Dale Trumbore, composer | Gillian Hollis, soprano | Margaret Worsley, clarinet | poetry by Robin Myers
Album recording, mixing and mastering: Louis Ng.
Album cover (photograph): Jennifer Garza-Cuen.
Album cover (design): Emily Lee.
All album lyrics: Robin Myers.
Review of The Gleam by Ron Schepper, Textura:
"The Gleam [...] features soprano Gillian Hollis singing texts by Robin Myers and accompanied (on separate tracks) by the composer and clarinetist Margaret Worsley."
"[Trumbore's] history with Myers goes way back, the two first meeting as two-year-olds at a New Jersey playground. Today, the Mexico City-based poet is a celebrated writer who's published widely and has also translated many Spanish books into English. Trumbore's relationship with Hollis likewise extends back years, with an earlier collaboration, Snow White Turns Sixty, appearing in 2011. Also a University of Maryland graduate, the soprano has sung in many an opera production and essays the broad emotional terrain of The Gleam with poise and authority. It's through her that the character of the material achieves its immediate expression, and it's a challenge she embraces fervently. Trumbore splits accompanist duties with Worsley, with the latter partnering with Hollis on the three-part A Hush You Could See and the pianist on the three other settings. Credited to both Trumbore and Hollis, The Gleam resonates as powerfully as She Only Remembers.
Inner reflections by a subway traveler as a cellist “bows his low harmonics into the cave” establishes an evocative scene during Union Square Station, the piece highlighting the way an ordinary moment can turn illuminating. As she does throughout the release, Hollis commits herself completely to the performance. Navigating the music's wide-ranging trajectory is no easy task, but she does it with assurance, and her pure, resplendent voice inhabits the upper realm confidently. Trumbore also accompanies her on the set-closing A Reminder, which sees a precious moment of tenderness embraced and held onto. Bright piano clusters evoke a rain-swept city after which the observation “your dress a skin on you” suggests a couple's intimate connection and rumination engenders the concluding affirmation, “Say yes.” On A Hush You Could See, Worsley's clarinet naturally gives the release a radically different character, though Hollis ensures a through-line remains. As if roused from sleep, “I woke so early” fittingly enters quietly as sensations crystallize and consciousness dawns. While “For awhile I tried writing it all down” enumerates a catalogue of experiences—birds, meals, neighbours, "my father's face in the months of his illness”—that in their teeming multitude overwhelms, “When I sleep in the language I forgot” references the feeling of liberation that attends waking and “finding the air again.”
All of the selections are memorable, but there's no denying the title work has the greatest gravitas. Certainly length is a factor—at eighteen minutes, it towers over the others—but the potency of the material amplifies impact. Meditating on human experience in all its variety, the work recounts how we boil lobsters, skin deer, “slice our thighs with razors,” kill people with guns, strike pedestrians with cars, “prop up museums over the ruins of massacred villages, and stride with purpose past the glue-sniffer convulsing across the street”—and so on and so on. Dramatic in the extreme, an interlocutor considers the human circus from every angle, sometimes agitatedly but always with compassion. Ranging between turbulence and gentle lyricism, Trumbore's music mirrors the emotional extremes conveyed by the singer, with a particularly memorable passage one that sees declamations (e.g., “We bear what we can bear”) undercut by a punctuating “No.” We are ultimately “as awed before the green corn gleaming in the field as with a foot into the mine … We gleam.” As the piece reaches its hushed resolution, don't be surprised if you come away awed by the collaborators' achievement."
Read the full review here.