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Maurice Saylor: The Hunting Of The Snark - An Agony In Eight Fits; New Music For Vintage Silent Film Comedies

Album Summary

>Saylor, Maurice : The Hunting of the Snark
>Carluzzo, Phil : Stolen Goods, for band
>Saylor, Maurice : Publicity Pays, for band
>Simpson, Andrew Earle : Too Many Mammas, for band
Performers Conductor Ensembles Composers

Notes & Reviews:

Maurice Saylor's setting of Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark is written for a chorus and 'Snarkestra', Saylor's word for his quirky, misfit pit-band. This includes all manner of percussion and woodwinds, as well as such exotica as harmonica, bass accordion and washtub, instruments "reviled by society at large", in Saylor's words. To the nonsense text he brings a riot of color and wit as well as a series of traditional devices such as refrains, sea chanties, and a chorale. The result is music of vibrancy, excitement, and even dangerous volatility. The three silent film scores are pacey, dapper and splendidly jazzy.

American Record Guide
A walk on the lighter side. The choral writing is witty and, I should think, a lot of fun to sing... .the "snarkestra"... plays up a storm.

The pit-band that accompanies the three scores is a jazz quintet, and they're terrific. Breezy documentation from Naxos adds to the fun.


Maurice Saylor/The Hunting of the Shark/Naxos
There are some odd things going on in DC and it’s not just the politics. ‘The Hunting of the Shark’ by Maurice Saylor and performed by the Cantate Chamber singers, the Holton-Arms Lower School Chorus (under Gisele Becker) with the Snark Pit-band, is probably one of the quirkiest CDs I’ve ever come across -all in a good way.

First of all, it’s not Schoenberg’s ‘Moses and Aaron’—I’m glad we got that out of the way! The work is a kinda Oratorio/Setting/Theater piece of Lewis Carol’s eight-movement, epic, nonsense poem. The psychedelic craziness in the text is perfect for the schizophrenia of the music.

The music. Let’s start with a vaudeville pit orchestra playing faux Gilbert and Sullivan. Then add a bit of Sondheim and Britten to the harmony and orchestration. Add even harsher Kurt Weil bite to certain bits and occasional go off in a flight of Swantner/Rouse/Torke. Then swing way back the other way to dinner theatre music (a lot of the text being set in a cappella single rhythm choral declamation) or ohing and ahing reminiscent of ‘Gone with the Wind’ or the ‘Wizard of Oz’ and that pretty much sums it up. But it’s all really well done --very fresh, surprising and always entertaining. Saylor has a really gifted melodic sense, always pushing the music along at 100 miles an hour, adding clever transitions and orchestral effects throughout. It’s weirdly never pastiche though that’s exactly what it is!!!

In fact, the glue that really holds it all together convincingly is the orchestration. Besides lots of subtly in the doublings and harmonies, he adds lots of grit with whistles, kazoos, accordion, harmonica and banjo--all very disarming. The other ‘glue’ was the playing by the orchestra, which was obviously well rehearsed, and there were only a couple of intonation clams (obviously not a huge budget for the recording, otherwise there would have been more takes.) The chorus was generally solid though there were more than a couple of smudged entries and intonation problems. But given the amount of text they had to get through (lots) they did a heroic job.

The second have of he CD is three silent movie soundtracks utilizing a greatly reduced orchestra. The music is not really 20’s music again, as there are many things about it that are post-silent movies. But that is what makes it interesting. It is all very evocative in its depiction of what is ever on the screen with lots of contrasting sections and again a very strong melodic sense. I felt in general the orchestration was not as imaginative as the Lewis Carol setting or took as many nutty stylistic departures. The playing though was again superb.

Pick up this CD. It’s more than just a novelty, but an adventure down a musical, stylistic rabbit hole.

Submitted on 11/07/11 by Mike Maguire 
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Works Details

>Saylor, Maurice : The Hunting of the Snark :: An Agony in Eight Fits, for 2 voices, childrens chorus & ensemble
  • Conductor: Gisèle Becker
  • Ensemble: Holton-arms Lower School Chorus
  • Notes: James Whittier Lewis Theater, Holton-Arms School, Maryland, USA (06/08/2008-06/10/2008)
  • Running Time: 44 min. 51 sec.

>Carluzzo, Phil : Stolen Goods, for band
  • Performers: Julian Barton (Reeds); Susan Rider (Cornet); Susan Rider (Trumpet); Ben Redwine (Reeds)
  • Conductor: Gisèle Becker
  • Ensemble: Snark Ensemble
  • Running Time: 9 min. 2 sec.

>Saylor, Maurice : Publicity Pays, for band
  • Performers: Ben Redwine (Reeds); Julian Barton (Reeds); Susan Rider (Trumpet); Susan Rider (Cornet)
  • Conductor: Gisèle Becker
  • Ensemble: Snark Ensemble
  • Running Time: 9 min. 54 sec.

>Simpson, Andrew Earle : Too Many Mammas, for band
  • Performers: Susan Rider (Trumpet); Susan Rider (Cornet); Julian Barton (Reeds); Ben Redwine (Reeds)
  • Conductor: Gisèle Becker
  • Ensemble: Snark Ensemble
  • Running Time: 8 min. 45 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern