Purple Syllables (2004)

Augusta Read Thomas, a long-time Tanglewood resident composer (and past TMC composer-in-residence) was present for the performance of her commissioned work for Chanticleer, "Purple Syllables" (Emily Dickinson Settings). Each of the five song texts was selected by the composer, based on poems written about birds. At one point, the singers whistled, all on different notes, and it really did sound like it was 5:30 a.m. in the Berkshires! The composer has a keen ear for mildly dissonant harmonies, and of course Chanticleer's perfect intonation made for an effective and fully realized performance of what must be a challenging work.

Steven Danker - The Advocate, 14 Jul 2005

They also sang four Emily Dickinson songs from "Purple Syllables" by Augusta Reed Thomas, recently premiered in New York. All of the poems are about birds, as befits a work commissioned by Chanticleer. As harmonically and rhythmically difficult as Messiaen's tributes to birdsong - they were made to seem both simple and emotionally satisfying at first hearing.

Christopher Hyde - Maine Sunday Telegram, 30 April 2005

"Purple Syllables," a world premiere collection of Emily Dickinson settings by Augusta Read Thomas, honored Chanticleer's avian ancestry with poems evoking the "lonesome glee" of nature's songsters. The ensemble responded with purrs and trills, glassy whistles and shimmering harmonies, ideally responsive to Thomas and Dickinson's ingratiating but severe muse.

Marion Lignana Rosenberg - Newsday, 25 Apr 2005

Centerpiece of the second half was "Purple Syllables," a group of Emily Dickinson poems set by American composer Augusta Read Thomas and written for Chanticleer. Besides matching the night's theme of women, the work features further symbolic ties: All the poems concern birds, an idea inspired by the group's namesake, a rooster in one of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." The settings are mostly playful and lyrical, and the group's clarity and ensemble unity again served them well.

Thomas Consolo - Cincinnati Post, 8 Nov 2004

Selections from Augusta Read Thomas' "Purple Syllables" anchored the second half of the concert. These setting of Emily Dickinson poems about birds (the piece was written for Chanticleer, whose name comes from a singing rooster in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales") were subtle, colorful, and at times, playful. Chanticleer navigated teh difficult pieces with expression and, as always, a beautiful sound.

Steve Hicken - Tallahassee Democrat, 14 Nov 2004

III.The bird her punctual music brings

Purple Syllables
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Composer: Augusta Read Thomas

Instrumentation: vocal ensemble

Premiering Artists: Chanticleer

Duration: 15'

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