The Choral Artisans finished their inaugural season (October 2016) by joining forces with the Harrison Center for the Arts for a special project which helped us begin the journey of serving the city with collaborative art experiences through the craft of choral music-making. When we launched our choral community, the desire was not to develop a group of singers who operated within the vacuum of a chorus singing for themselves. We asked ourselves the question, "What would it look like instead to link arms with other artistic organizations in order to make a positive contribution to the aesthetic life of our city? I'm grateful for the Harrison Center partnership, because I strongly believe that the choral art-from can and should cross-pollinate with other art mediums (painting, dance, photography, theatre, etc.)

I was thrilled to find a choral composition which I thought would work well in collaboration with some of the visual artists and artisans of the Harrison Center. The text is taken from a poem by William Butler Yeats entitled, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" set to music by the contemporary composer Ola Gjeilo. I approached the HCA staff to see if any of the artists would be interested to interpret Yeats' poem through their particular mediums. Eleven artists graciously agreed to take part in the project (Lorie Lee Andrews, Kathryn Dart, Kyle Ragsdale, Carolyn Springer, Kate Oberreich, Johnny McKee, Beniah Cusak, Benny Sanders, Sarah Hedges, Elyce Elder and Anne Cleary). "The Lake Isle Project" was birthed and became one of the featured shows for a First Friday held in the SPECK gallery.  

That evening, guests were given the opportunity to deepen the experience of assimilating Yeats' poem into both the head and heart through the raw materials of text, paint, sound and fabric. You really need two things in order to unpack any piece of art: 

  1. The use of the imagination to see connections between things.

  2. And patience which allows the piece to speak through its own unfolding temporal process. 

In certain arts, such as architecture, sculpture and paintings the whole appears before the detail - the assimilation of the work progresses from the general to the particular. In literature and music, the detail strikes one first and leads to the appreciation of the whole - the assimilation progresses from the particular to the general. ‚Äč

William Butler Yeats & Background on the "Lake Isle of Innisfree

William Butler Yeats was born in 1865 in the city of Dublin to the Irish painter John Butler Yeats. His childhood was spent in the county Sligo, where his parents had been raised and in London, where he was educated. Yeats returned to Dublin to study painting but quickly discovered he preferred poetry. He became deeply involved in Irish culture and the political landscape. He is rightly regarded as one of the most significant poets - Ian any language - of the 20th century. Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923 and died in 1939 at the age of 73. 

Innisfree is a real place, located in Lake Gill in County Sligo, which was an area Yeats loved and knew well. The poem, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" was published in Yeats' second book of poems, The Rose (1893). It is one of his first great and enduring poems. The final line, "I hear it in the deep heart's core," is a crucial statement for Yates, not just in this poem but for his career as a whole. The belief that truths dwelling deep within the human soul was one that always guided Yeats. Remaining true to the "deep heart's core" was in the opinion of his contemporaries his primary undertaking as a poet. 

Background on the musical composition and composer 

The contemporary composer Ola Gjeilo wrote "The Lake Isle" in 2015. Born in Norway in 1978, Gjeilo moved to the United States in 2001 to begin his composition studies at the Julliard School. Presently a full-time composer based in New York City, he is also interested in film, and his music often draws inspiration from movies and cinematic music. The musical composition in itself is a microcosm of collaborative convergence utilizing string quartet (2 violins, viola and cello), keyboard, steel-stringed guitar and vocal ensemble as the sources of sound. None of the above elements predominate as a single entity - the different elements combine to make one whole. 

A Live Performance of "The Lake Isle" by the Choral Artisans