Bones in the Foundation
If you want to hear something unearthly, you need to drop by Arborlawn United Methodist Church this Sunday for a performance by the Westminster Choir. That’s where the ensemble will perform The Legend of the Walled-In Woman, a choral piece by the Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds.
The work is inspired by the legend of Rozafa, one of the founding stories of the Albanian people. It’s about three brothers who wanted to build an impregnable castle against Turkish invaders. The legend varies, but a dream or a prophecy warned the brothers that the only way to make the castle strong would be if someone were walled up alive in the foundations as a sacrifice. Rozafa was the wife of one of the brothers, a pure-hearted woman who, either by accident, trickery, or her own intent (depending on which version you consult), became entombed in the walls. The real-life castle still stands near the city of Shkodër.
Esenvalds’ musical opus won first prize at the 2006 International Rostrum for Composers, a competition for young composers. It features text in both Albanian and English, as well as some hair-raising harmonies that make the work sound both ancient and avant-garde at the same time. It’s the centerpiece of the choir’s recital, along with various works by Daniel Elder.