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Lorrin “Larry” Koran, a psychiatrist by trade, is the classical music director of KZSU-FM, Stanford University’s radio station. He recently praised Mark Abel’s Home Is a Harbor release, writing:
Composer Mark Abel was a 1960s student at Stanford who later became foreign editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. His first opera, Home Is a Harbor, successfully combines the expressive depth of classical music, the in-your-face impact of rock (he was once a rock musician) and the free-flowing and quasi-improvisatory nature of jazz.
The easy-to-listen-to and engaging music, featuring standout performances by young vocalists, is scored for the 13-player La Brea Sinfonietta, and includes an organ. The story follows twin sisters from Morro Bay on California’s bucolic Central Coast as they enter thorny career paths in Manhattan and Southern California. Early success, followed by the financial crisis of 2008/9, the human cost of the Afghanistan war and the emptiness of some of their peers, leads to decisions to return to more meaningful and moral lives in Morro Bay. Abel’s libretto covers a wide emotional landscape (youthful exuberance, tragedy, pathos, disillusion, humor) with satire and social commentary alongside.
The recording includes Abel’s song cycle The Palm Trees Are Restless, which sets five Kate Gale poems to music for soprano and piano. Grammy-winning soprano Hila Plitmann sings beautifully. Again, the listening is easy, and the emotional range wide.