Music for Music: Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian
A Best Sort of Welcome: Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian
By Dan Ursini ©2021
Lovely, unexpected connections inspire throughout Welcome Party, the debut classical album by British-Armenian composer, singer, and harper Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian. This is daring and ambitious music— yet presented in warm and approachable terms
Cevanne’s creations synthesize Western Classical and Armenian influences, along with jazz and blues, in captivating terms. It is lush in moments of lyrical vitality. She employs a range of forms: spoken poetry, birdsong, conventional song, and fully orchestrated compositions; “Ser” makes sublime use of a choir. Cevanne and her sister Ziazan perform the vocals, and they use quarter tones, trills, melismas, and other subtleties.
Cevanne’s expansive vision also registers by including musicians from the London Symphony Orchestra alongside jazz artists and a choir. Various compositions include passages of electronic music; outdoor cassette recordings; tapes of kalimbas and clocks; and such “found” instruments as inkwells. The whole of it is imbued with a wholesome and warm energy epitomizing the idea of “welcome.”
The album’s thirteen individual tracks convey the gravity of fully evolved and truly finished work. Some have already been recognized by awards. In 2017 Cevanne received the BASCA British Composer Award for “Muted Lines,” the opening track of the album. It is a marvelous effort, exquisitely arranged, energized by the interplay between Zaizan’s powerful vocal and the saxophone of Trish Clowes, for whom it was written.
A high point of the album is “Swallows and Nightingales,” a song of considerable grace with an exceptional vocal by Ziazan.
Another is “The Ladies.” It has a layered roaring sound due to an orchestration the develops the music’s power to the fullest amplitude. As well, it has a strong blues element—and this is the first time in years I have heard any blues in a Classical/World music context.
A personal favorite is “Inkwells,” in which the irresistible beauty of the vocal is balanced by the gentle strolling rhythms of various traditional and found percussion instruments. A wonderful aesthetic balance results.
It is apparent that a restless and deep love of the human voice is at work here.
Coming soon: A follow-up article containing Cevanne’s own comments on her extraordinary work! Ah, here it is!
Cevanne Photo Credit: Jodie Cartman
Dan Ursini and his wife Valerie live in Oak Park, Illinois. Over the years he has done many kinds of writing. Ursini served as the first resident playwright for the Steppenwolf Theatre of Chicago (1978-1983); he worked for ten years as a Contributing Editor for Puerto Del Sol magazine; he wrote performance art pieces presented at Chicago venues as Club Lower Links and Club Dreamerz. Ursini wrote radio theatre presented on NPR in the early 1990s. Throughout all this, he has worked full-time at the Law Library at DePaul University where for a decade he also wrote articles for Dialogue, the DePaul law school’s alumni publication . In addition, he was active for some years as a bass guitarist in various Chicago blues/gospel/funk/lounge configurations. Currently Ursini is working on his latest novel. A play he wrote with Robert Rothman, A Mensch Among Men, a fictionalized account of real-life Jewish Chicago-area gangsters, recently had two staged readings in Chicago. Dan can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org