On Friday, September 23, The American String Quartet premiered Robert Sirota's American Pilgrimage to an overflowing audience at the Manhattan School of Music's Greenfield Hall.
The American String Quartet commissioned Sirota to write the quartet after championing his first string quartet, Triptych, written for the Chiara String Quartet as an impassioned response to the 9/11 tragedy. American Pilgrimage is conceived as a companion piece to Triptych: a celebration of the beauty, pathos, and variety of both our geography and culture. It is laid out in four movements: Morning: Waldo County, Maine; Mid-day: Mother Emanuel Church, Charleston, South Carolina; Sunset: High Desert, Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Evening: Manhattan. The raw material is drawn from four sources: Protestant hymnody, Gospel music, Native American songs, and jazz. Sirota describes the work as an effort to “capture a glimpse of the epic quality of our country – the awesome diversity of its landscape and its people.”
American Pilgrimage was partially funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, about which Sirota says, “More than a decade since composing my first string quartet and after months of consideration and deliberation, I decided that I want to make this piece the property of many, many people. I want to gather a community who will follow this project from the beginning, who will share my belief that a composer’s uninterrupted devotion to create something beautiful and useful is worth getting behind.”
The American String Quartet will perform the work again this season: Saturday, October 1 at Music for Montauk and Sunday, January 27 at Blue Hill Concert Association.