Embedded in David Warrack’s oratorio Abraham

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built againt it  — Rumi

I am home after standing & singing alongside the Elmer Iseler Singers. It’s been exciting to share the sanctuary of Metropolitan United church with such luminous talents as Richard Margison, Meredith Hall, Theresa Tova, Ramona Carmelly, Hussein Janmohamed, George Krissa, Lydia Adams, composer & pianist David Warrack (and that’s far from a complete list!)…

And it’s over as suddenly as it came together.

Composer & pianist David Warrack

Embedded? That’s in the sense of the embedded journalists of the Iraq War, where the writers lived so close to the warriors that they lost any illusion of objectivity. I’m deep in this project, fortunate to be one of the soloists at Hillcrest Church where composer David Warrack normally hangs his hat. Don’t expect objectivity, as this is more of a love letter.

David used bass Paul Babiak and me, the two of us portraying the voice of God, in the Prelude to the piece. Yes you read that right, two of us are the voice of God. There are a number of ways I come to grips with this, in a project celebrating Abraham, the patriarch of three different religions. If you consider that the holy books (The Koran, the Bible or the New Testament) could be understood as the paraphrase of three different groups, listening to the voice of God, then it makes sense. Why two rather than three? Ah but an Old Testament story such as that of Abraham would be shared by Christianity & Judaism, so you’d only need two voices not three: and please excuse me if that sounds reductive. That’s one way to understand it.

Paul suggested that perhaps God is in the space between our voices, a lovely mystery. And speaking of paraphrases, i hope i did his idea justice in how i represented it here.

A new work such as this one is ultimately a conversation, as the work poses challenges to a series of artists who offer their answers at this time. It’s a bit bewildering to undertake a new work because there are different ways one can sing the same notes. This was less an issue for me –with only a few notes and clear specifications—than for some of the other singers, who had a number of possible options. I was especially fascinated by the work of Richard Margison in the title role, singing at times with a big operatic sound, at other times with a whole range of tones loud and soft. He’s sounding quite wonderful.

Tenor Richard Margison (photo: Katie Cross)

Tenor Richard Margison (photo: Katie Cross)

Abraham seems to have a future, not just because of the warmth of the audience in response. There are plans for future performances, as Warrack continues to add to the piece, which he calls a work in progress. Just as it’s a privilege to be present at a new birth, so too for the premiere of a new work. Assume that I will be at the very least telling you about its next incarnation, when I hope I will also have the pleasure of participating.

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