World Premiere of "Black River Suite" Features Six Area Performing Arts Groups in a Celebration of the Black River Watershed
On May 6, the public was invited to witness the culmination of two years of work with the world premiere performance of the "Black River Suite" at Lorain County Community College's Stocker Center. The Suite was commissioned to celebrate the history and geology of the Black River watershed and is part of a multi-media piece called "Water Song: The Story of the Canesadooharie." The project brought together professionals from all quadrants of campus, who worked closely with local organizations in creating a public performance that incorporated history, poetry, photography and art, with original music and dance.
The project, a partnership between Oberlin's Environmental Studies Program and Seventh Generation, a Lorain County-based environmental organization, was coordinated by Brad Masi, project coordinator for the Environmental Studies program. Primary project leaders included Masi; Joanne Erwin, associate professor and director of the Conservatory's Music Education program; Anna Rubin, associate professor of composition; Lynn Powell, poet; and Richard Anderson, professor of singing. Six area performing arts groups--the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra (NOYO), Ohio Dance Theatre, the MAD Factory, Choral Spectrum, Oberlin Choristers and the Firelands Association had a hand in creating this production.
Anna Rubin outlines the evolution of the composition. "The piece unfolded during a meeting among Joanne Erwin, Lynn Powell and Brad Masi, where we discussed the Black River watershed. What are its most important features? What do we most want to display about the watershed that will be accessible to young people and adults? We examined some of Brad's wonderful research documents. Gradually we decided that we wanted to portray - through all aspects of the arts: music, literary and visual arts - the history of the formation of the geography/geology of this area that we call home. We wanted to provide a sense of the sweep of geologic history as well as historical events. It's quite ambitious to want to illustrate about 50 million years.
"Using Brad's environmental work, Lynne created a libretto, which was spoken as an introduction to parts of the performance and was interspersed within the movements of the piece. Richard Anderson served as narrator."