The Philadelphia Inquirer
More ambitious was Scott Ordway's Tonight We Tell the Secrets of the World for small string ensemble. The audience was assigned the role of whispering ancient texts. The seating area was divided into three color-coded sections. Attendees in each section were given their own start-and-stop whisper cues via projections on the wall. My section whispered, from a sheet found on our chairs, fragmented writings from an ancient Egyptian pyramid. Others had Sumerian creation myths dating back as far as 3200 B.C. and Persian writings from the 12th century.
The whole package was a marvel. The contemplative string writing...drifted between emotional neutrality and wistful melancholy, with ascending and descending scales evolving into textures that went both ways at once. The soulful vocal lines, sung by Alize Rozsnyai, made a late, narrative-enhancing entry.
And the whispered texts? A composer such as Kaija Saariaho of Finland uses computers to supply atmospheric whispering. The audience was just as effective. All three audience sections merged during ecstatic moments, though not for long. Most amorphous musical events evaporated as soon as they reached fruition, making their own kinds of poetic statements. Words that seem like remote, stylized platitudes on the page took on many dimensions when read. My texts were like symbolist poetry with fleeting visual images. Not even the pedantic intermission lectures could keep this piece from casting its spell.
The New York Times
The singers showed off their flawless intonation in “North Woods,” an exquisite setting of texts by Tacitus by the contemporary composer Scott Ordway (and the only piece on the program not by Pérotin or Mr. Lang). The work begins with clouds of ethereal dissonance that are moved along by gentle rhythmic impulses. When the music settles into consonance, it suddenly feels spacious and open.
The Boston Globe
Scott Ordway’s inspiration for North Woods was the northern wilderness of Maine, but for his text he adapted Tacitus’s description of the north of England and Germany. The result was an American response to Sibelius’s Tapiola, the music conjuring twinkling stars, howling winds, and the unyielding dark green of fir trees.
Scott Ordway’s North Woods, interpreting the Maine landscape through the lens of the ancient Roman historian Tacitus’s imaginary descriptions of northern Europe, made use of the most immediate sensation of the choir’s phenomenal purity: clean clarity as cold as ice. But the piece also hinted at the change from wild to civilized, from frontier to familiar destination. With Addington’s piccolo glinting off the music like lens flare, the opening movements were built on a foundation of fast, quasi-aletoric chanting, the ground continually slippery and shifting. By the end, though, the boundaries had been set down: as the first movement’s text circled back (“The nights are dark; the earth casts only a low shadow”), the music coalesced into a kind of domesticated part-song, as if the place itself had finally been fully marked off and mapped.
Boston Classical Review
The premiere lineup then began with Ordway’s North Woods, based on the ancient writings of Tacitus, but recast to reflect a northerly atmosphere: wild and distant, austere and stalwart. Ethereal textures and naturalistic sounds were created by the free repetition of text backing a string of duets and solos, the otherworldly tones of the offstage piccolo adding to the atmosphere. Ordway’s writing was both confident and delicate, and the women of Lorelei flourished in the evocative soundscapes and velvet harmonies.
Boston Musical Intelligencer
The first of these was North Woods by Scott Ordway whose text was adapted from the Roman historian Tacitus. Ordway, who teaches at Curtis, explains that Tacitus was wholly ignorant about geography and how the planet worked in terms of shape and regard to the sun. Instead he had “an almost mystical reverence that still feels intuitively correct.” (One is reminded of pianist Glenn Gould’s fascination with the idea of North). North Woods is haunting and really lovely.
Portland Press Herald
Turning age 30 this year, Scott Ordway was the youngest composer featured. His Handshakes for string quartet from 2010 pays homage to a pantheon of past composers, saying a quick musical hello to their styles before moving off in its own direction. Performed in under 10 minutes, there are few frills in this piece. But the long tones of the movement titled “vii. after Mendelssohn” added a welcome austere moment to the evening’s program.
The [SOLI Chamber Ensemble] concert, held in the Ruth Taylor Recital Hall of Trinity University, began with Scott Ordway’s Let there be not darkness, but light. The work was a study in multiple moods which evolved over six or seven minutes. A clangorous opening with chirping single-note sixteenth figures gave way to a slower section with staid and paced piano chords under long lines traded between the strings. The clarinet emerged over this material while hints of the chirping appeared and echoed in the piano. This lead to another section featuring violin, cello, and clarinet exclamations bouncing off of and rising from the piano’s arrhythmic accompaniment, morphing into a sort of ululating texture with everyone (save piano) moving in step before remnants of the opening material closed out the piece.
Incident Light (San Antonio)
Scott Ordway’s “Let There Be Not Darkness But Light” (2012) for violin, clarinet, cello and piano is prickly, dissonant and harmonically restless, with a lyrical impulse. It covers a wide affective gamut — sometimes tender or mournful, sometimes violent, sometimes giddily propulsive.
New Maine Times
The "Kyrie" [from the Festival Mass] by Scott Ordway blew us away... a wall of sound.