EXCLUSIVE: Shara Worden on Playing My Brightest Diamond Songs with George Manahan, American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie's Zankel Hall

By Ian Holubiak on Feb 24, 2015 07:24 PM EST

Upon earning her undergrad in opera from the University North Texas, like so many others before and since, a doe-eyed Shara Worden packed up her scores and moved to New York City.

Studying privately with Australian composer/violinist Padma Newsome, palling around with people like the Dessner brothers, she was determined--perhaps destined, even--for their kind of "crossover."

And, indeed, just like Clogs and The National did, Worden's My Brightest Diamond struck gold first with the indie-r stuff. Cases in point: a gorgeous slew of remarkably baroque records--Bring Me the Workhorse (2006), A Thousand Shark's Teeth ('08), All Things Will Unwind ('11), last year's This Is My Hand--on Asthmatic Kitty Records, ground zero for through-composed indie rock.

Backed by one of New York's bravest sinfonias, this Friday, Feb. 27 at Carnegie Hall, choice cuts from that very catalog will headline the American Composers Orchestra program "Orchestra Underground: Sins and Songs" at Carnegie Hall.

Led by ACO's stalwart maestro George Manahan (with some help from Wily Fire's Molly Joyce), Worden's provided her own orchestrations for the evening. No surprise for a composer who got her first break here scoring Off-Broadway tunes.

But as she duly notes among Red Hot + Bach origin stories and charming digressions on her evangelical upbringing, Miss Shara Worden, a denizen of Detroit now, is most excited for you to hear why she first moved to New York from Denton, Texas.

Classicalite: You're no doubt prepping for the ACO's upcoming "Sins and Songs" night at Carnegie's Zankel. Give us the skinny on some of the rep you and your chamber group plan on unveiling with the fuller forces?

Shara Worden: I'm performing several new songs from the EP that I just released, which is called None More Than You. One of the songs is based on a Walt Whitman poem called "Whoever You Are." I'll also be doing a song off of the new My Brightest Diamond full length called "Looking at the Sun." The last one, it's from a previous album that was originally a chamber piece I wrote for yMusic. Oh, and we even added a song that was based on a speech from President Obama--where he said at the end of these midterm elections that we have to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable.

Classicalite: Now that's a bill! You mentioned yMusic, who we've had on our A.V. Club before, but what's it like--viscerally--to have a grand symphony orchestra along for the ride?

SW: It's always so thrilling to play with orchestras. It feels like an expansion every single time you do it because the opportunity to hear your music played by so many people--just to play in that dynamic--bringing together so many like-minded people. It's always very complex and always a structuring experience for me, which makes it all the more thrilling, of course.

Classicalite: Pivoting over to My Brightest Diamond for a moment, you have an upcoming disc we're expecting under that moniker. Care to share a bit?

SW: I'm actually just listening to these latest mixes--an absolute a tour de force! [Laughs]. I am more proud of my singing on this record than anything I have ever done. It's really just a stunning work, and I cannot wait for people to hear it. It's absolutely gorgeous; it's a big thesis statement.

Classicalite: In that same vein, then, let's talk about one of our favorites, "Time Drinks Three Shots" from the Red Hot + Bach disc. How did that piece come about?

SW: That was [a piece] I wrote for my opera. It's a baroque opera, and there's a point in the performance where everything turns on its head. It's the middle of the play, everything is just falling apart and there's this kind of "reset moment." The backdrop falls down, everyone's clothes are off--it's just a disaster. Then the same character, Time, comes back to the center of the stage. It's almost as if the entire play starts over again. So, he's drinking three shots. and I thought starting with Bach as the basis of this, like, "Let's begin again, look at where we've come from but in a different frame of mind. We're in a new, different place." So that's how that piece kind of came to be.

Classicalite: Lit-wise, you've always struck me as one of "indie classical's" better-read composers. Not bookish, per se, just influened by literature. Because I'm curious, what are you reading right now? Anything affecting your output?

SW: Right now, I'm reading a book called The Master and His Emissary, which is a book by Iain McGilchrist. It's a book about the brain, how we perceive things. [Laughs] That'll be the next album.  

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TagsEXCLUSIVE, Classicalite Q&A, Shara Worden, My Brightest Diamond, American Composers Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, Red Hot + Bach, yMusic

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