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Utah Philharmonia Presents Rapturous Indie Hit Penelope

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Bringing chamber music, voice, and electronic techniques together, Shara Worden joins the Utah Philharmonia in performing indie artist Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Penelope. Inspired by Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey, Penelope is a song cycle meditation on memory, identity, and the idea of ‘coming home.’ Penelope, hailed by the New York Times as “rapturous,” is a colorful mix of art song, indie rock, and chamber folk music.

Penelope originated as a musical theatre monodrama written by Ellen McLaughlin, and was later scored by New York City artist Sarah Kirkland Snider. The music tells the story of a woman (portrayed by Worden) whose husband appears at her door suffering from brain damage after a twenty-year absence. A veteran of an unnamed war, he doesn’t know who he is and she doesn’t know who he’s become. While they wait together for his return to his true self, she reads him the Odyssey. In the poetic journey, she finds a way into her former husband’s memory, and discovers the terror and trauma of war.

Collaboration of the School of Music with Worden and Kirkland Snider brings a fresh face to the idea of chamber music. “This music is an important link to the music of today,” said Utah Philharmonia director Rob Baldwin. “It’s an emerging style known as ‘Alternative Classical.’”

Baldwin, who first discovered Worden and Kirkland Sniders’ performance skills online, was struck by how fresh and emotionally moving their music is. Penelope not only introduces audiences to an evolving form of chamber music, but students too. “Their music certainly is ‘outside the box,’ but those boxes are so often made by musicians themselves,” noted Baldwin.

Vocalist Shara Worden is hailed as “a creative chameleon with endless wells of technical skill…[with] one of the most astounding voices in all of indie rock,” (Pitchfork). Worden is best known as the singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of My Brightest Diamond, a New York City-based band that combines elements of opera, cabaret, chamber music, and rock.

Recently deemed “a composer with an enviable knack for crafting moody, strikingly beautiful works,” (Time Out New York), Sarah Kirkland Snider writes music of direct expression and vivid narrative. Her works, which strive for an indifference to boundaries of style or genre, have been performed internationally by artists and ensembles from around the world, including the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, ACME, and Newspeak.

The Utah Philharmonia will perform Penelope on Wednesday, January 29, 2013, at 7:30pm in Libby Gardner Concert Hall. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for students, seniors, and U faculty and staff. 

Last Updated: 5/16/24