Collaboration and mentorship are the key components to the latest release from October Project.
October Project, fronted by Yale alumni Marina Belica ’81 (vocals) and Julie Flanders ’81 (lyrics and vocals), and led by Emmy-award composer Emil Adler (music), is a band known for their trademark harmonies and transformative songs. For their latest release, they came to Yale to recruit a choir of undergraduate singers to record a category-defying and almost entirely a cappella recording.
Adler, along with Morse alumni Flanders and Belica, had been invited to speak about the band’s career in music at a Morse Master’s Tea, from which they became inspired to embark upon a new sort of alumni-undergraduate project. This inspiration culminated in the recording of “The Book of Rounds: 21 Songs of Grace,” an album combining the voices of Yale singers and the music and mentorship of seasoned veterans to create a new and original collection of musical rounds. The resulting recording fosters a “community across distances of time,” connecting Flanders and Belica with recent graduates, such as arranger Keiji Ishiguri ’11, and current students.
Ishiguri, a former pitch pipe of the 2010–2011 Whiffenpoofs, contributed the arrangements; working from the original rounds written by Adler (music) and Flanders (lyrics), Ishiguri created sophisticated settings that can be enjoyed by singers and listeners alike. Along with Ishiguri’s arranging skills, the vocal stylings of current undergraduates Lucy Fleming ’16, a former Redhot & Blue pitch and current pitch of Whim’n Rhythm, and current Whiffenpoof Spencer Bokat-Lindell ’17 can be heard throughout the tracks. October Project had no trouble finding talent on campus to lend their voices and skills to the album, drawing from the many singing groups on campus, including Belica’s former a cappella group Redhot & Blue, which she directed during her time as a student.
“The Book of Rounds” is innovative not only in its multi-generational approach, but in its mission to bring listeners and singers to an elevated state. The band considers each round “a fugue of positive messages.” Flanders’ lyrics repeating throughout Adler’s overlapping melodic lines are intended to transform the mind and heart of the listener. Whether assuring the listener of the unwavering comfort of home, or encouraging feelings of belonging and significance, each song tackles a universal feeling in way that is tender and personal. When listened to from beginning to end, the album abounds with positivity that seeps into the mind and soul.
Released on Sounds True in November of 2015, the recording has enjoyed a wide audience (including a review in the April issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine) and caught the attention of choirs across the country. This coming November the live world premiere of all 21 rounds will be performed in Austin, Texas, by Chorus Austin, an ensemble composed of more than 150 voices. That same month the Yale Camerata will perform a few selections from the album here in New Haven. Later this semester, the percussive track “Joy” will have its premiere by the Yale Music in Schools Initiative’s glee club, a group consisting of advanced singers from New Haven public schools. Belica, Flanders and Adler are delighted that so many ensembles are excited to perform the rounds, from community choirs to professional groups. While each group’s interpretation may differ from each other or from band’s original concept, October Project welcomes them all. Each rendition is another step forward in extending the Yale musical community and the reach of “The Book of Rounds” and its positive messages.