Moravec: “Japan Songs” on Stage

From the screen to the stage! On June 12, 2022, Kyo-Shin-An Arts presents the premiere of Paul Moravec’s newest chamber vocal work Eight Thousand Spears, as part of its “Japan Songs” concert at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York City. Commissioned by Kyo-Shin-An as part of its “Japan Songs” collection, Moravec’s work is scored for soprano, shakuhachi (bamboo flute) and piano trio, and features text settings of ancient Japanese poetry translated into English by Thomas E. McAuley. “Japan Songs” originally premiered online due to the Covid pandemic, and this performance will be the first, live concert with an in-person audience. Performers include: Deborah Lifton, soprano; Kathleen Supové, piano; Sami Merdinian, violin; Laura Metcalf, cello, and James Nyoraku Schlefer, shakuhachi. Other composers featured in this eclectic song collection include: Victoria Bond, Douglas J. Cuomo, James Matheson, Jay Reise and Aleksandra Vrebalov.

Scene from the virtual premiere performance of Kyo-Shin-An Arts “Japan Songs” commissioning project

Meg Fagan, Kyo-Shin-An producer, shares some thoughts about the “Japan Songs” project and Moravec’s Eight Thousand Spears setting. “‘Japan Songs’ is a personal, pet-project of mine that I wanted to commission for some time beginning in 2019. When the pandemic hit, even though things became very challenging, we were able to get the project up and running; and present a virtual premiere of six songs by serious, talented, and well-established composers. All of them have previously worked with Kyo-Shin-An; and, all of them have also written beautiful music for the voice.”

‘Eight Thousand Spears’ anonymous Japanese text.

Fagan continues. “When I approached Paul Moravec about this project, he specifically asked if he could set something ‘romantic.’ After reading through some of the love poems I sent him, he chose an anonymous one called ‘Eight Thousand Spears,’ and composed a song that is finely constructed. The phrase ‘Eight Thousand Spears’ refers to a powerful lord [‘The Great Land Master’] and the poem is written in the voice of a woman [Princess Nunakawa] who loves him and laments being apart from him. While ‘Japan Songs’ is not a traditional song cycle – but instead a collection of individual songs – the one aspect they have in common is that all of these works were written during Covid. All of the composers remained true to their own distinctive style and voice. However, these songs all feel similar since they were composed in very real time – during the pandemic – and all of them reflect a sense of sadness and longing.” [To view the virtual premiere of Moravec’s Eight Thousand Spears, click here.]