con·tral·to * /kənˈtraltō/
noun: the lowest female singing voice
Traditionally, a group like Third Angle should kick off the season by highlighting our performers in a groundbreaking event. This year our season opener will be just as groundbreaking, but 3A will serve as the supporting cast as we turn the spotlight on a new group of heroines—the chorus of trans women featured in Sarah Hennies’s revolutionary work Contralto.
A person can’t take a step these days without tripping over an article about how divided and depressing America is, so I’ll skip that part except to acknowledge that my own spiritual exhaustion level is high, and I know I’m not alone. 3A’s goal for the coming season is to advocate on behalf of empathy and humanity, to provide windows into communities’ experiences and remove the barriers that make people think of anyone as the “other.”
This season Third Angle wants to help push the world around us in the right direction, to go from portraying our world to helping shape it. We’ve worked hard to assemble a season that includes incredibly diverse repertoire, with more than 50% of the works composed by performers from underrepresented groups (including lots of women), a breathtaking microtonal string quartet, an electric guitar opera, and an interactive, experimental Portland soundscape that will be unlike anything you’ve experienced before.
Back to our season opener, Contralto. Composer Sarah Hennies’s work for film and live musicians examines the relationship between gender and sound through the contralto voices of trans women. Over the years, several friends have shared with me their experiences as trans people living in silence or coming out and trying to live as their true selves––stories of suicidal depression, of being stalked on streets and transit, of insults hurled, of lewd behavior and assaults. The fact that so many of those friends felt brave enough or safe enough to eventually come out and make choices that feel right to them is a bright spot in a time of divisiveness, but while these incidents continue to occur, it’s up to all of us to seek out ways we can do a better job of listening and helping.
Contralto is an important literal and metaphorical example of a direction we as allies can take—handing over the mic to let communities speak their own truth while we play a supportive role.
To those who’ve been waiting for inclusion and respect to create your seats at life’s tables, thank you for all the energy you’ve spent, often at great sacrifice to yourselves, helping the rest of us begin to wake up.
You absolutely cannot miss the performance of this piece, because it is riveting. We’re honored to be a part of it. I hope you’ll join us on Sept. 13 & 14 as we partner with PICA’s TBA Festival to accompany these remarkable women’s voices as they speak their truth.
See you there,
Interim Artistic Director