The soul of humanity and the fate of the planet are intertwined

Anima Mundi's Ashland-based Heart of Humanity spring concert series stirs up some excitement.

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Scene from 'A Time For Life.' Photo by Robert Kyr.
Scene from ‘A Time For Life.’ Photo by Robert Kyr.

An exciting array of artists is featured in the Ashland-based Anima Mundi Productions Heart of Humanity concert series this spring, including the choral ensemble Cappella Romana, Third Angle New Music, soprano Estelí Gomez, guitarist Colin Davin, and the HEX Vocal Ensemble. The series, now in its second season, began on April 18 with the world premiere of Robert Kyr’s new film, A Time For Life, an environmental oratorio performed by Cappella Romana and Third Angle New Music. The webcast of this beautiful choral work highlights Anima Mundi’s stated mission to bring audiences “… the power of the arts to stir the soul, foster community, and address urgent social and environmental problems.”

A Time for Life was originally commissioned and performed by Portland’s Cappella Romana in 2007. A recording of this piece celebrating the wonder of life was released in 2013–and it is that performance, combined with a carefully woven tapestry of photographic images by Hunter Madsen and Robert Kyr, that comprise this new concert length film.

Kyr, in his role of photographer, explored the state’s geological wonders–including Oregon’s Lost Forest, an ancient stand of ponderosa pine in the high desert of northern Lake County. This unique forested area stands alone some 40 miles from any other, and exists without a spring or stream. He also photographed landscapes in the Oregon national dunes recreation area, a place of quiet beauty and one of the world’s largest expanses of temperate coastal sand dunes that is often shrouded in mist.

In contrast to the photos of Oregon landscapes are those Kyr captured during his summer retreats at a remote mission in New Mexico. There, when taking breaks from composing, he photographed the rugged beauty of the mesa and canyonlands of the American southwest. Kyr’s oratorio explores the relationship of humanity and nature through music, images and a composite text that draws upon quotations from poetic, religious, and indigenous sources (see program notes for full text).

We are taken on a journey beginning with the story of creation and eventually humankind’s dominance over the earth, bringing with it an ever-increasing spiritual and environmental darkness looming over all. It is with a reawakening and rediscovery of the interconnectedness of all living things that the oratorio suggests humanity must come to recognize its responsibility for stewardship of the earth and a spiritual realignment with the creative forces that brought it to be.

As the relationship between humanity and our environment stands at a perilous crossroads, the regenerative power of the arts is more important than ever. Music, poetry, and the visual arts have the unique ability to reconnect us with our hearts, returning us to a state of peaceful equilibrium within ourselves and our community. Only then can we work together in common purpose to become better stewards of our planet.

Anima Mundi

View the complete film A Time For Life featuring performances by Cappella Romana and Third Angle New Music.

'Sky and All' recital features Estelí Gomez and Colin Davin. Photo courtesy of Anima Mundi.
‘Sky and All’ recital features Estelí Gomez and Colin Davin. Photo courtesy of Anima Mundi.

The second concert in the Heart of Humanity series is Sky and All–a recital of classical and contemporary songs performed by Grammy-winning soprano Estelí Gomez and the award-winning classical guitarist Colin Davin. Gomez is an assistant professor of voice at Lawrence University and Davin is co-head of the guitar department at the Cleveland Institute of Music. This collaboration brings together two outstanding young artists who will take listeners on a musical journey into the beauty and vulnerability of nature with songs ranging from those of singer Becca Stevens to the classical music of Libby Larsen. The program will be webcast at 5:30 (Pacific) on June 13, 2021.

Six Feet Apart: Stories of Resilience and Transformation is an innovative multimedia oratorio based on the real-life experiences of Oregonians during the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent historic firestorms. Composer Ethan Gans-Morse and poet Tiziana DellaRovere along with their collaborators collected personal stories using Zoom, phone calls and online submissions throughout the fall of 2020. It is these stories that DellaRovere weaves together in this new work.

This premiere performance features the Los Angeles based HEX Vocal Ensemble, guest soloists, and chamber instrumentation. Special contributions include work by current and former Oregon poets laureate Anis Mojgani and Kim Stafford and renowned artist Betty LaDuke. It will webcast on August 22 at 5:30 (Pacific).

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“The Canticle of the Black Madonna” in under 4 minutes from Anima Mundi Productions
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A special encore performance of Gans-Morse and DellaRovere’s 2014 production of The Canticle of the Black Madonna will be streamed at 5:30 (Pacific) on May 30. The opera, which tells the fictional story of an Army veteran struggling with PTSD during the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill. It premiered in Portland’s Newmark Theater on September 5-6, 2014. This presentation includes a discussion with combat veterans who were involved in the making of the opera. (Read: Bringing Anima Mundi’s ‘Canticle of the Black Madonna’ to life).

The four Heart of Humanity concert-length videos and opera encore will be released with a special ticketed launch event and will thereafter remain online for the duration of the season with no ticket required. Full details about the concert series and tickets are available online.

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About the author

Gary Ferrington is a University of Oregon Sr. Instructor Emeritus whose career spanned over 30 years as the College of Education’s Instructional Systems Technology program director. He has been, since retiring in 1998, actively involved in the Eugene arts community serving for nine years on the Board of Directors for the Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts Center where he also coordinated its online and print public relations efforts. Since the closing of the center during the Great Recession he has committed himself to advocating for the performance of contemporary music and dance. He is a volunteer with the Eugene Ballet Company and is an advocate for the UO School of Music and Dance programs in music composition, Intermedia Technology, and jazz studies. His articles for Oregon ArtsWatch, focusing primarily on music, dance and occasionally theatre in Eugene, can be found online at artswatcharticles.blogspot.com.

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