, using a medieval style that sounds authentically antique for stretches, but that invariably unfolds into a post-minimalist combination of repeating figures and lush neo-Romantic orchestration." (The New York Times).

Tickets range from $29-$35 and are available by calling 727-5050.

--Joyce Bell

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