'Tis of Thee

Da Camera opens its season with an ode to Americana music.

By Katricia Lang September 21, 2015

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Sō Percussion performs at Da Camera's season opener, Snapshots of America

Image: LiveWellPhoto

Chamber and jazz production group Da Camera kicks off its new season on Saturday, Sep. 26 with classic works from some of the country’s most heralded Americana composers. In Snapshots of America, Da Camera highlights the works from Aaron Copland, Charles Ives and George Crumb, and features a star-studded lineup of performers. Artistic director Sarah Rothenberg recruited five-time Grammy Award-winning soprano and MacArthur Foundation Fellow Dawn Upshaw, acclaimed pianist Gilbert Kalish, and Sō Percussion members Eric Cha-Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski and Jason Treuting, whom Rothenberg calls the most renowned percussion quartet today.

For Rothenberg, the theme of patriotism was important in choosing not only the featured composers, but their specific works. Each song and composition projects its own image of America including Copland’s career-defining orchestral suite “Appalachian Spring.” “In a lot of ways, the sound of this Copland work has come to represent the fields and the countryside of America,” notes Rothenberg.

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Soprano Dawn Upshaw

Image: Brooke Irish

Ives’ compositions paint a different picture of America. “He has a tremendous amount of nostalgia in the music for both his own childhood and this early American world.” Ives integrated his musical memories, like the Presbyterian Church hymns of his youth, with a more contemporary sound. The result is music that is accessible yet poetic. “He has a very original voice and, at the same time, depicts something that people can relate to.”

Crumb’s own innovations on Civil War folk songs, included in the collection The Winds Of Destiny (American Songbook IV), takes the audience to the American battlefield. “He creates unusual timbres and colors and really transports the listener to another world.” The lush of lyrics of “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” are haunting under Crumb’s tutelage.

The power of music is that it expresses something you can’t put into words,” adds Rothenberg. “The beauty of Snapshots of America is that it evokes different images and impressions of America without attempting to define the vast, complex country as a whole.”

Snapshots of America. Saturday, Sep. 26. 8. $30–65. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave. 713-524-5050.