A Far Cry, Inc. (“A Far Cry”) is a conductorless string chamber orchestra, founded in 2007 by a tightly-knit collective of 17 young professional musicians. The ensemble strives to ignite a love for great music, producing top level concerts and recordings with innovative programming, bringing classical music to life with its energy and deep commitment, and sharing its joy for unconventional music making with audiences locally and internationally. To do this A Far Cry employs a uniquely democratic model, rotating leadership roles and engaging in artistic decision making collaboratively, a design that strengthens and affirms the sense of commitment within the group, and acts as an vast source of creative potential.
A Far Cry’s primary purpose is to increase the public’s understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of classical music by presenting unconducted chamber orchestra concerts. The core of the ensemble's work lies in its Boston programming which, for the 2016-17 season, comprises its neighborhood series in Jamaica Plain at St. John's Episcopal Church (4 concerts), its Jordan Hall series (5 concerts), and a series at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (6 concerts); the latter two series are part of formal residencies held by A Far Cry at those institutions. Also, this season, A Far Cry will perform a concert for the Celebrity Series of Boston in collaboration with the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth.
A Far Cry frequently undertakes concert tours of the United States, and recently completed its second tour of Europe in July 2016. Domestic tours for the current season include a number of dates with Roomful of Teeth, and a tour of A Far Cry’s album Dreams and Prayers with clarinetist David Krakauer. Tours in the works for next season include a collaboration with pianist Simone Dinnerstein and a program entitled Blue Hour. Blue Hour is a major endeavor taken on by A Far Cry, featuring a concert-length commission composed by Rachel Grimes, Angélica Negron, Shara Nova, Caroline Shaw, and Sarah Kirkland Snider, and performed with vocalist Luciana Souza. A Far Cry is currently represented by David Middleton of Middleton Arts Management, who secures and negotiates the ensemble’s touring calendar.
A Far Cry also performs concerts specifically to benefit related charitable and social causes. These benefit performances, in collaboration with other non-profit organizations, will underscore the connections between musicianship and humanitarianism. For example, on April 16, 2016, A Far Cry performed a concert in the New York City to benefit the Kneisel Hall Young Musician’s Program. In recent years, A Far Cry also performed concerts to benefit St. John’s Episcopal Church. These benefit performances are funded by reasonably-priced ticket sales, donations solicited from individuals and organizations, and government and private grants.
A Far Cry also operates its own record label, Crier Records, which allows the ensemble to bring its innovative programming to a wider audience. Any of A Far Cry’s musicians can submit recording project proposals for the Crier Records, and the proposals are voted on by the members of A Far Cry. A team of three musicians leads this voting process and solicits proposals for sound engineers to oversee the recordings that are approved. In the recent past, funds have been raised through Kickstarter to support Crier Records recording projects. Recordings are sold in person at A Far Cry concerts and events, as well as online through A Far Cry’s website so as to educate and entertain a much wider audience, unrestricted by geographic location and including those who, due to restricted mobility, are unable to attend concerts. A Far Cry determines the fees it charges for these recordings based on the standard market rates for comparable recordings. The label has released three albums so far: Dreams and Prayers, Law of Mosaics, and a limited release of a live performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night. Already these releases have brought the orchestra national attention and critical acclaim.
A Far Cry is also committed to the commissioning of new works, with 20 world premieres, plus dozens of arrangements for string orchestra, performed or planned through the 2017-18 season. These commissions include composers such as Derek Bermel, Philip Glass, Ted Hearne, Vijay Iyer, Mehmet Sanlikol, and Caroline Shaw.
A Far Cry is also active in the community with educational outreach and engagement programs. A Far Cry presents educational programs in places such as New England–area schools, retirement communities, libraries, and hospitals, in an attempt to reach audiences traditionally underserved by the formal concert setting. During these outreach appearances, members of the orchestra will speak, teach, and work with other musicians to guide and inspire interest in classical music. The majority of funding comes from private grants, for which A Far Cry will research and apply continually. Additional funding will come from performance fees and private donations.
As another component of educational outreach activities, A Far Cry engages in two types of residencies: those at educational institutions aimed at instructing students, and those in particular geographical areas, aimed at constructing lasting impact on the cultural life of those areas. Both types of residencies would involve a multi-day stay by the members of the orchestra, allowing ample time to concertize, teach, demonstrate, and implement awareness and appreciation of concert music. These residencies will be funded by fees paid by the educational institutions, and by grants in the case of geographical-area residencies. Additional funding will come from individual donors. A Far Cry’s current initiatives include:
- A fellowship program with New England Conservatory that allows students to become familiar with the ensemble and its organizational model through an internship and performances with the orchestra.
- A competition at the New England Conservatory’s Preparatory division, granting selected high school-aged students the opportunity to perform with the ensemble.
- A mentorship program with Project STEP, pairing A Far Cry musicians with music students of color from low income families.
- Special residencies at colleges focusing on music entrepreneurship, undertaken at Depauw University’s 21CM program, and upcoming at Baldwin Wallace University.
Finally, in an attempt to educate and appeal to a wider audience with diverse interests, A Far Cry intends to collaborate with outside artists. These artists will include musicians as well as members of any other field that involves artistic inspiration. These collaborations will allow A Far Cry and its peer artists to highlight connections between the various arts and connections between arts and the human experience. Concert halls, dance studios, outdoor venues, and movie theaters throughout and beyond the New England area are some potential locations for these collaborations. It will be funded by a wide variety of sources, including grants, private donations, and reasonable ticket sales.
A Far Cry conducts fundraising activities to support its operations and tax-exempt purposes, and receives gifts, grants, and contributions from members of the general public, corporations, foundations, and governmental units. A Far Cry holds an annual fundraising event, its “Soiree,” each spring for 100 guests. The “Soiree” comprises a cocktail hour, musical performance, dinner, and silent and oral auctions. The event has been held in recent years at Boston’s St. Botolph Club.
A Far Cry may engage in any other activity in furtherance of its charitable purposes that is consistent with its status as a Massachusetts non-profit corporation and as an organization that is exempt from tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
Through all its activities over the last ten years, A Far Cry has built a strong track record of artistic success, most recently culminating in the ensemble’s first Grammy nomination for the inaugural Crier Records release, Dreams and Prayers. This attention preceded another recognition, the award for Best Classical Music Ensemble granted in Boston Magazine's 2015 Best of Boston Awards. The second album on Crier Records, Law of Mosaics, was singled out by New Yorker Magazine music critic Alex Ross on his top-10 list of Notable Recordings for 2014. And A Far Cry has been the recipient of generous awards and grants from the Free For All Concert Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Barr Foundation, all of which are votes of confidence in A Far Cry’s artistic product and organizational trajectory.