18 May 2018

On Sarah Riskind’s Hariyu

Notes for the upcoming Triad concerts

Sarah Riskind writes:  When I composed Hariyu in 2010, I wanted to break out of the world of slow sacred choral music.  My inspiration came by way of Leonard Bernstein, whose Chichester Psalms I have admired since I first sang them as a college first-year student.  Like Bernstein's opening movement, my Hariyu gives Psalm 100 the excitement of changing meters.  However, the texture of accented piano eighth-notes and the Mixolydian mode create a somewhat different world than Bernstein's larger work with orchestra.

Karl Henning writes:  Sarah Riskind is an alumna from Triad's first season, whose musical adventure soon called her elsewhere.  It is a reflection of the music's excellence, then, that we all wanted to return to Hariyu in the present concert—even without the composer among us to plead on her own behalf.

To amplify upon two of Sarah's observations:  Bernstein was (among much else) a pianist; in my experience, a well-grounded instrumentalist tends to use mixed meter in an effective, natural way—more so than most singers.  One key to Sarah's success in Hariyu is the musical flow she achieves in the mixed meter:  after each (unpredictable) barline, the next note feels naturally agogic—a genuine downbeat, and no accident of notation.  The composer's mastery of the successive metrical shifts is what allows the music to dance gracefully, sure-footedly, even as we sing along at an exhilarating tempo.

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