If There Were Water

If There Were Water

Displacement in our time
Stratis Minakakais
Gregory W. Brown
The Crossing
Donald Nally
Catalog Number: 
new classical
Grammy nominated

Philadelphia, PA

Release Date: 
Feb 23, 2018
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

A new recording of world premieres addressing a topic of our national discourse: diaspora. If There Were Water, from Philadelphia’s 2017 Grammy-winning choir, The Crossing, is a testament to the expressive range of the human voice. These two strikingly diverse, yet equally compelling unaccompanied compositions were commissioned for The Crossing’s Month of Moderns festival and premiered in June 2017. Drawing from literary and historic sources, the works are highly personal reflections that speak with clarity to contemporary concerns of displacement, while weaving together past and present.  

In Crossings Cycle, Greek composer Stratis Minakakis creates a visceral musical response to the experience of observing Syrian refugees on the Isle of Lesbos. An elegy on things irretrievably lost, Crossings Cycle draws on Ancient Greek literature, Eliot’s The Waste Land, and microtonal tuning practices to convey a deeply resonant expression of the human condition.  Sounds emerge and disappear from the shadows, often erupting as great cries or crashing waves that disintegrate again into murmurs.

un/bodying/s by composer Gregory W. Brown explores the history of the displaced populations of Quabbin, the Swift River Valley in Western Massachusetts, including the Native Americans moved by incoming Europeans, and then those Europeans relocated by the State when creating the massive reservoir that supplies Boston with water. Gregory and librettist Todd Hearon tell these stories from a variety of perspectives, including the history of the wildlife that, like the human refugees, have fled and since returned to this troubled land. The music undulates as if at times floating on water, or hidden under it, or soaring above it, reflecting up.  Suddenly a New England hymn will emerge, then be replaced with a more distant, elusive texture, as the eternal search for Atlantis continues.

The Crossing is a professional chamber choir conducted by Donald Nally and dedicated to new music. Consistently recognized in critical reviews, the ensemble regularly collaborates with some of the nation’s most accomplished ensembles and imaginative composers. It is committed to working with creative teams to make and record new, substantial works for choir, most often addressing social issues. The Crossing, with Donald Nally, is the American Composers Forums’ 2017 Champion of New Music.

“These typically exemplary performances by The Crossing ... speak to current times with a powerful directness that few do. That’s what matters at the moment.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer (November, 2017)

“...unerring performers, the superb Philadelphia choir The Crossing, directed by Donald Nally” –The New Yorker (September, 2017)

“The exquisite chamber choir The Crossing” –The New York Times (October, 2016)



"The vocal melodies at times conjure a calm pool as in the moon reflecting over “nothing but a body of unbroken water”, and yet there are other times where it sounds as if water is rushing down rocky terrain towards the sea, as small clusters of voices produce staggered hard consonant sounds." - Caryn Havlik


"The Crossing devotes itself to contemporary music but has the technique and knowledge to perform works from across the full spectrum of choral tradition... the Crossing is astonishing in its control of atmosphere, technical precision, and richness of timbre." [FULL ARTICLE] - Peter Margasak


"The Crossing, a chamber choir based in Philadelphia, goes where other such ensembles fear to tread...That the members of The Crossing rise to the occasion is not merely a given but also something of a phenomenon." - Donald Rosenberg


"The Crossing has 24 voices, but with a keen ear for dynamic layering and balance the group always keeps a feel of transparent intimacy, helped by a superb recording that spreads the voices very nicely over the stereo mix, but also keeps a concert-hall perspective: not too close, and making good use of the acoustic. This excellent programme is well worth your time and careful consideration." [FULL ARTICLE] - Dominy Clements


“manages to create in a powerful and visceral way the feelings of pain, anguish, frustration and restlessness of a people forced to leave their land...an excellent result, creating an interesting composition full of sadness and melancholy.” [FULL ARTICLE] - Luciano Feliciani


"un/bodying/s is a fascinating piece, a large scale challenge for the choir to bring off in terms of both scale, complexity and the sheer eclectic diversity of Brown's musical language. Under the direction of Donald Nally, the Crossing bring the work off brilliantly." [FULL ARTICLE] - Robert Hugill


"The ensemble brings the two pieces with great enthusiasm and great singing quality. In short, a more than fascinating album." [FULL ARTICLE]