Lisa Neher, the mezzo-soprano and visionary choral composer, is debuting a new song cycle called No One Saves the Earth from Us But Us at a call-to-action Earth Day concert that will livestream this Friday. The goal of the concert is to inspire immediate action to mitigate the continuing threat of the climate crisis.
“As I wrote No One Saves the Earth from Us But Us, a record-breaking heat wave brought temperatures as high as 116 degrees to my city of Portland, Ore.,” Neher stated in a press release. “Just nine months earlier, we fled our home as wildfires, less than 10 miles away, produced off the charts air pollution for weeks. Climate change, a phrase that has been with me as long as I can remember, is now something we experience on a daily basis.”
No One Saves the Earth from Us But Us brought together an interdisciplinary team of composers, poets, performers, sound designers and recording engineers scattered across the United States.
“The piece was designed to be a remote collaboration between the performers, a way of creating a song cycle during the COVID-19 pandemic and without burning fossil fuels by flying across the country,” Neher said. “With this in mind, I wrote music in which one of the performers often leads, providing a pickup or hook to the other. Some movements, such as ‘In the Bloomberg Article,’ involve almost no syncing between the performers, while others, such as ‘We Want to Believe,’ work almost like a reverse accompaniment track.”
Also key to the song cycle, which was commissioned by mezzo-soprano Quinn Patrick Ankrum and pianist Elizabeth Avery, is poetry by Felicia Zamora and Craig Santos Perez, which Neher set to music.
“Inspired by their words, the piece holds space for mourning, for fear, for anger, for all of the emotions we experience in the face of this global catastrophe,” Neher said. “It affirms that we are not alone in our grief, but neither are we off the hook for taking action. It’s a kick in the pants to level up our efforts as individuals and, most importantly, as communities.”
No One Saves the Earth from Us But Us promises to be one of the most creative concerts of the year, a fact that will surprise no one who is familiar with Neher’s wildly inventive projects (including last year’s One Voice Project Virtual Micro Opera Festival, in which she portrayed Kathrine Switzer, the first registered female competitor in the Boston Marathon).
“The music ranges in style from tuneful grooves to wild chromaticism and clusters to experimental techniques,” Neher said. “As pianist Elizabeth Avery observed during one rehearsal, ‘once the pianist is reaching inside the piano, you know things are not normal anymore’—and that, in fact, is the point.”
No One Saves the Earth from Us But Us will livestream at 5 pm Friday, April 22. The concert lasts approximately 35 minutes and will be followed by a talkback on Zoom. Tickets are available here.