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Bright Shiny Things Releases Akropolis Reed Quintet's Hymns for Private Use Featuring Soprano Shara Nova

September 26, 2022 | By Paula Mlyn
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Media Contact: Paula Mlyn
A440 Arts
(212) 924-3829

September 26, 2022

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NEW YORK, NY–On October 28, 2022, Bright Shiny Things releases Hymns for Private Use [BSTC-0180], the fifth album from the Akropolis Reed Quintet, an ensemble declared by the San Francisco Chronicle to be “pure gold, shot through with tenderness and grace.” The title work is a five-movement song-cycle by composer Nico Muhly on texts drawn from early English sources, performed by soprano Shara Nova along with the quintet. An Akropolis commission, Annika Socolofsky’s so much more, completes the album. Incorporating a composed soundscape drawn from interviews with seven small business owners, the work’s five movements trace the joys and struggles inherent in that way of life. Each of the interviewees has a personal or geographical connection to the quintet, the composer, or the videographer XUAN, who created a performance-length music video for the project. Hymns for Private Use is available for pre-order here.

album cover

Hymns for Private Use by Nico Muhly was commissioned in 2012 by Het Concertgebouw Amsterdam and Wigmore Hall, London, with the support of Andre´ Hoffmann, President of Switzerland’s Fondation Hoffmann. The first movement, “Virga Rosa Virginum,” is set to a 15th-century Christmas text in both Latin and English, and Muhly uses that distinction to give the song structure. The English lines that tell the story are set with a steadily pulsing accompaniment in the reeds, while the Latin lines hover over static harmonies until the climactic moment of the Resurrection.

“The Holy Spirit” has a text by the 18th-century hymnodist Anne Steele, and consists of a series of questions, asked by the soprano with a restlessly disjunct melody over a comparatively simple reed setting. “Sleep,” a 17th-century translation of St. Ambrose’s 4th-century original, is a serene evocation of night figuratively illuminated by the birth of Christ. Muhly reverses the roles of the previous song, with the soprano singing a beautifully simple melody against busy and angular reed sounds.  

The texts for both “An Autumnal Song” and “Hark, the Vesper Hymn is Stealing” are from a 19c collection meant for use in schoolrooms in colonial America. Muhly sets them both with hymn-like tunes, and divides the reeds into high and low, with bass clarinet and bassoon providing aggressive interjections against a more lyrical texture in the saxophone, oboe and clarinet. 

Annika Socolofsky’s so much more was commissioned in 2021 by the quintet itself, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, and Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. The seven small business owners from four states who were interviewed for the piece—Kay Willingham, April Anderson, Garnett Archer, Sabrina Swain, Bruce Knudson, KJ Whitney, and Keke Liu—include four from the “Avenue of Fashion” in Detroit, where Akropolis is based; Socolofsky’s uncle, a farmer in Kansas; the videographer XUAN’s mother, a North Carolina wig maker; and the owner of an LGBTQ wellness business in Boulder, Colorado, near the homes of both Socolofsky and Akropolis’s oboist.

More than seven hours of personal stories from these interviews were compiled by the composer into a 17-minute fixed media track to be played alongside the quintet’s performance. The five movements are divided by subject: “obviously, we’re in a coffee shop” introduces the people and their businesses; “this is home” traces the paths of family, community and ideals that have led each of them to their particular niche; “it’s not like you just get to clock out” emphasizes the challenges of long hours and unforeseen responsibilities; “life teaches you the rest” is about lessons learned in the process; and “than I could ever have imagined” completes the title so much more to illustrate the great personal rewards of providing a service to a receptive and supportive community. Underpinning the narrative soundscape is the sensitive playing of the quintet, which comes into its own with an evocative and Copland-esque solo section opening the fourth movement that pays perfect tribute to the manifold lives and experiences illustrated by the wide-ranging narrative. 



Nico Muhly
Hymns for Private Use 

1. I. Virga Rosa Virginum
2. II. The Holy Spirit
3. III. Sleep
4. IV. An Autumnal Song
5. V. Hark, the Vesper Hymn is Stealing

Annika Socolofsky
so much more

6. I. obviously, we’re a coffee shop
7. II. this is home
8. III. it’s not like you just get to clock out
9. IV. life teaches you the rest
10. V. than I could ever have imagined

Akropolis Reed Quintet
Shara Nova, soprano
Narration by small business owners:
Kay Willingham
April Anderson
Garnett Archer
Sabrina Swain
Bruce Knudson
KJ Whitney
Keke Liu



Celebrating their 14th year together, Akropolis became the first reed quintet to grace the Billboard Charts in May of 2021, and has won seven national chamber music prizes including the 2014 Fischoff Gold Medal. The five reed players and entrepreneurs—Tim Gocklin on oboe and English horn, Kari Landry on Bb and A clarinet, Andrew Koeppe on bass clarinet, Matt Landry on alto saxophone and Ryan Reynolds on bassoon—have been together with unchanged membership since the group’s founding in 2009, and are united by a shared passion: to make music that sparks joy and wonder. Akropolis delivers 120 concerts and educational events worldwide each year and has premiered and commissioned over 130 works by living artists and composers. 

Shara Nova is a composer, vocalist, musician, and an artist of many gifts currently creating from Detroit, Michigan. She has released five albums under the moniker My Brightest Diamond. Many artists have sought out Nova’s unique vocal work, including David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, The Decemberists, Steve Mackey, David Lang, So Percussion, Justin Vernon, Sufjan Stevens, and Tunde Olaniran, as well as Matthew Barney with Jonathan Bepler. Nova is a Kresge Arts fellow, a Carolina Performing Arts Creative Futures fellow, a Knights Grant recipient, a United States Artists fellow, and a New Music USA 2022 recipient.


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