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Elbow Room

The US premiere of James Dillon’s Nine Rivers, a three evening long contemporary classical epic, will open Miller Theatre’s 2011-’12 season (details below).

I’ll be writing about the first evening of the piece for Musical America. That said, I’ve been assured by those in the know that you probably shouldn’t take this Gesamtkunstwerk as if it’s three separate evenings of music: it’s kind of like having your Siegfried without your Götterdämmerung.

Is Nine Rivers a postmodern retort to the Ring? Perhaps not in terms of narrative, but in terms of its ambitious scope and extended genesis, its not an inapt analogy. A Scottish composer associated with complex scores of penetrating intensity, Dillon has spent years creating this work for electronics, voices, strings, and brass. Nine Rivers also includes a strong multimedia component, with lighting by Nicholas Houfek and video design by Ross Karre. Steve Schick will lead the performers, a group of fifty musicians from the ensembles red fish blue fish, ICE, and the Crossing Choir. Without giving too much away, audiences will be in for quite a finale: all of the musicians perform at once in the last section of Nine Rivers.

Now I must confess that I had some small misgivings when I heard about the massed forces for the piece’s conclusion: call it the logistician in me. After all, I’ve never seen even close to fifty musicians on the stage of Miller Theatre! Will they all fit?

Fortunately, it appears that elbow room, while at a premium, will be adequate. I’ve been assured – via Miller’s twitter feed – that having choral musicians in the mix has been a space saver in terms of stage choreography: after all, they won’t be lugging instruments onstage. That said, the Crossing (also via twitter) reports that they still must contend with big scores that will require music stands. So, it’s likely to be cozy up there!

Below is a video of Steve Schick discussing Nine Rivers.

Event Details

    Nine Rivers by James Dillon

    Wednesday, September 14, 8:00PM

    Friday, September 16, 8:00PM

    Saturday, September 17, 8:00PM
    Columbia University’s Miller Theatre is located north of the Main Campus Gate

    at 116th St. & Broadway on the ground floor of Dodge Hall.

    All-access passes for Opening Night are now on sale online at

    Single tickets can be purchased online beginning August 15.

    The public may also purchase tickets through the Miller Theatre Box Office

    in person or at 212/854-7799, M–F, 12–6 pm beginning August 29.