Joy, Too

Vertex
Kristin Gornstein voice
Jeremy Chan piano

Release Date: August 2, 2024
Catalog #: NV6642
Format: Digital

Music about grief is a bit like medicine: most people don’t reach for it until they are in acute and dire need. The Vertex Duo, composed of mezzo-soprano Kristin Gornstein and pianist Jeremy Chan, might sympathize, having created just this medicine for the soul in the wake of some of the darkest biographical hours.

The result is JOY, TOO, a curiously wonderful collection of melancholy songs — so lyrical and beautiful, one doesn’t have to be sad to want to listen to it. In case of misfortune however, it may well be sanity-saving: with its stirring melodies and poignant lyrics, JOY, TOO serves as a testament to the universal experience of sorrow, offering solace and understanding to those grappling with its impact.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 above the bulk of crashing water: 1. Niagara (Seen on a Night in November) Alex Weiser Adelaide Crapsey, lyricist; Vertex | Kristin Gornstein, voice; Jeremy Chan, piano 2:27
02 above the bulk of crashing water: 2. The Warning Alex Weiser Adelaide Crapsey, lyricist; Vertex | Kristin Gornstein, voice; Jeremy Chan, piano 1:36
03 above the bulk of crashing water: 3. November Night Alex Weiser Adelaide Crapsey, lyricist; Vertex | Kristin Gornstein, voice; Jeremy Chan, piano 1:13
04 above the bulk of crashing water: 4. Night Winds Alex Weiser Adelaide Crapsey, lyricist; Vertex | Kristin Gornstein, voice; Jeremy Chan, piano 2:07
05 above the bulk of crashing water: 5. Fate Defied Alex Weiser Adelaide Crapsey, lyricist; Vertex | Kristin Gornstein, voice; Jeremy Chan, piano 1:25
06 Loves don't - go Annika Socolofsky Molly Moses, lyricist; Vertex | Kristin Gornstein, voice; Jeremy Chan, piano 3:38
07 Twenty Twenty Robert Davidson Jeremy Chan, piano 5:26
08 The Old Astronomer James Primosch Sarah Williams, lyricist; Vertex | Kristin Gornstein, voice; Jeremy Chan, piano 2:33
09 The Far Shore Kamala Sankaram Meera Bai, lyricist (trans. anonymous); Vertex | Kristin Gornstein, voice; Jeremy Chan, piano 3:53
10 All Night Long: 1. I Can Max Johnson Todd Colby, lyricist; Vertex | Kristin Gornstein, voice; Jeremy Chan, piano 2:35
11 All Night Long: 2. Tentatively Sparkling Max Johnson Todd Colby, lyricist; Vertex | Kristin Gornstein, voice; Jeremy Chan, piano 1:26
12 All Night Long: 3. Cold Max Johnson Todd Colby, lyricist; Vertex | Kristin Gornstein, voice; Jeremy Chan, piano 2:06
13 All Night Long: 4. Lemon Yellow, Powder Blue, Pale Green & White Max Johnson Todd Colby, lyricist; Vertex | Kristin Gornstein, voice; Jeremy Chan, piano 1:21
14 Astrolabe Robert Balaguer Robert Balaguer, lyricist; Vertex | Kristin Gornstein, voice; Jeremy Chan, piano 4:50

Recorded May 5-7, 2022 at Sun Hill Studio in Putney VT
Session Producer & Engineer Judith Sherman
Assistant Engineer & Editing Assistant Jeanne Velonis
Mastering Jeanne Velonis, Judith Sherman

Executive Producer Bob Lord

VP of A&R Brandon MacNeil
A&R Jeff LeRoy

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Kacie Brown
Digital Marketing Manager Brett Iannucci

Artist Information

James Primosch

Composer

When honoring him with its Goddard Lieberson Fellowship, the American Academy of Arts and Letters noted that “A rare economy of means and a strain of religious mysticism distinguish the music of James Primosch… Through articulate, transparent textures, he creates a wide range of musical emotion.”

Kamala Sankaram

Composer

Praised as “strikingly original” (NY Times) and “new voice from whom we will surely be hearing more” (LA Times), Kamala Sankaram writes highly theatrical music that defies categorization. Recent commissions include the Glimmerglass Festival, Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Shakespeare Theatre Company, and Opera on Tap, among others. Awards, grants and residencies include: Jonathan Larson Award, NEA ArtWorks, MAP Fund, Opera America, NY IT Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical, the Civilians, HERE, the MacDowell Colony, and the Watermill Center. Known for her work with emerging technologies, her recent genre-defying hit Looking at You (with collaborators Rob Handel and Kristin Marting) featured live data mining of the audience and a chorus of 25 singing tablet computers.

Vertex

Ensemble

Vertex Duo, comprised of Jeremy Chan (piano) and Kristin Gornstein (mezzo-soprano), bring the perspective of multiple cultures, backgrounds, and musical aesthetics to their work, sharing a love for freshness and improvisation in classical music. They have performed together in recitals at Seiji Ozawa Hall, Caramoor Center for the Arts, and the DiMenna Center in New York City. Chan and Gornstein met performing the works of William Bolcom, and this shared focus on performing the works of living composers has brought them to their current project, a recording of contemporary songs exploring the ways in which we find joy through sorrow. Featuring a newly commissioned song set by Pulitzer Prize-nominated composer Alex Weiser as well as works by Kamala Sankaram, Annika Socolofsky, James Primosch, Max Johnson, and Robert Balaguer, the album is entitled JOY TOO, and will be released on Navona Records in 2024.

Notes

A year before the pandemic began, Kristin lost her mother quite unexpectedly, just one month before her daughter was born. “I found myself unable to create time to truly grieve or even understand how my world had changed, because I was taking care of an infant, and so much of my mind and presence had to be dedicated to her wellbeing. When the pandemic began and Jeremy contacted me about putting together our first EP (Still, released online), the process of selecting the tracks and working together on putting it out was so satisfying, we both felt we needed to continue exploring where this might take us. We talked about the kind of music we would like to put on a full-length album, and I think we found ourselves asking larger, existential questions — for me because I had so much to grapple with in terms of grief and loss, and for him because of his continuing journey with visas, green cards, and the pain that comes with being away from your home and family through that. It was so cathartic to be able to choose music that goes to those dark places during this time of life, and through sitting with it and singing these songs, I was able to move through my grief in really unexpected and beautiful ways.

Originally, our thought was to make the entire album a recording of music we had premiered, or that had been written for us. However, quite early on in our first album residency we realized that we had another direction we were being pulled in. We both gravitated to themes of existential joy and grief, and thought we could both commission and find already written pieces that would speak to where we were at that moment much more effectively.

So we started from scratch in a way, using a few of those already existing pieces, but also commissioning five evocative songs from Alex Weiser, above the bulk of crashing water, as well as finding Kamala Sankaram’s beautifully meditative piece on eternity, The Far Shore, and Annika Sokolowsky’s song, Loves don’t/go, dealing with love and loss. Kristin had a working relationship with composer James Primosch, who unfortunately passed away in 2021, just months after we decided to record his song, The Old Astronomer. Adding his song to the album was a perfect fit, both because of the thematic material in the song itself, and because it became an homage to his life and music. Max Johnson’s group of four songs All night long, with poetry by Todd Colby, show humor and wit in the midst of grief and uncertainty. Robert Davidson’s twenty twenty is the only solo piano piece on the album; his background as a jazz musician allows the simple, beautiful lines to show through. Robert Balaguer also wrote the poetry for his music, and it is that uncompromising artistry that really drew us to his work. As his song Astrolabe ends, one can imagine the eternity that exists outside of the world that we know, spinning on above our human sorrows and joys.

— Kristin Gornstein and Jeremy Chan, Vertex