A Far Cry walking at night

A Conversation with the Self-Conducted Ensemble A Far Cry

Amid the shifting cultural landscape of the 21st century’s emerging and noteworthy ensembles, A Far Cry has reimagined nearly every aspect of how, where and for whom it performs. They’ve joined a growing list of prestigious artist ensembles, embracing the decision to lead from within and guide their own artistic vision and administrative decision-making. To underline this point, last year, the group was named by WQXR’s Q2 Music as “… the most imagination grabbing, trail blazing artists of 2014.” From DePauw University, Dean Mark McCoy interviewed members and violinists in the group, Jesse Irons, Alex Fortes and Megumi Stohs Lewis.

Interview Highlights

On keeping the group on task without a conductor:

Megumi Stohs Lewis: “We kind of honed a system that keeps evolving. But one of our early installments was to have a person who was not a principal – so not in charge of running the rehearsal but outside of that – who was the “spanker.” And we were like, “We’re talking too much.” When we reach a certain point, the spanker yells, “Spank!” and then we have to start playing something.

On collaboration and working with Yo-Yo Ma:

Megumi Stohs Lewis: “If it’s a single soloist, like Yo-Yo, then he’s playing a concerto; we want to help realize his vision. So before he came in, we practiced different tempi for the concerto, and we’re like, “Yo-Yo, what do you want?” He’s like, “Oh, I don’t know. What do you want? Let me hear you play.” He was amazing, so open.”

On their album Dreams and Prayers (music included):

Jesse Irons: “The whole idea behind Dreams and Prayers, when we talked to [the composer Osvaldo Golijov], is that it’s setting these [Kabbalistic] texts and so on, but each movement is in a different Jewish language. One is in Aramaic, one is in Yiddish, and then this third movement is in Hebrew. And I think it’s very much about speaking to all of the different roots of a people that has had a millennia-long Diaspora.

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