Review by Edward Kliszus

Thank you MasterVoices and artistic director Ted Sperling for the comfort, reflection, inspiration, and spirituality needed during these times, premiered at this fourth and final chapter of Adam Guettel’s theatrical song cycle of Myths and Hymns.

Faith was the ideal venue for completing a season offering artistic peace and consolation during global pandemic tumult. This apotheosis of dénouements reflected on prospects of better days and transcendent emergence, having effectively followed a natural evolution through the series from Flight, Work, and Love.

Ted Sperling introduced this installment as an exploration of “What it might feel like to be in heaven and what solace and inspiration one can get by trusting in a higher power”, evoking reference to the eternal existential exploration of humankind in its quest for meaning and purpose in life.

Set like an angelic musical goddess overlooking an urban Great Highway and parking lot, replete with traffic, parked cars and graffiti adorned delivery truck, Kelli O’Hara initially beckons monophonically, her countenance cast as a shadow against gray skies, mystically setting the tone for Nicholas Phan and Anthony Roth Costanzo to join her in a joyous melismatic musical trio.

There’s a Land acclaims joyous expectations of what Heaven may provide, separated from our lives by just a narrow sea. A message of hope, it is characterized by “everlasting spring abides”, “a land of pure delight”, and “pleasures banish pain”. The instrumental accompaniment is angular, spirited, and well-supporting the operatic bravura of Miles Mykkanen along with celebratory dance, denizens marching inexorably to a final place, heavenly choral chants, and harmony.

Alexander Pope noted in his “Essay on Man’ that “hope springs eternal in every human breast”. “There’s a Shout in the camp, for the Lord is here, Hallelujah! Praise His name”. Sadness, yearning, worldwide refugees–but yet hope, as only gospel music, dance, and visual art can express, and as the marvelous Jennifer Holliday and the Gospel Soul Children of New York best demonstrate.

In Awaiting You, against a simple backlit backdrop, Mykal Kilgore exquisitely expresses pensive musical poesis, capturing beauty and hope. “Maybe in God we trust just a lucky charm, maybe faith is only hoping that we can rise anew. And so I rise and so I stand. I am awaiting you, ah, I will still be here standing here awaiting you.”

Larry Owens walks by empty buildings and theaters, sees posted public health updates. He enters and explores a dark theatre. Ascending the stage set before empty seats, he sings to touch our hearts and spirits, but alone, he leaves and is mercifully surrounded and comforted by the sounds and touches of others. “the passageway to guide me home.” We’re not alone. Reprise – Saturn Returns: The Return.

In Light After Darkness, the perfect finale and post-pandemic title, the Company and featured artists from the four-part series come together to sing, celebrate, and groove. This was a fantastic series, heartwarming, intimate, important, vital, using the magic of Internet technology, film, digital recording, creativity, music, drama, dance, visual art, and poetry to move, touch, celebrate, inspire, and illuminate both our spirituality and humanity.

Running Time: Approx. 20 minutes

The Great Highway features Soloist Kelli O’Hara, (Underwritten by Zita Ezpeleta and Kewsong Lee), Soloist Nicholas Phan, Soloist and Director Anthony Roth Costanzo (Underwritten by Friends of Anthony), MasterVoices, Visual Artist Erik Freer.

There’s A Land with Soloist Theresa McCarthy, Soloist Miles Mykkanen, (Underwritten by Stephen A. Novick), dancers Emma Lou DeLaney, Milan Magaña, Justine Rafael, and Katja Stoer, MasterVoices, Director and Choreographer Andrew Palermo.

There’s A Shout with Soloist Jennifer Holliday, The Gospel Soul Children of New York / Bishop Dr. Derek Roberts, Director, MasterVoices, Visual Art provided by refugee children and adults worldwide, through Artolution / Dr. Max Frieder, Director, Co-Founder and Executive Director Ted Sperling, Videographer Jai Izuagbe.

Awaiting You with Soloist Mykal Kilgore, Director Ted Sperling, Videographer Vince Trupsin.

Saturn Returns: The Return with Soloist Larry Owens, MasterVoices, Director Trip Cullman, Cinematographer/Editor Sam Cullman.

Light After Darkness with appearances by soloists from all four chapters of Myths and Hymns: Dianne Drayse, Alonso Anderson & Roe, Shoshana Bean Nina Bernstein, John Brancy, Julia Bullock, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Drew Gehling, Annie Golden, The Gospel Soul Children of New York, Jennifer Holliday, Cheyenne Jackson, Capathia Jenkins, Mykal Kilgore, Norm Lewis, John Lithgow, Jose Llana, Theresa McCarthy, Michael McElroy, Miles Mykkanen, Kelli O’Hara, Larry Owens, Shereen Pimentel, Nicholas Phan, Elizabeth Stanley, Take 6, Lori Wilner, and MasterVoices.

Production conceived, supervised, and conducted by Ted Sperling. Orchestrations by Don Sebesky and Jamie Lawrence. New Choral Arrangements by Ted Sperling. Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel.

Orchestra

Conductor – Ted Sperling. Chuck Wilson, Dan Willis, John Winder: woodwinds, Larry Lunetta: trumpet, Antoine Silverman: violin, Steve Bargonetti: guitar, Douglas Romoff: bass, Norbert Goldberg: percussion,  Todd Ellison: piano.

Production Team

Derril Sellers/SpotCo, Editing and Production Jamie Lawrence, Sound Design, Audio Mixing and Mastering Andrew Feyer, Chorus Audio Engineer Julie Morgan, Chorus Audio Design SpotCo, Advertising/Marketing/Social Strategy Emily Grishman Music, Music Preparation Craig Burns, Casting consultant.

Myths and Hymns is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals: www.concordtheatricals.com, Hymn texts from The Temple Trio, Hymn Edition, 1886. Artwork created by Mikyung Lee.

Stay informed on the latest MasterVoices news including upcoming shows, fundraisers, education initiatives and more. Sign up for the monthly e-blast here or type:  https://tinyurl.com/fb2utewz

For more information go to mastervoices.org or contact MasterVoices at 1441 Broadway Suite 3024, New York, NY 10018| 646.202.9623.