Gavin Bryars: The Fifth Century – winner of the
2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.
Listen to the recording and learn more below.
We thank our audience, board, staff, family, and especially Anthony Creamer, for supporting this important work, written as a memorial to Jeff Dinsmore, The Crossing’s co-founder.
Thank you to Gavin for such a beautiful work, to PRISM for their spectacular playing, and to all our singers for their artistry.
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The Fifth Century
The Crossing & Donald Nally
Commissioned by The Crossing and premiered with PRISM Saxophone Quartet in 2014, this large-scale work for choir and saxophone quartet sets a text from the English poet and theologian Thomas Traherne's Centuries of Meditations, taking lines from the last section "The Fifth Century."
The music of English composer Gavin Bryars has long managed the distinction of being both “accessible and defiantly personal” (The New York Times). A deep yet unsentimental emotional resonance and a patient, contemplative view of time – whether relating to harmonic rhythm or human experience – are complementary characteristics that run through his instrumental, vocal and theatrical catalog like a red thread, the composer inspired by disparate spirits from Wagner and Satie to Cage and Silvestrov. The ECM New Series released multiple recordings of Bryars’ music in the 1980s and early ’90s, including the classic albums After the Requiem and Vita Nova.
The first full ECM album from Bryars in decades is The Fifth Century.
In his program note, Gavin writes that "although Traherne lived in the 17th century, his work was unknown for over 200 years, and was first published in the first decade of the 20th century. It has an intense spirituality, celebrating the glory of creation, his almost intimate relationship with God and leading, in the final section to an apotheosis in which he declaims the 'essence of God.' In many ways his work is astonishingly modern with its unwitting 'Eastern' sound and feeling. The constant recurrence of certain images and abstract nouns is a feature of the language and is reflected in the musical setting.
The Fifth Century was premiered in Philadelphia at the 2014 Month of Moderns festival and additionally performed in 2016 at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City and featured at the 2017 Big Ears Festival in Knoxville. The CD was named one of The Top 10 Classical Recordings by The Chicago Tribune in 2016.
Timoth McAllister, soprano saxophone
Robert Young, alto saxophone
Matthew Levy, tenor saxophone
Taimur Sulivan, baritone saxophone
Tanisha Anderson, Katy Avery, Julie Bishop,
Kelly Ann Bixby, Karen Blanchard,
Steven Bradshaw, Veronica Chapman-Smith,
Colin Dill, Micah Dingler, Ryan Fleming,
Joanna Gates, Steven Gearhart, Barbara Hill,
Steven Hyder, Heather Kayan, Kevin Krasinski,
Heidi Kurtz, Maren Montalbano, Vincent Metallo,
Frank Mitchell, Rebecca Myers, Rebecca Oehlers,
Ellen Grace Peters, Daniel Schwartz, Rebecca Siler,
Stephen Spinelli, Elisa Sutherland, James Reese,
Karen Wapner, Jackson Williams, Shari Wilson
Donald Nally, conductor
Texts from Centuries of Mediations, Thomas Traherne (1636-1674)
We see the heavens with our eyes, and know the world with our senses. But had we no eyes, nor senses, we should see infinity like the Holy Angels. The place wherein the world standeth, were it all annihilated would still remain, the endless extent of which we feel so really and palpably, that we do not more certainly know the distinctions and figures and bounds and distances of what we see, than the everlasting expansion of what we feel and behold within us. It is an object infinitely great and ravishing: as full of treasures as full of room, and as fraught with joy as capacity. To blind men it seemeth dark, but is all glorious within, as infinite is light and beauty as extent and treasure... A cabinet of infinite value, equal in beauty, lustre, and perfection to all its treasures. It is the Bosom of God, the Soul and Security of every Creature.
—from Century V.3
As sure as there is a Space infinite, there is a Power, a Bounty, a Goodness, a Wisdom infinite, a Treasure, a Blessedness, a Glory.
—from Century V.4
Infinity of space is like a painter’s table, prepared for the ground and field of those colours that are to be laid thereon.... As the table is infinite, so are the pictures. God’s Wisdom is the art, His Goodness the will, His Word the pencil, His Beauty and Power the colours, His Pictures are all his Works and Creatures. Infinitely more real and more glorious, as well as more great and manifold than the shadows of a landscape.
—from Century V.5
Eternity is a mysterious absence of times and ages: an endless length of ages always present, and for ever perfect... All ages being but successions correspondent to those parts of the Eternity wherein they abide, and filling no more of it, than ages can do. Whether they are commensurate with it or no, is difficult to determine. But the infinite immovable duration is Eternity, the place and duration of all things, even of infinite space itself: the cause and end, the author and beautifier, the life and perfection of all.
—from Century V.7
Eternity magnifies our joys exceedingly... Eternity retains the moments of their beginning and ending within itself.... Like the sun we dart our rays before us, and occupy those spaces with light and contemplation which we move towards, but possess not with our bodies.
—from Century V.8
His omnipresence is our...field of joys, a transparent temple of infinite lustre, a strong tower of defence, a castle of repose, a bulwark of security, a palace of delights, an immediate help, and a present refuge in the needful time of trouble, a broad and a vast extent of fame and glory, a theatre of infinite excellency, an infinite ocean by means whereof every action, word, and thought is immediately diffused like a drop of wine in a pail of water, and everywhere present, everywhere seen and known, infinitely delighted in, as well as filling infinite spaces... It makes our honour infinite in extent, our glory immense, and our happiness eternal. The rays of our light are by this means darted from everlasting to everlasting.
—from Century V.9
Our Bridegroom and our King being everywhere, our Lover and Defender watchfully governing all worlds, no danger or enemy can rise to hurt us... Delights of inestimable value are there preparing, for everything is present by its own existence. The essence of God...being all light and knowledge, love and goodness, care and providence, felicity and glory, a pure and simple act...is wholly busied in all parts and places of His dominion, perfecting and completing our bliss and happiness.
—from Century V.10