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May 11, 2010

A cappella opera

Seattle Times (WA):

It's not often that you get to hear "a concert-length a cappella opera that recounts the creation story of the ancient Zoroastrians" — while you watch the sun set over the Olympics.

"Haptadâmã: The Seven Creations of Ancient Persia" by Seattle composer Eric Banks was premiered in the pavilion at Olympic Sculpture Park Friday evening, and the magnificence of the setting was equaled by the grandeur of the piece. The concert repeats again tonight. While not every element sounded note-perfect, its ambitious scope and musical variety made it well worth catching.

Banks has led the Esoterics, the performers of the piece, since 1992. The vocal ensemble has recorded 10 CDs and won the Chorus America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming four times since 2001.

With "Haptadâmã," it's easy to see why.

Six years in the making, "Haptadâmã" is an intricate challenge for its singers yet an accessible, if otherworldly, experience for its listeners. It's divided into seven movements, the first and last being dominated by Banks' settings of the hymns of Zoroaster, among the oldest surviving pieces of music in human history. Simple yet haunting, they're arranged with imagination by Banks, who opens with a lone male soloist against a cloudlike backdrop of humming mixed-choir singers, gradually adding on layers of sound and harmony without violating the traditional feel of the ancient tunes. Read more.

Posted by acapnews at May 11, 2010 12:00 AM

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