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“PBO & Caroline Shaw”
Caroline Shaw: Is a Rose – The Listeners

Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano), Avery Amereau (contralto), Dashon Burton (bass-baritone), Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale, Bruce Lamott (chorale director), Nicholas McGegan (music director and conductor)
Recording: First Congregational Church, Berkeley, California (March 9-10 and October 19-20, 2019) – 51’27
Philharmonia Baroque Productions PBP-12 – Booklet in English

Just by looking at Caroline Shaw’s photo bespeaks sincerity, honor and kindness. She also loves yellow, a primary color that’s full of optimism and happiness and warmth, but there's also a current of introspection within her psyche. This young Greenville, North Carolina native taps into the past while dwelling in “the moment”, hoping for a more thoughtful tomorrow...Caroline Shaw’s soul connects all the dots in ways most people could ever dream about.

Trained in violin, Caroline Shaw has gone on to become a vocalist and a cross-over artist, having collaborated with rapper Kanye West. Her eclecticism abounds.

Written specifically for Anne Sofie von Otter, the tripartite, Is a Rose, pauses upon Robert Burns, Gertrude Stein and Jacob Pulley. Each section’s flavor remains independent, yet there’s always one foot entrenched inside the Baroque era, a favored treasure of Mlle Shaw. Her opening, “The Edge”, fleetingly reflects upon John Adams in the beginning while “And So”, with its strong use of pizzicato, brings out firmer enterprises of Renaissance complexions. Mlle von Otter breaks through Robert Burns’ sorrowful text in the “Red, Red Rose”: stripped and direct, it’s emotionally whittling and firmly touching.

On May 30, 2020 Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley launched into outer space aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the first galactic endeavor in almost a decade. In that sense, Caroline Shaw’s The Listeners couldn’t have been more timely: it’s a postulate to the Golden Record which the Voyager portaged in 1977 to flybys of Jupiter, Saturn and Saturn’s largest moon… wouldn’t it have been marvelous to have Caroline Shaw’s music transported to the space station which would have brought everything “front and center”? Through Mlle Shaw, we experience writings of Walt Whitman, Lord Tennyson, Lucille Clifton and even Carl Sagan. The words provoke thought and how “futuristic” the scope of life could be as life outside earth continues to sail forward. Avery Amereau’s richly impregnated timbre along with the penetrating might found inside bass-baritone Dashon Burton give a memorable spark to Caroline Shaw’s celestial landscape. The music, at times, is quite addictive with the composer’s varying degrees of ostinato. Much of the choral blending during the “Prologue” and “Epilogue” turn to that of Gabriel Pierné.

These two works have tremendous content to absorb, prompting discussions of relevancy in today’s world. The CD centers around academics and educational outreach. Our journey of life continues, yet in a small way, Caroline Shaw sheds light on the subject. We can all hope for brighter days...after all, Caroline Shaw loves the color yellow.

Christie Grimstad




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