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Virelai for Virus Days: Sandeep Bhagwati

Virelai for Virus Days

In March 2020, during the early days of the first COVID-19 lockdown, the remarkable Indian-German-Canadian composer Sandeep Bhagwati set himself an unusual challenge: to compose one work per week during self-isolation, presenting the scores to friends and colleagues via social media. One year later, in a changed world, Arraymusic is honored to present the world premiere performances of 6 works from this cycle. Featuring performances from isolation by members of the Array Ensemble and guests, this two-evening event presents a record of these uncertain times, exploring the unique public journal of an intensely creative artist.

  • Program 1 (Premieres June 11, 2021 @ 8:00 p.m. ET)

    Livestream Link:

    • The Poet Thinks [after Schumann] for singing pianist (Lara Dodds-Eden, piano and voice)
    • Archipelago for a wind instrument (Colleen Cook, clarinet)
    • Idiorrythmia for asynchronous string ensemble (Lydia Munchinsky, cello; Amahl Arulanadam, cello)
  • Program 2 (Premieres June 12, 2021 @ 8:00 p.m. ET)

    Livestream Link:

    • Virelai for voice and drone (Sheila Jaffe, voice and violin)
    • Restlessness for percussion solo (Aiyun Huang, percussion)
    • The Blackbird, Surviving Ridicule, Teaches Insouciance (Stephen Clarke, piano)
    • Circular Thinking (Stephen Sitarski, violin; Lydia Munchinsky, cello; Colleen Cook, clarinet)

(Note: If you miss the premiere you can still view the recorded concert at the livestream link.)


Virelai for Voice and Drone

At dusk I sing the difficult
It’s difficult to sing
The air itself is intricate
conveys a deadly thing

We hear it faintly whispering
It kills yet is occult
We learn, by desperate listening,
Its viral alphabet

At night I sing the difficult
It’s difficult to sing
When worries darkly incubate
And fear tightens its string

O could we fly on lively wing!
Could we escape its fold!
But we are tasked with practicing
Its viral alphabet

At dawn I sing the difficult
It’s difficult to sing
When sunrises are undercut
By deeper reckoning

Our lives are bare and echoing
We wait for a result
We speak, by social distancing,
This viral alphabet

Each day we sing the difficult
It’s difficult to sing
The letters of its alphabet
Their dry and hollow ring.

The syllables of everything
Are skewed, dispersed, atilt
When will this thing stop uttering
Its viral alphabet?

Sandeep Bhagwati
Berlin, April 11, 2020