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Sarah Kirkland Snider

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Penelope (for voice and orchestra) (2009)
Commissioned by Signal and Shara Worden
Text Writer
Ellen McLaughlin
Publisher
G Schirmer Inc
Category
Soloists and Orchestra
Sub Category
Soloists and Chamber Orchestra
Year Composed
2009
Duration
1 Hour 0 Minutes
Language
English
Solo Instrument(s)
Mezzo-soprano
Programme Note
Sarah Kirkland Snider Penelope (for voice and orchestra) (2009)

Shara Worden, Ensemble Signal, Brad Lubman conductor
Related works:
   Penelope (for voice and orchestra)
   Penelope (for voice and large ensemble)
   Penelope (for voice and septet)
   Penelope (for voice and sextet)

Songs can be rented and performed individually.

Songs:
1. The Stranger with the Face of a Man I Loved
2. This Is What You're Like
3. The Honeyed Fruit
4. The Lotus Eaters
5. Nausicaa
6. Circe and the Hanged Man
7. I Died of Waiting
8. Home
9. Dead Friend
10. Calypso
11. And Then You Shall Be Lost Indeed
12. Open Hands
13. Baby Teeth, Bones, and Bullets
14. As He Looks Out to Sea



Notes:
Penelope is a 60-minute song cycle for female voice, chamber orchestra, and electronics, based on texts by playwright Ellen McLaughlin. It is also the name of the music-theater piece I co-wrote with Ellen in 2007, commissioned by the J. Paul Getty Center, from which the song cycle was derived (that version of the music found here.) Penelope the song cycle loosely tells the story of the theater work: A woman’s husband appears at her door after an absence of 20 years, suffering from brain damage. A veteran of a modern war, he doesn’t know who he is and she doesn’t know who he’s become. While they wait together for his return to himself, she reads him The Odyssey, and in the journey of that book, she finds a way into her former husband’s memory.

  • Ensemble
    Ensemble Signal
    Conductor
    Brad Lubman
    New Amsterdam:
Performances
Reviews
“…a ravishingly melancholy 2010 song cycle.”
The New York Times,11/02/2013
Rapturous.
The New York Times,10/02/2011
Penelope is a gorgeous piece of music, but it is more — it is also a hauntingly vivid psychological portrait, one that explores a dark scenario with a light, almost quizzical touch, finding poetic resonances everywhere…Snider’s music lives in a netherland between richly orchestrated indie rock and straight chamber music, an increasingly populous inter-genre space that, as of yet, has produced only a few clear, confident voices. Snider is perhaps the most sophisticated of them all: No matter what perspective you bring to this album, it bears profound rewards.
Jayson Greene, Pitchfork,05/01/2011
To my recollection, the song cycle Penelope is the most vivid, mesmerizing psychological nightmare set to music I’ve heard.
Daniel J. Kushner, The Huffington Post,28/12/2010
A potent melding of classical poise and alt-pop punch, this dreamy song cycle was the year’s most affecting creation. Accompanied by new-music dream team Signal, vocalist Shara Worden mesmerized.
Time Out New York,17/12/2010
…one of the most moving indie rock records I’ve heard all year. Penelope is not just essential listening; it is a soul-restoring musical balm.
Daniel Stephen Johnson, The New Haven Advocate,14/12/2010
Snider has taken a fascinating idea from playwright Ellen McLaughlin and turned it into a song cycle that works on several levels… Penelope deals with big ideas — memory, identity, “home” — but it’s also an intimate portrait of a woman who, like Homer’s Penelope, is confronted with finally getting what she’s wished for. The top-shelf new music ensemble Signal, directed by Brad Lubman, is equally at home with the electronics and electric guitars of the score as the conventional acoustic instruments. Alternately intimate and dramatic…lovely and colorful.
National Public Radio,08/12/2010
Snider’s musical language includes intricate string writing as well as evocative, post-minimalist shimmers of vibraphone and percussion, and urgent electric guitar and drum kit. Holding it all together is the distinctive voice of Shara Worden… alternately melancholic, agitated and poignant… the musical offspring of Britten’s Sea Interludes and Eno’s Music for Airports… haunted, glitchy … bewildering and subtle… [serving] to confirm Snider’s deft command of many different musical languages and the ability of the band Signal, an all-star new music group led by conductor Brad Lubman, to play almost anything put in front of them with conviction.
John Schaefer, eMusic,05/11/2010
[Penelope] deftly weaves pop…and classical. Snider’s dark-hued score is inventive and subtle, with a mix of watery, undulating strings, guitars, percussion and electronics that submerges you completely within the story. Some songs flaunt melodic hooks, others are atmospheric. And all are aided by Worden’s vocals, mournful, urgent and expressive. Brad Lubman conducts the tight little chamber ensemble known as Signal.
Thomas Huizenga, National Public Radio,05/11/2010
“Penelope is such an accomplished and remarkable work, it’s hard to believe that it could possibly be the debut album by [Sarah Kirkland Snider]… a ravishing score that bridges modern classical and electronic genres… This year or any year for that matter, one would be hard pressed to hear melodies that are more gorgeous and soul-stirring… Material so powerful places Penelope head and shoulders above much else that was released in 2010.”
Textura Magazine,27/10/2010
With an onslaught of indie bands attempting to combine intellect and musicianship along with a pop sensibility, few have the ability to harness all three in the way Snider has on Penelope. She courageously tackles a dramatic story arc in the vein of a Puccini opera while never losing track of her audience. Dramatic music may still be popular in many different genres but is rarely done with such care and precision.
Death and Taxes Magazine,25/10/2010
[Penelope] features a genre-blending style compelling enough to throw categorizations to the wind and revel in its unique dialect… emotive and heart-wrenching to haunting and ethereal… imaginative and thoughtfully constructed… lovers of pop and rock music will enjoy the numerous catchy tunes…while the classical and contemporary music crowds will be drawn to the strong string writing and orchestration (containing traces of Pärt and Sibelius) and the precise, expressive performances by Signal.
Alexandra Gardner, New Music Box,19/10/2010
Mesmerizing…lush, evocative, and deeply moving.
Time Out New York,13/10/2010
The overwhelmingly moving concept [of Penelope] is balanced by clear, concentrated and undemonstrative writing…[Snider] reveals it with sympathy and trusts that we will hear and respond, deeply, in our own way. It’s almost dogmatically non-Romantic, but still full of warmth and feeling… The results are powerfully elegiac but not hopeless. Penelope does not settle on a complete, clichéd resolution, but offers the evidence that proves the possibilities of humanity.
George Grella, The Big City,01/10/2010
“The overwhelmingly moving concept [of Penelope] is balanced by clear, concentrated and undemonstrative writing…[Snider] reveals it with sympathy and trusts that we will hear and respond, deeply, in our own way. It’s almost dogmatically non-Romantic, but still full of warmth and feeling… The results are powerfully elegiac but not hopeless. Penelope does not settle on a complete, clichéd resolution, but offers the evidence that proves the possibilities of humanity.”
George Grella, The Big City, “OK Composer",01/10/2010
Remarkable…a beautiful cycle of songs, could just as easily be an opera if fully-staged.
John Schaefer, WNYC New Sounds,09/09/2010
Uniting pop and classical music, though, doesn’t have to result in a shadow of both worlds…Sarah Kirkland Snider [is] conjoining genres to produce culturally electric new music. [Penelope] is a cycle of haunting art songs… Her music, beautifully sung by Shara Worden and expertly played by Signal, a chamber orchestra, echoes the piercing melancholy of a Chopin nocturne and spacious rhythms of minimalism. Snaking out of the pastoral backdrop are instantly hummable pop melodies.
Kevin Berger, The Los Angeles Times,22/08/2010
[Penelope] had an elegiac quality that deftly evoked sensations of abandonment, agitation, grief and reconciliation… ably [demonstrating] the poised elegance of Ms. Snider’s writing.
Steve Smith, The New York Times,24/05/2009
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