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NAXOS RELEASES MICHAEL DAUGHERTY’S THIS LAND SINGS: INSPIRED BY THE LIFE AND TIMES OF WOODY GUTHRIE

World-premiere recording features performances by the Albany Symphony’s Dogs of Desire ensemble led by David Alan Miller, and vocal soloists Annika Socolofsky and John Daugherty

“During these times of turbulence and uncertainty, I think back to the songwriter and political activist Woody Guthrie, who traveled across America with his guitar and harmonica to perform songs of hope and social justice during the Great Depression and World War II. As a musical tribute to this Dust Bowl troubadour, I have composed This Land Sings: Inspired by the Life and Times of Woody Guthrie, a song cycle with 17 original vocal and instrumental numbers, like a Grand Ole Opry radio broadcast. It is my hope that this Naxos recording, featuring the Albany Symphony’s new music ensemble Dogs of Desire, will remind us that music can spark greater awareness and bring about meaningful change.”

Michael Daugherty

Review of Michael Daugherty’s This Land Sings
Andrew Desiderio, FANFARE Magazine, Jan/Feb 2021

David Alan Miller, conductor; Annika Socolofsky, mezzo-soprano; John Daugherty, baritone; Dogs of Desire
NAXOS 8.559889 (66:55)

Michael Daugherty has a talent for making the American musical vernacular sound as fresh as when Aaron Copland began to introduce it to concert music in the 1930s. This Land Sings is an intelligent and thoughtful tribute to the life and times of Woody Guthrie, America’s folk music icon whose songs captured the turbulence of the Depression and spoke out against myriad social injustices.

Far from being mere rearrangements of Guthrie’s songs, Daugherty imagines the work as a radio broadcast (there was an original plan to bind the work together with an announcer, but this was scrapped for the sake of time constraints) to create a portrait of the singer and his times, using original music and lyrics to view Guthrie’s art and times through a contemporary lens. The “Overture,” a raucous fantasy on This Land is Your Land, makes it clear that this is a work of fun, heart, and imagination. The same could be said of “Perpetual Motion Man,” a portrait of Guthrie as he restlessly wandered the country as America’s latter-day troubadour. There are two songs I loved in particular—“Hot Air,” devilishly spoken by John Daugherty (no relation) is an accompanied monologue by a blathering radio preacher (modeled on Father Coughlin) extolling his own bigoted rhetoric; and “Silver Bullet,” a vicious song targeting gun culture, also hits close to home with its hard-hitting topicality. “The Ghost and the Will of Joe Hill” is a haunting ballad based on the 1915 execution of a labor activist and songwriter. What struck me in this one is Michael Daugherty’s imaginative musical treatment of the text, particularly with its use of drone and multiple characters—it reminded me of both Renaissance madrigal music and Schubert’s songs in this regard. It is evocative and instantly enjoyable, made even more so by Daugherty’s superb lyrics.

The performance by Dogs of Desire, the Albany Symphony’s new music ensemble under the direction of David Alan Miller, is outstanding in its crisp execution and impeccable rhythm. John Daugherty’s voice is expressive and varied, but I found the smoothness and of Annika Socolofsky’s voice simply mesmerizing. Both have excellent diction. A highly enjoyable and original work.

BIOGRAPHY

Multiple GRAMMY Award-winning composer Michael Daugherty has achieved international recognition as one of the ten most performed American composers of concert music, according to the League of American Orchestras. His orchestral music, recorded by Naxos over the last two decades, has received six GRAMMY Awards, including Best Contemporary Classical Composition in 2011 for Deus ex Machina for piano and orchestra and in 2017 for Tales of Hemingway for cello and orchestra. Current commissions for 2020 include new orchestral works for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Omaha Symphony and a concerto for violinist Anne Akiko Meyers who will give the world premiere with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center in 2021.  Read more…

Michael Daugherty – ‘This Land Sings: Inspired by the Life and Times of Woody Guthrie’ (excerpt)

Night Owl (2018), Virginia Symphony Orchestra, JoAnn Falletta, Music Director:

Michael Daugherty accepts Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition in 2017:

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