Award-winning orchestra presents ‘The Blue Hour’



A Far Cry, with its unique dynamic in music, brings its latest project to Iowa City.

By Sarah Stortz
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Hailing from Boston, chamber orchestra A Far Cry operates as an “artistic wheel.” While all of the string musicians, also known as “criers,” act as the spokes, each of them take turns working as the axis, with a chance of being the musical director.

The unique set of musicians will roll its way to Hancher  at 7:30 p.m. today, collaborating with Grammy-winning jazz singer Luciana Souza on the project “The Blue Hour.”

A Far Cry was established in 2007, beginning as a few friends sharing music together. Later on, the group grew to 18 criers, all coming from diverse musical backgrounds.

Its work gained some critical acclaim, with one of its albums, Dreams & Players, receiving a Grammy nomination in 2015 for the category of Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.

“The Blue Hour” is the group’s most recent work, featuring the poem “On Earth,” by Carolyn Forché, as the libretto.

The project is a collaborative work among five composers: Caroline Shaw, Shara Nova, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Angélica Negrón, and Rachel Grimes. The orchestra has toured all over the United States to perform “The Blue Hour” for the past few months.

Michael Unterman, one of the cellists, said the orchestra essentially operates on a democratic system.

“I think because everyone has a chance to direct at one point, they understand both sides,” Unterman said. “We all enjoy the variety. It helps to go back to the group with fresh ideas.”

After working on “The Blue Hour” for nearly a year, Unterman noted the challenges while working on a large-scale collaboration.

“I think with the scope of the project, having five different composers, was certainly challenging to everyone involved,” Unterman said.

The project has had a large effect on Unterman as well.

“The contrast of composer to composer, playing the piece through, it kind of transcends through the barriers,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine the piece any other way.”

Despite all of the conflict, he finds the artistic process worth it.

“You realize how much heart and soul goes into every concert,” he said. “The final product is powerful for especially all of us.”

Rob Cline, the Hancher director of marketing & communications, said Iowa City residents should enjoy the concert because of the town’s strong literary history.

“In Iowa City, anything that has a literary bent to us is appealing us,” he said. “Having [Forché] text to the piece is really exciting.”

Cline said he hopes the concert will help locals become more familiar with unique acts they might otherwise never hear about.

“I would say one of thing we love about our work is that we give this community the opportunity to experience groups that might never had heard of before,” Cline said.

Souza said she had a wonderful experience sharing her musical talents with the orchestra.

“Working with a Far Cry and the composers on ‘The Blue Hour’ has surpassed all my expectations,” Souza wrote to an email to The Daily Iowan. “You never know, with a new work, how things are going to go, how the music is going to be. A Far Cry is an extraordinary ensemble with mindful, extremely musical, and generous beings. That, combined with the gorgeous, diverse, visual, and effective music the composers wrote, makes for a singer’s dream.”

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