Mormon Artists Group is at it again. In case you didn’t hear about their latest release, it is poetry set to music. The poetry is of high quality (some of them, I will admit, are among the best poems I’ve read in the last few years) and the music also ranges from the good to the excellent. The fancy limited goose-eggshell edition has sold out but the $19.95 paperback is still available.
(Sadly, the paperback does not come with a cd and so you can only read the scores. If you are someone like me, this is simply inadequate. Fortunately MAG gave me the opportunity to listen to the music anyway and while the current recordings are blemished by coughs and suchlike, the inherent loveliness is generally intact. If you live in Utah, you will have the opportunity to hear the songs live NEXT WEEK. [See below.] In the meantime, I highly recommend that you inform your potential purchase by listening to the samples available at mormonartistgroup.com.)
MAG, for those who may not know, are a group of New York artists “unaffiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints except for the fact that our participants are past or present members of the Church.” The quality of their output is generally very high indeed, including works from Casey Jex Smith, Annie Poon and Jeremy Grimshaw.
Unlike most of MAG’s publications, the paperback edition of Song/Cycles is not flawless as you can see if you glance at a blown up excerpt from the book compared to a previous book, Mormoniana:
Glen Nelson, MAG’s director, tells me that “The paperback’s quality issues aren’t printer’s issues. Unfortunately, the composers couldn’t get high resolution PDFs to me for it. So we had to go with what we had for the paperback. ”
While such physical issues do not detract from the quality of the book’s actual content, it is something to keep in mind before making a purchase. (And it’s not unprecedented either; the only copy of Smith’s MAG-published book which I have ever examined, though lovely and well printed, was yet imperfect—the paper label on the spine was peeling off. A shame really as the book was otherwise a joy to hold and to look through.)
To those interested in the Mormon arts generally and how this book came to be specifically, it begins with a roundtable discussion with the composers. The final question of the discussion is available online (“Is there a Mormon school of composition?“), and I have received permission to publish here, online for the first time, the first question, about how these world-class composers chose their poets. Watch for it tomorrow.
But before we get to that, note also that “on Monday, November 8, a performance of all six works from . . . Song/Cycles . . . is free at 7pm at the Orem Public Library. Performers include Darrell Babidge, Clara Hurtado Lee, Ruth Ellis, Brian Stucki, Doris Brunatti, and Marilyn Reid Smith. For additional information, contact 801.229.7050. Works to be performed are: Mary Keeps All These Things (Harriet Petherick Bushman/Susan Howe), Notes (David H. Sargent/Elaine M. Craig), Seven Sisters (Murray Boren/Glen Nelson), Sudden Music (Lansing McLoskey/Javen Tanner), The Dead Praying for Me (Daniel Bradshaw/Lance Larsen), and TÃ¶chterliebe (Charis Bean Duke/Will Reger).”