Wrequiem
The Club
January 23, 2006
Monday at 8:00pm
Tickets $15
Conceived and Performed by Armen Ra & Benjamin Marcantoni

Box office 212.475.7710

A musical and poetic expression of madness, solitude and enlightenment, Wrequiem is a supremely evocative work that draws from the remnants of nearly-lost cultures as well as touching on the resonances of the European Romantic/classical tradition, American popular culture, and high camp. From its opening moments, in which Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s “Over the Rainbow” is given an absolutely otherworldly treatment by Karen LeBlanc on the musical saw, up to and beyond Ra’s own virtuosic theremin renditions of sacred Armenian melodies, accompanied by the enchanting Somna M. Bulist on the harp, the theme of an ever-more-desperate desire for a home—not just a physical dwelling but a spiritual and psychological one—reaches dimensions that transcend the physically modest design of the production. Weaving texts from Kahlil Gibran’s The Madman (read by Kembra Pfahler, Donna D’Cruz and special guests) with Ra’s own compositions as well as pieces by Verdi (“La Vergine degli angeli,” sung by extraordinary countertenor Benjamin Marcantoni) and Massenet (Ra’s treatment of the latter’s “Meditation” on the theremin can only be called virtuosic), Wrequiem creates a powerful spell, fueled by the emotional commitment, eclectic sensibility, and painstaking craftsmanship of its creator. Elements of religious ritual bring the piece to a shattering but strangely hopeful conclusion.

Much of Wrequiem’s power is attributable to Ra’s incredible command of the theremin, the unusual electronic instrument on which the player creates sound by seemingly manipulating the air around the instrument. Most familiar to mainstream listeners as the source of the “weird” sounds heard on the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and in countless ‘50s sci-fi films, the theremin has an expressive potential that is only now being fully explored by a small but dedicated band of visionary musicians. Ra—whose visual presentation (he is often bedecked in jewelry of his own design) is a dazzling as his musical talent— is at the forefront of that group, and Wrequiem is just one powerful example of his overall vision as both a creator and performer.

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