My brother Howard and I heard a concert by M6 on 5/31/17. M6 is a six-voice ensemble of singers dedicated to performing the music of Meredith Monk. The group was formed about ten years ago, by Monk, with the intention of performing her music from the 70s and 80s, much of which hadn't been performed since their premieres, some of which had never been written down. Howard is the person who got me into Monk and has seen/heard more Monk performances than I have. The performance was the night of his arrival from San Francisco, so what perfect timing.
As I mentioned, there are six people in the group, and between Howard and I, we know half of them! Sidney Chen is a friend of his his San Francisco, Emily Eagan is a friend of mine from Madison, and Toby Newman is a friend I've made here in NYC. The other three singers, for the record, are Holly Nadal, Sasha Bogdonowitch, and Peter Sciscioli.
The first set was selections from *Our Lady of Late* from 1972, performed by Nadal with Bogdonowitch. Nadal sang and played the glass, running her fingers around the rim of the glass. We heard eight movements, with Bogdonowitch playing bits of percussion in the first and last movements. The piece made me think of a series of etudes: each movement did something different, showed off a different vocal technique. I think it was the third or fourth movement, when Nadal took a little drink of water from the glass, and then (naturally) the pitch from the glass was higher when she played it. That was a thrilling moment! Nadal was extraordinary in this piece, it was the most exciting singing of the evening, rich, pure, virtuosic, and full of flavor.
"Calling," from *American Archaeology #1: Roosevelt Island.* A piece for the other five singers, written in 1994. The surprise in this piece was the harmonic progressions - - I don't think of Monk's music as having the most striking harmonies, but this piece certainly did. Monk's counterpoint is often only apparent by watching the singers, you have to watch to see who is singing what, pitches are often batted around from voice to voice. It gives the performance a little extra bit of fun. I wasn't always sure that Sciscioli knew exactly what he was doing all the time, that happened a few times in the course of the evening. All six singers are very accomplished, but he seemed like the weak link. Maybe he was just having an off night.
"Basket Rondo," from 1995/2009 (I assume that means it was revised?). For all six singers. Lovely.
"masks," from *mercy*, from 2001. Sung by Bogdonowitch, Chen, Eagen, and Newman. A short piece made of whispering and gasping. A nice sort of sorbet between pieces.
"New York Requiem" from 1993. Sciscioli singing, Nadal playing the piano. I heard Monk sing this in Madison years ago, and I remember her explaining that she wrote it to sing at the funeral of a friend, who had died of AIDS, and it was disturbing to her how often she was called on to sing that piece. So many funerals of so many friends. Sciscoli seemed to know what he was doing on this piece, but I'm not sure I liked what he did.
"Sheaving," a world premiere, for all six voices. Beautiful piece, again with some striking harmonies. Howard noticed in this piece how moving it was to watch Sidney LISTENING. He had a gorgeous, composed, Zen quality when someone else was singing and he was resting. Toby also had this quality, the two of them were very interesting to watch.
The second half was Monk's masterpiece, *Dolmen Music* from 1979. The six singers were joined by cellist Clarice Jensen, who Howard had heard a few times in San Francisco. I refer to this piece as "a miracle of music," and am lucky enough to have heard it live three times. It's always fresh, always sublime, always deeply meaningful. Emily gets the gold star for her super creepy witchy melismas. I might have lost a little sleep that night, but it was for a good cause.
How about a few photos? Here's Howard and Toby:
Sidney, me, and Toby:
Howard and Sidney:
And me and Emily. This picture is blurry but you can still tell it's us, right?