MORAVEC Sanctuary Road

Record and Artist Details

Genre:

Vocal

Label: Naxos

Media Format: CD or Download

Mastering:

DDD

Catalogue Number: 8 559884

8 559884. MORAVEC Sanctuary Road

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Sanctuary Road New York Oratorio Society Orchestra
Raehann Bryce-Davis
Dashon Burton
Laquita Mitchell
New York Oratorio Society
Joshua Blue
Kent Tritle
Maclcolm J Merriweather

The subject of Paul Moravec’s oratorio Sanctuary Road is William Still (1821-1902), one of the main activists running the Underground Railroad, that extraordinary clandestine enterprise that at its height rescued around a thousand slaves per year in the mid-19th century. Mark Sutton-Smith’s 2003 musical Stand by the River, also based on Still, focused on just one celebrated escape; but Still himself helped some 800 slaves find freedom. As importantly, he documented their stories meticulously (publishing a record after the Civil War), some amazing examples forming the basis for Moravec’s oratorio: light-skinned Ellen Kraft, who disguised herself as a terminally ill, elderly white man travelling to Philadelphia to seek medical attention, with her future husband in tow masquerading as her slave; Henry ‘Box’ Brown, who mailed himself in a crate to Still; Isaac Jackson, who evaded capture for a year by hiding in a cave. Almost as moving is the wordless chorale marking the hiatus of the Civil War.

The relevance of Sanctuary Road (2017) in our present century cannot be overstated, analogous to that of Tippett’s A Child of our Time to wartime Britain. If Moravec’s music is not quite in that league, Sanctuary Road builds – after a slightly unsteady start – into a work of compelling intensity. If much of that is due to the subject matter, Moravec sets the text, drawn from Still’s writings by librettist Mark Campbell, with commendable clarity in an attractive score that attains true grandeur of spirit as it proceeds, especially in its extended finale (depicting Still’s recovery of his records after the war). Much credit for this goes to conductor Kent Tritle and the Oratorio Society of New York, who commissioned the work; their haunting premiere performance, at Carnegie Hall in 2018 with a finely balanced quintet of soloists, forms the basis of this marvellous recording. Recommended.

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