In recognition of the 3rd Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, New Amsterdam Records will release a digital version of Ted Hearne's powerful work "Katrina Ballads" on August 29.
Composer and "Katrina Ballads" singer Ted Hearne says: "It is my hope that setting primary-source texts from the devastating week in 2005 when Katrina hit will help us keep this time active in our memory, challenging us to cut through the spin that followed, and bringing us closer to an understanding of the true aftermath. New Orleans has long been a musical epicenter and a real crossroads of culture. The musical influences present in Katrina Ballads are plentiful and diverse. In that sense, this work is a tribute to the life of music, and its ability to shape and inspire us."
The work has 11 instrumentalists and 5 singers and is very much about American music as a homage to New Orleans, as is evident in the variety of musical styles of the singers featured in the recording. Some of the instrumental performers are staples in the NYC classical music scene while others hail from South Carolina and are predominantly jazz players. The singers are a mix of contemporary classical, gospel, R&B, and musical theater performers. There are influences of gospel, jazz and spirituals in the work, along with an operatic feel at times. All of the lyrical content in Katrina Ballads comes from primary-source texts, such as the famous quote by Kanye West "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
Here are some of the things reviewers have said about its performances in South Carolina and Connecticut:
"Hearne, a sophisticated composer with a songwriter's instincts, draws on blues (naturally, in a piece about New Orleans), gospel, grunge, electronic processing, and chance music, with homages to Varese, Glass, and New York's downtown new music scene. In Hearne's capable hands, somehow it all makes sense—it's really good stuff." --Charleston, South Carolina Spoleto Overview (June 2, 2007)
"Baritone Anthony Turner brought me to tears with the lament 'Hardy Jackson: 8.30.05.' His rich tone was like heavy cream as he sang, 'My wife, I can't find her body, she gone…' Semmes closed with 'Ashley Nelson,' a gripping meditation from an 18-year-old New Orleans resident that brought me to tears, again."—Charleston Post and Courier (June 1, 2007)
"For Katrina Ballads, Hearne sets primary-source texts — quotes taken from New Orleans residents, government officials, journalists, and celebrities (including a large chunk of rapper Kanye West's oft-quoted tirade against the portrayal of blacks in the media) during the harrowing days following Katrina's landfall — to his stirring, diverse original compositions, resulting in songs like the unsettling, staccato "Brownie, You're Doin' a Heck of a Job," in which Hearne repeats and cuts up the infamous sentence spoken by George W. Bush, to rousing effect." –Charleston City Paper (May 30, 2007)
"Composer and singer Ted Hearne led a performance of his "Katrina Ballads" that electrified his New Haven audience and powerfully reminded them that the tragedy in the Gulf Coast is far from over… The audience…gave the performers a standing ovation. The applause trailed off and then burst out in another long round of enthusiastic clapping and hollering." –New Haven Independent (March 6, 2008)
You may listen to the album here (not for duplication or sale):