George Crumb – The River of Life

Orchestra 2001 was recently on tour in Louisiana and Mississippi!

April 20, 2022 | 12:00 pm (noon)
Xavier University 
of Louisiana
Recital Hall, 1 Drexel Drive, New Orleans, LA 70125
FREE and open to the public

April 22, 2022 | 10:00 am
Jackson State University
Dr. Jimmie James Jr. Recital Hall, Jackson, MS 39217
FREE and open to the public

This tour is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the League of American Orchestras' Futures Fund.

Past performance:
7:30pm – 8:30pm
Cherry Street Pier
121 N. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19106
FREE and open to the public

"Sunburst" score for #5, Time is a Drifting River, by composer George Crumb

Orchestra 2001 ensemble rehearsing at Xavier University.


America's Folk Music Transformed

George Crumb's The River of Life (2003)

(American Songbook I – A Cycle of Hymns, Spirituals, and Revival Tunes)

1. Shall We Gather at the River?
2. Will There Be Any Stars In My Crown?
3. Amazing Grace!
4. Give Me That Old Time Religion
5. Time is a Drifting River: A Psalm for Daybreak and Morning (instrumental)
6. Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?
7. One More River to Cross (Noah’s Ark: A Humoresque)
8. Nearer, My God to Thee

9. Deep River


Chrystal E. Williams, mezzo-soprano

Mark Loria, conductor

Marcantonio Barone, piano

William Kerrigan, percussion

Malavika Godbole, percussion

Phillip O’Banion, percussion

Brenda Weckerly, percussion

The seven volumes of George Crumb’s American Songbooks are the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer’s explorations of America’s folk song heritage that include stunning transformations of African-American spirituals, Appalachian ballads, Native American chants, New England hymns, Southern revival songs, Western cowboy tunes, and in one volume, more popular folk music by Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger.

Each volume was written for, dedicated to, premiered and recorded first by Orchestra 2001 as it emerged from Mr. Crumb’s suburban Philadelphia studio over a period of a decade. There are few examples in modern classical music in which a composer of such stature has written so much music for a specific ensemble. We believe this cycle to be one of the most unique and beautiful celebrations of America's folk heritage any artist has ever conceived.  

Volume I, The River of Life  (2003) – Songs of Joy, and Sorrow – A Cycle of Hymns, Spirituals and Revival Tunes for Voice, Percussion Quartet, and Amplified Piano, contains nine of Crumb’s sometimes haunting, sometimes hilarious, always magical settings of American folk songs surrounded by the myriad colors of his astonishing music.

The River of Life is scored for more than 130 different percussion instruments including bosun’s (boatswain) whistle, log drums, Appalachian musical saw, Chinese cymbals and temple gongs, Japanese temple bells and kabuki blocks, Tibetan prayer stones, Indian ankle bells, Thai wooden buffalo bells, Cambodian anklung, frog voice guïro, Moroccan bendir, Swiss almglocken (large cowbells), water-tuned crystal goblets, toy piano, and a number of instruments played underwater.

Audience members of all ages are invited on stage after the performance for an informal Percussion Petting Zoo: come see the instruments up close!

Lead support for "The River of Life" at Cherry Street Pier is provided by the William Penn Foundation.  

Support for "America's Folk Music Transformed – George Crumb's 'The River of Life' " to the US South is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the League of American Orchestras. 

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