Visiting Musical Group Transports Audience Across the Americas

Swaying in perfect synchronization with the music, the 18 members of A Far Cry began their performance of “Symphony No. 3” by Philip Glass. Nicknamed “Forest Symphony,” the piece references the variety of species in nature by utilizing a range of volumes and notes.

“[Symphony No. 3] is kind of like at the beginning of a trip [when] you know when you’re in for a few weeks of driving, and you’re not really in a hurry, but it’s a really freeing feeling,” said Megumi Stohs Lewis, one of the group’s violinists, in her address to the audience before the concert.

A Far Cry, a Grammy-nominated, self-conducted string ensemble founded in 2007, played Glass’s “Symphony No. 3” to begin their concert on Friday evening in Cochran Chapel. The program, entitled “TransAmericana” featured a variety of pieces written by composers from the Americas. According to A Far Cry’s blog, the program aims to simulate a wild road trip that starts in New York and travels through South America. This diversity of music inspired Holly Barnes, Director in Performance, to invite A Far Cry to Andover.

She said, “One of the things I’m trying to do this year is bring more music from other places… [The faculty of the music department] feels there is so much diversity at this school, so we’re trying to bring performers that play diverse types of music to the school. Most of what we hear is Western music; it has its roots in Europe. This program tonight went all the way through South America. I think it represents our school more and the diversity of the student body.”

In addition to “Symphony No. 3,” A Far Cry also performed “Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout” by Gabriela Lena Frank. Throughout the piece, the violins played twanging intervals at piercingly high registers to imitate traditional Peruvian instruments. In her solo, Lewis surged her violin bow,d creating a sharp twang with chilling dissonance. The performers’ imitation of traditional instruments allowed the audience to gain insight into the colorful culture and vibrant passion of the Andes.

Karissa Kang ’17, an audience member, said, “The last movement of [“Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout”] was incredible. It’s not even just the sound, but the motions of the musicians and how they moved with the music. It was such a cinematic display, and words cannot describe how incredible it was.”

The program ended with “Concerto per Corde, Op. 33” by Alberto Ginastera. According to the concert’s program, this piece exhibited Ginastera’s reputation for exposing raw emotion in his music. Throughout the song, the strings punctuate the music with sharp and fierce bow movements, creating a rhythmic feel to the piece. Wendy Heckman, Librarian in the W.B. Clift Music Library in Graves Hall, said, “The musicians in A Far Cry are such very good musicians that they are able to get those close harmonies that is so difficult to do unless you’re a fine, well-rehearsed musician. A Far Cry is [so] good that they made the closeness of the harmonies beautiful.”

The concert’s program, “TransAmericana,” was decided on by each member of A Far Cry. Each season, the musicians in the group vote together on the program for the season. Each member also has a chance to lead on stage or behind the scenes. This collaboration affects the group’s overall musical performance.

Karen Ouzounian, a cellist, said, “[A Far Cry] feels like a family to me. Everyone is so passionate; everyone works so hard, not just on their instruments, but on organizing the group and presenting the concerts and doing every sort of administrative task and dreaming up projects and working together, having meetings and discussions. I’ve never seen a group before where all the musicians are so passionate and so hard working and invested in the group.”