'Rappahannock County'

The Civil War, in tight close-up and sung

Battle hymn: Faith Sherman and Kevin Moreno
Battle hymn: Faith Sherman and Kevin Moreno

How do you convey the drama of the Civil War in all its epic sweep? If you're Ken Burns, you go macroscopic and spend 10 hours of film covering the conflict from every corner of the Union and Confederacy, with all its major figures and battles depicted. If you're Ricky Ian Gordon and Mark Campbell, though, you go microscopic, focusing on one small county perched on the line between North and South, with its anonymous residents relating the war's impact in 90 minutes of song.

In Rappahannock County, composer Gordon and lyricist Campbell have five singers take on 30 roles – from soldier and slave to abolitionist preacher and embalmer – to track the war's progress year by bloody year from their corner of Virginia. Given the acclaim that greeted Gordon's other recent foray into America's past, an opera based on John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, this work promises to be both musically rich and moving.

Sept. 21-22, Austin becomes the third city to see Rappahannock County. Local presenter Texas Performing Arts co-commissioned the work, with the Virginia Arts Festival, Virginia Opera, and the University of Richmond's Modlin Center for the Arts (which TPA Director Kathy Panoff ran prior to coming to Texas) and with funding from its new, big Mellon Foundation grant (see "Texas Performing Arts," July 1), TPA is bringing Gordon and Campbell to town with the show. They'll discuss it with University of Texas history professor Jacqueline Jones following Thursday's performance.

Rappahannock County will be performed Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 21 & 22, 8pm, in McCullough Theatre, 2375 Robert Dedman Dr., UT campus. For more information, call 477-6060 or visit www.texasperformingarts.org.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Rappahannock County
Think 'New' Music
Think 'New' Music
eighth blackbird helps Texas Performing Arts change how we regard classical

Robert Faires, Jan. 25, 2013

Texas Performing Arts
Texas Performing Arts
Classical gassed up

Robert Faires, July 1, 2011

More Texas Performing Arts
"The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop" Provides a Close-up on Cinema's Scenic Paintings
The exhibition of 12 vintage backdrops painted for MGM films reveals their techniques for creating grand illusions

Robert Faires, Feb. 12, 2021

Texas Performing Arts and Fusebox Make Space to Create
Texas Performing Arts and Fusebox Make Space to Create
The two organizations partner on a residency program to support Austin artists making adventurous new work

Robert Faires, Sept. 4, 2020

More by Robert Faires
Last Bow of an Accidental Critic
Last Bow of an Accidental Critic
Lessons and surprises from a career that shouldn’t have been

Sept. 24, 2021

"Daniel Johnston: I Live My Broken Dreams" Tells the Story of an Artist
The first-ever museum exhibition of Daniel Johnston's work digs deep into the man, the myths

Sept. 17, 2021


Rappahannock County, Texas Performing Arts, Kathy Panoff, Ricky Ian Gordon, Mark Campbell, the Civil War

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle