Moira Smiley


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About

Moira Smiley is a Singer / Composer who creates and performs new work for voices. A musical polyglot, and vocal shape-shifter, her voice – and composing - are heard on feature films, BBC & PBS television programs, NPR, and on more than 60 albums. She accompanies herself with banjo, accordion, ...

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Contact

Publicist
Ron Kadish
812-339-1195 X 202

Current News

  • 03/05/201804/07/2018

Scary, Tender Instrument: Moira Smiley Finds the Raw Power of the Voice to Unzip the Horizon

New album featuring members of tune-yards, Rising Appalachia, Solas...

In a leafy yard at midsummer, in a small hamlet in northwestern Ukraine, an elder singer turned to vocalist and composer, Moira Smiley.  Moira recalls. “She said, matter-of-factly that some singing -- in her case, the powerful,’calling voices of herself and several other singers -- can negotiate a better future by communicating with the ancestors. She gestured toward the horizon, and back to her fellow...

Press

  • Folk Alley, Feature story, 05/12/2018, Folk Alley Sessions: Moira Smiley Text
  • The Bluegrass Situation, Feature story, 03/28/2018, The Of Giving Voice: A Conversation With Moira Smiley Text
  • PopMatters, Video premiere, 04/20/2018, Moira Smiley Covers Lead Belly's "Bring Me Little Water, Silvy" to Celebrate Earth Day (premiere) Text
  • Folk Alley, Video premiere, 10/13/2017, Video Premiere: Moira Smiley, "Refugee" Text
  • + Show More

News

06/28/2018, Grand Rapids, MI, Sister Singers Network Festival , 8:00 PM
03/06/201806/28/2018, Scary, Tender Instrument: Moira Smiley Finds the Raw Power of the Voice to Unzip the Horizon
Event
06/28/2018
Event
06/28/2018
Ticket URL
http://www.sistersingers.net/
Venue City, State
Grand Rapids, MI
Venue
Sister Singers Network Festival
Concert Start Time
8:00 PM
Unzip the Horizon (release: April 7, 2018) unfurls a set of original songs and a couple traditional folk songs. MORE» More»

New album featuring members of tune-yards, Rising Appalachia, Solas...

In a leafy yard at midsummer, in a small hamlet in northwestern Ukraine, an elder singer turned to vocalist and composer, Moira Smiley.  Moira recalls. “She said, matter-of-factly that some singing -- in her case, the powerful,’calling voices of herself and several other singers -- can negotiate a better future by communicating with the ancestors. She gestured toward the horizon, and back to her fellow singers - indicating this dialogue between known and unknown, past and future.”

That moment, chronicled in her new song “Bellow,” shifted something in Smiley, bringing her not only into closer contact with things past, but toward a fast-changing future.  A few years ago, Moira found herself entering new musical zones when she began singing with tune-yards’ Merrill Garbus, exploring Laura Nyro’s music with multi-grammy winner Billy Childs, touring internationally with Irish-American supergroup, Solas and writing commissions for choral superstars like The Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Unzip the Horizon (release: April 7, 2018) unfurls a set of original songs and a couple traditional folk songs enriched by guests including Merrill Garbus, British folk troublemaker Sam Lee, Seamus Egan of Solas, banjo innovator Jayme Stone, Leah & Chloe Smith of Rising Appalachia, Darrell Scott of Band of Joy, and avant-folk duo, Anna and Elizabeth. Building on a world of creaks and whispers, sighs and half-hummed melodies, Smiley jumps into new territory that straddles Americana, indie rock, and folk.  She captures the raw urgency of human connection in these songs - our vulnerable need to stay open to each other even when it hurts.

“I found more voice when I left the isolation of my own ideas and survival instincts.  My sound-world grew, and at the same time I bumped up against my own culture’s limited ideas of what a female voice should sound like and sing about,” Smiley says. “From that conversation in Ukraine through finishing the album, I knew my songwriting would embrace my own raw, ‘calling’ voice because it made my music - and me - feel fierce, personal and true.”

{full story below}

“The voice is a big, fierce, expressive instrument.” muses Smiley. “You feel that when singing many traditional folk songs, but I longed to pull these sounds more into my original music,” Smiley reflects. “Partly because of this longing, I went from leading a vocal group in my little corner of the music world to performing intensively in others’ projects. As each project demanded the utmost of my voice and my ability to listen, I was compelled to break through my self-imposed creative limits - changing everything from how I structured time to how I allowed myself to conjure music and lyric.”

Smiley bursts through these limits in multiple ways on Unzip the Horizon.  Supporting her voice are poised instrumental performances and a delightfully messy, enigmatic set of incidental and ‘found’ sounds. “I didn’t want a clean space for these songs. I wanted the songs to bump up against other noises, and knock around in a world of surprises” Smiley says.  A frightening tenderness hums behind Smiley’s unflinching voice on tracks like “One Step Dance,” about a brief meeting with a stranger that cracked her world open.  In this song, you feel the transformative power of an honest connection - however brief - with another human.

Her emotive range and engagement with folk styles (heard on the Celtic-leaning folk tale of “Wiseman” and the shiver-inducing Appalachian ballad-style “Dressed in Yellow”) is built on years of exploration and training. 

In addition to the influences of her recent collaborations, the tracks contain subtle hints of Smiley’s training in early music and classical piano, which blossomed into a successful early career of performing and recording the music of Arvo Pärt, Hildegard von Bingen, Stockhausen, Purcell and Louis Andriessen with the likes of Paul Hillier, Stevie Wishart, and other leading lights in new and early art music. At the same time, Moira explored the polyphony of Eastern Europe’s striking female singing traditions that she’d heard and sung as a child. She dove into these traditions with her vocal groups, VIDA and VOCO, and brought them to prestigious venues like Lincoln Center, tours of the US and Europe, and into a series of albums. Her fascination with this music took her on several study trips to Eastern Europe, including that fateful midsummer trip to Ukraine.

Closer to home, Unzip The Horizon takes on the issue of white supremacy and its role in shaping American culture with “Sing About It,” whose rich harmonies echo both Sweet Honey in the Rock and Kate Bush. Yet while grappling with the deeply painful, Smiley often overflows with an irrepressible joy at being an artist and having a voice, as heard on the track “So Glad” - another side of the gratitude for human connection that propels the album.

The truth of human resilience, and need for each other came into focus when Smiley went to the Calais Jungle refugee camp in France as part of a project with Expressive Arts Refuge. “I woke to culture and language completely beyond my understanding, and also the simple power of humans making beauty together – from nothing,” she recalls. She distills this experience and finds its universal resonance on “Refugee,” a song that inspires compassion with an urgency reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s brightest moments.

Smiley will celebrate Unzip the Horizon with a Songbook, vinyl release and an all-hands-on-deck release party at the Savannah Music Festival on April 7, 2018 that will trace Smiley’s evolution as singer and composer.  She describes the show: “A stark beginning:  My unaccompanied voice and projected images move to invite bass, banjo, and piano as we travel among mostly original and some traditional songs. The finale is the full 11-person cast singing, stomping and clapping ‘Bellow’ and ‘Sing About It’.”  The Songbook is geared toward her broad base of choral music fans across the world - fully realized vocal arrangements, with and without accompaniment. 

Experience and age transform a singer, giving both insight and a shifting instrument. Smiley found the expressive opportunities of her changing range and style dovetailed with the tales she longed to tell as a songwriter. “I’m letting my voice relax and deepen” Smiley reflects. “Where I was bright and pushing forward before, my voice takes more time to taste the words, let them affect me. I feel more in-relationship to the world when I sing now. There’s a depth and a vulnerability that can happen, that couldn’t before.”

Event
06/28/2018

05/27/2018, Nanaimo, BC, 7:00 PM
03/07/201805/27/2018, Scary, Tender Instrument: Moira Smiley Finds the Raw Power of the Voice to Unzip the Horizon
Event
05/27/2018
Event
05/27/2018
Ticket URL
http://www.islandsoulchoir.com/concerts.html
Concert Start Time
7:00 PM
Unzip the Horizon (release: April 7, 2018) unfurls a set of original songs and a couple traditional folk songs. MORE» More»

New album featuring members of tune-yards, Rising Appalachia, Solas...

In a leafy yard at midsummer, in a small hamlet in northwestern Ukraine, an elder singer turned to vocalist and composer, Moira Smiley.  Moira recalls. “She said, matter-of-factly that some singing -- in her case, the powerful,’calling voices of herself and several other singers -- can negotiate a better future by communicating with the ancestors. She gestured toward the horizon, and back to her fellow singers - indicating this dialogue between known and unknown, past and future.”

That moment, chronicled in her new song “Bellow,” shifted something in Smiley, bringing her not only into closer contact with things past, but toward a fast-changing future.  A few years ago, Moira found herself entering new musical zones when she began singing with tune-yards’ Merrill Garbus, exploring Laura Nyro’s music with multi-grammy winner Billy Childs, touring internationally with Irish-American supergroup, Solas and writing commissions for choral superstars like The Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Unzip the Horizon (release: April 7, 2018) unfurls a set of original songs and a couple traditional folk songs enriched by guests including Merrill Garbus, British folk troublemaker Sam Lee, Seamus Egan of Solas, banjo innovator Jayme Stone, Leah & Chloe Smith of Rising Appalachia, Darrell Scott of Band of Joy, and avant-folk duo, Anna and Elizabeth. Building on a world of creaks and whispers, sighs and half-hummed melodies, Smiley jumps into new territory that straddles Americana, indie rock, and folk.  She captures the raw urgency of human connection in these songs - our vulnerable need to stay open to each other even when it hurts.

“I found more voice when I left the isolation of my own ideas and survival instincts.  My sound-world grew, and at the same time I bumped up against my own culture’s limited ideas of what a female voice should sound like and sing about,” Smiley says. “From that conversation in Ukraine through finishing the album, I knew my songwriting would embrace my own raw, ‘calling’ voice because it made my music - and me - feel fierce, personal and true.”

{full story below}

“The voice is a big, fierce, expressive instrument.” muses Smiley. “You feel that when singing many traditional folk songs, but I longed to pull these sounds more into my original music,” Smiley reflects. “Partly because of this longing, I went from leading a vocal group in my little corner of the music world to performing intensively in others’ projects. As each project demanded the utmost of my voice and my ability to listen, I was compelled to break through my self-imposed creative limits - changing everything from how I structured time to how I allowed myself to conjure music and lyric.”

Smiley bursts through these limits in multiple ways on Unzip the Horizon.  Supporting her voice are poised instrumental performances and a delightfully messy, enigmatic set of incidental and ‘found’ sounds. “I didn’t want a clean space for these songs. I wanted the songs to bump up against other noises, and knock around in a world of surprises” Smiley says.  A frightening tenderness hums behind Smiley’s unflinching voice on tracks like “One Step Dance,” about a brief meeting with a stranger that cracked her world open.  In this song, you feel the transformative power of an honest connection - however brief - with another human.

Her emotive range and engagement with folk styles (heard on the Celtic-leaning folk tale of “Wiseman” and the shiver-inducing Appalachian ballad-style “Dressed in Yellow”) is built on years of exploration and training. 

In addition to the influences of her recent collaborations, the tracks contain subtle hints of Smiley’s training in early music and classical piano, which blossomed into a successful early career of performing and recording the music of Arvo Pärt, Hildegard von Bingen, Stockhausen, Purcell and Louis Andriessen with the likes of Paul Hillier, Stevie Wishart, and other leading lights in new and early art music. At the same time, Moira explored the polyphony of Eastern Europe’s striking female singing traditions that she’d heard and sung as a child. She dove into these traditions with her vocal groups, VIDA and VOCO, and brought them to prestigious venues like Lincoln Center, tours of the US and Europe, and into a series of albums. Her fascination with this music took her on several study trips to Eastern Europe, including that fateful midsummer trip to Ukraine.

Closer to home, Unzip The Horizon takes on the issue of white supremacy and its role in shaping American culture with “Sing About It,” whose rich harmonies echo both Sweet Honey in the Rock and Kate Bush. Yet while grappling with the deeply painful, Smiley often overflows with an irrepressible joy at being an artist and having a voice, as heard on the track “So Glad” - another side of the gratitude for human connection that propels the album.

The truth of human resilience, and need for each other came into focus when Smiley went to the Calais Jungle refugee camp in France as part of a project with Expressive Arts Refuge. “I woke to culture and language completely beyond my understanding, and also the simple power of humans making beauty together – from nothing,” she recalls. She distills this experience and finds its universal resonance on “Refugee,” a song that inspires compassion with an urgency reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s brightest moments.

Smiley will celebrate Unzip the Horizon with a Songbook, vinyl release and an all-hands-on-deck release party at the Savannah Music Festival on April 7, 2018 that will trace Smiley’s evolution as singer and composer.  She describes the show: “A stark beginning:  My unaccompanied voice and projected images move to invite bass, banjo, and piano as we travel among mostly original and some traditional songs. The finale is the full 11-person cast singing, stomping and clapping ‘Bellow’ and ‘Sing About It’.”  The Songbook is geared toward her broad base of choral music fans across the world - fully realized vocal arrangements, with and without accompaniment. 

Experience and age transform a singer, giving both insight and a shifting instrument. Smiley found the expressive opportunities of her changing range and style dovetailed with the tales she longed to tell as a songwriter. “I’m letting my voice relax and deepen” Smiley reflects. “Where I was bright and pushing forward before, my voice takes more time to taste the words, let them affect me. I feel more in-relationship to the world when I sing now. There’s a depth and a vulnerability that can happen, that couldn’t before.”

Event
05/27/2018

05/25/2018, Vancouver, BC, 7:00 PM
03/06/201805/25/2018, Scary, Tender Instrument: Moira Smiley Finds the Raw Power of the Voice to Unzip the Horizon
Event
05/25/2018
Event
05/25/2018
Ticket URL
http://rhythmnroots.karlamundy.com/
Concert Start Time
7:00 PM
Unzip the Horizon (release: April 7, 2018) unfurls a set of original songs and a couple traditional folk songs. MORE» More»

New album featuring members of tune-yards, Rising Appalachia, Solas...

In a leafy yard at midsummer, in a small hamlet in northwestern Ukraine, an elder singer turned to vocalist and composer, Moira Smiley.  Moira recalls. “She said, matter-of-factly that some singing -- in her case, the powerful,’calling voices of herself and several other singers -- can negotiate a better future by communicating with the ancestors. She gestured toward the horizon, and back to her fellow singers - indicating this dialogue between known and unknown, past and future.”

That moment, chronicled in her new song “Bellow,” shifted something in Smiley, bringing her not only into closer contact with things past, but toward a fast-changing future.  A few years ago, Moira found herself entering new musical zones when she began singing with tune-yards’ Merrill Garbus, exploring Laura Nyro’s music with multi-grammy winner Billy Childs, touring internationally with Irish-American supergroup, Solas and writing commissions for choral superstars like The Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Unzip the Horizon (release: April 7, 2018) unfurls a set of original songs and a couple traditional folk songs enriched by guests including Merrill Garbus, British folk troublemaker Sam Lee, Seamus Egan of Solas, banjo innovator Jayme Stone, Leah & Chloe Smith of Rising Appalachia, Darrell Scott of Band of Joy, and avant-folk duo, Anna and Elizabeth. Building on a world of creaks and whispers, sighs and half-hummed melodies, Smiley jumps into new territory that straddles Americana, indie rock, and folk.  She captures the raw urgency of human connection in these songs - our vulnerable need to stay open to each other even when it hurts.

“I found more voice when I left the isolation of my own ideas and survival instincts.  My sound-world grew, and at the same time I bumped up against my own culture’s limited ideas of what a female voice should sound like and sing about,” Smiley says. “From that conversation in Ukraine through finishing the album, I knew my songwriting would embrace my own raw, ‘calling’ voice because it made my music - and me - feel fierce, personal and true.”

{full story below}

“The voice is a big, fierce, expressive instrument.” muses Smiley. “You feel that when singing many traditional folk songs, but I longed to pull these sounds more into my original music,” Smiley reflects. “Partly because of this longing, I went from leading a vocal group in my little corner of the music world to performing intensively in others’ projects. As each project demanded the utmost of my voice and my ability to listen, I was compelled to break through my self-imposed creative limits - changing everything from how I structured time to how I allowed myself to conjure music and lyric.”

Smiley bursts through these limits in multiple ways on Unzip the Horizon.  Supporting her voice are poised instrumental performances and a delightfully messy, enigmatic set of incidental and ‘found’ sounds. “I didn’t want a clean space for these songs. I wanted the songs to bump up against other noises, and knock around in a world of surprises” Smiley says.  A frightening tenderness hums behind Smiley’s unflinching voice on tracks like “One Step Dance,” about a brief meeting with a stranger that cracked her world open.  In this song, you feel the transformative power of an honest connection - however brief - with another human.

Her emotive range and engagement with folk styles (heard on the Celtic-leaning folk tale of “Wiseman” and the shiver-inducing Appalachian ballad-style “Dressed in Yellow”) is built on years of exploration and training. 

In addition to the influences of her recent collaborations, the tracks contain subtle hints of Smiley’s training in early music and classical piano, which blossomed into a successful early career of performing and recording the music of Arvo Pärt, Hildegard von Bingen, Stockhausen, Purcell and Louis Andriessen with the likes of Paul Hillier, Stevie Wishart, and other leading lights in new and early art music. At the same time, Moira explored the polyphony of Eastern Europe’s striking female singing traditions that she’d heard and sung as a child. She dove into these traditions with her vocal groups, VIDA and VOCO, and brought them to prestigious venues like Lincoln Center, tours of the US and Europe, and into a series of albums. Her fascination with this music took her on several study trips to Eastern Europe, including that fateful midsummer trip to Ukraine.

Closer to home, Unzip The Horizon takes on the issue of white supremacy and its role in shaping American culture with “Sing About It,” whose rich harmonies echo both Sweet Honey in the Rock and Kate Bush. Yet while grappling with the deeply painful, Smiley often overflows with an irrepressible joy at being an artist and having a voice, as heard on the track “So Glad” - another side of the gratitude for human connection that propels the album.

The truth of human resilience, and need for each other came into focus when Smiley went to the Calais Jungle refugee camp in France as part of a project with Expressive Arts Refuge. “I woke to culture and language completely beyond my understanding, and also the simple power of humans making beauty together – from nothing,” she recalls. She distills this experience and finds its universal resonance on “Refugee,” a song that inspires compassion with an urgency reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s brightest moments.

Smiley will celebrate Unzip the Horizon with a Songbook, vinyl release and an all-hands-on-deck release party at the Savannah Music Festival on April 7, 2018 that will trace Smiley’s evolution as singer and composer.  She describes the show: “A stark beginning:  My unaccompanied voice and projected images move to invite bass, banjo, and piano as we travel among mostly original and some traditional songs. The finale is the full 11-person cast singing, stomping and clapping ‘Bellow’ and ‘Sing About It’.”  The Songbook is geared toward her broad base of choral music fans across the world - fully realized vocal arrangements, with and without accompaniment. 

Experience and age transform a singer, giving both insight and a shifting instrument. Smiley found the expressive opportunities of her changing range and style dovetailed with the tales she longed to tell as a songwriter. “I’m letting my voice relax and deepen” Smiley reflects. “Where I was bright and pushing forward before, my voice takes more time to taste the words, let them affect me. I feel more in-relationship to the world when I sing now. There’s a depth and a vulnerability that can happen, that couldn’t before.”

Event
05/25/2018

05/12/2018, Charleston, WV, HRIST CHURCH UNITED METHODIST, 7:00 PM
03/06/201805/12/2018, Scary, Tender Instrument: Moira Smiley Finds the Raw Power of the Voice to Unzip the Horizon
Event
05/12/2018
Event
05/12/2018
Venue Zip
25301
Venue City, State
Charleston, WV
Venue St. Address
1221 Quarrier Street
Venue
HRIST CHURCH UNITED METHODIST
Concert Start Time
7:00 PM
Unzip the Horizon (release: April 7, 2018) unfurls a set of original songs and a couple traditional folk songs. MORE» More»

New album featuring members of tune-yards, Rising Appalachia, Solas...

In a leafy yard at midsummer, in a small hamlet in northwestern Ukraine, an elder singer turned to vocalist and composer, Moira Smiley.  Moira recalls. “She said, matter-of-factly that some singing -- in her case, the powerful,’calling voices of herself and several other singers -- can negotiate a better future by communicating with the ancestors. She gestured toward the horizon, and back to her fellow singers - indicating this dialogue between known and unknown, past and future.”

That moment, chronicled in her new song “Bellow,” shifted something in Smiley, bringing her not only into closer contact with things past, but toward a fast-changing future.  A few years ago, Moira found herself entering new musical zones when she began singing with tune-yards’ Merrill Garbus, exploring Laura Nyro’s music with multi-grammy winner Billy Childs, touring internationally with Irish-American supergroup, Solas and writing commissions for choral superstars like The Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Unzip the Horizon (release: April 7, 2018) unfurls a set of original songs and a couple traditional folk songs enriched by guests including Merrill Garbus, British folk troublemaker Sam Lee, Seamus Egan of Solas, banjo innovator Jayme Stone, Leah & Chloe Smith of Rising Appalachia, Darrell Scott of Band of Joy, and avant-folk duo, Anna and Elizabeth. Building on a world of creaks and whispers, sighs and half-hummed melodies, Smiley jumps into new territory that straddles Americana, indie rock, and folk.  She captures the raw urgency of human connection in these songs - our vulnerable need to stay open to each other even when it hurts.

“I found more voice when I left the isolation of my own ideas and survival instincts.  My sound-world grew, and at the same time I bumped up against my own culture’s limited ideas of what a female voice should sound like and sing about,” Smiley says. “From that conversation in Ukraine through finishing the album, I knew my songwriting would embrace my own raw, ‘calling’ voice because it made my music - and me - feel fierce, personal and true.”

{full story below}

“The voice is a big, fierce, expressive instrument.” muses Smiley. “You feel that when singing many traditional folk songs, but I longed to pull these sounds more into my original music,” Smiley reflects. “Partly because of this longing, I went from leading a vocal group in my little corner of the music world to performing intensively in others’ projects. As each project demanded the utmost of my voice and my ability to listen, I was compelled to break through my self-imposed creative limits - changing everything from how I structured time to how I allowed myself to conjure music and lyric.”

Smiley bursts through these limits in multiple ways on Unzip the Horizon.  Supporting her voice are poised instrumental performances and a delightfully messy, enigmatic set of incidental and ‘found’ sounds. “I didn’t want a clean space for these songs. I wanted the songs to bump up against other noises, and knock around in a world of surprises” Smiley says.  A frightening tenderness hums behind Smiley’s unflinching voice on tracks like “One Step Dance,” about a brief meeting with a stranger that cracked her world open.  In this song, you feel the transformative power of an honest connection - however brief - with another human.

Her emotive range and engagement with folk styles (heard on the Celtic-leaning folk tale of “Wiseman” and the shiver-inducing Appalachian ballad-style “Dressed in Yellow”) is built on years of exploration and training. 

In addition to the influences of her recent collaborations, the tracks contain subtle hints of Smiley’s training in early music and classical piano, which blossomed into a successful early career of performing and recording the music of Arvo Pärt, Hildegard von Bingen, Stockhausen, Purcell and Louis Andriessen with the likes of Paul Hillier, Stevie Wishart, and other leading lights in new and early art music. At the same time, Moira explored the polyphony of Eastern Europe’s striking female singing traditions that she’d heard and sung as a child. She dove into these traditions with her vocal groups, VIDA and VOCO, and brought them to prestigious venues like Lincoln Center, tours of the US and Europe, and into a series of albums. Her fascination with this music took her on several study trips to Eastern Europe, including that fateful midsummer trip to Ukraine.

Closer to home, Unzip The Horizon takes on the issue of white supremacy and its role in shaping American culture with “Sing About It,” whose rich harmonies echo both Sweet Honey in the Rock and Kate Bush. Yet while grappling with the deeply painful, Smiley often overflows with an irrepressible joy at being an artist and having a voice, as heard on the track “So Glad” - another side of the gratitude for human connection that propels the album.

The truth of human resilience, and need for each other came into focus when Smiley went to the Calais Jungle refugee camp in France as part of a project with Expressive Arts Refuge. “I woke to culture and language completely beyond my understanding, and also the simple power of humans making beauty together – from nothing,” she recalls. She distills this experience and finds its universal resonance on “Refugee,” a song that inspires compassion with an urgency reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s brightest moments.

Smiley will celebrate Unzip the Horizon with a Songbook, vinyl release and an all-hands-on-deck release party at the Savannah Music Festival on April 7, 2018 that will trace Smiley’s evolution as singer and composer.  She describes the show: “A stark beginning:  My unaccompanied voice and projected images move to invite bass, banjo, and piano as we travel among mostly original and some traditional songs. The finale is the full 11-person cast singing, stomping and clapping ‘Bellow’ and ‘Sing About It’.”  The Songbook is geared toward her broad base of choral music fans across the world - fully realized vocal arrangements, with and without accompaniment. 

Experience and age transform a singer, giving both insight and a shifting instrument. Smiley found the expressive opportunities of her changing range and style dovetailed with the tales she longed to tell as a songwriter. “I’m letting my voice relax and deepen” Smiley reflects. “Where I was bright and pushing forward before, my voice takes more time to taste the words, let them affect me. I feel more in-relationship to the world when I sing now. There’s a depth and a vulnerability that can happen, that couldn’t before.”

Event
05/12/2018

04/21/2018, Middlebury, VT, Unitarian Universalist Church
03/06/201804/21/2018, Scary, Tender Instrument: Moira Smiley Finds the Raw Power of the Voice to Unzip the Horizon
Event
04/21/2018
Event
04/21/2018
Ticket URL
https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3357710
Ticket Price(s)
$30
Venue Zip
05753
Venue City, State
Middlebury, VT
Venue St. Address
2 Duane Ct.
Venue
Unitarian Universalist Church
Unzip the Horizon (release: April 7, 2018) unfurls a set of original songs and a couple traditional folk songs. MORE» More»

New album featuring members of tune-yards, Rising Appalachia, Solas...

In a leafy yard at midsummer, in a small hamlet in northwestern Ukraine, an elder singer turned to vocalist and composer, Moira Smiley.  Moira recalls. “She said, matter-of-factly that some singing -- in her case, the powerful,’calling voices of herself and several other singers -- can negotiate a better future by communicating with the ancestors. She gestured toward the horizon, and back to her fellow singers - indicating this dialogue between known and unknown, past and future.”

That moment, chronicled in her new song “Bellow,” shifted something in Smiley, bringing her not only into closer contact with things past, but toward a fast-changing future.  A few years ago, Moira found herself entering new musical zones when she began singing with tune-yards’ Merrill Garbus, exploring Laura Nyro’s music with multi-grammy winner Billy Childs, touring internationally with Irish-American supergroup, Solas and writing commissions for choral superstars like The Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Unzip the Horizon (release: April 7, 2018) unfurls a set of original songs and a couple traditional folk songs enriched by guests including Merrill Garbus, British folk troublemaker Sam Lee, Seamus Egan of Solas, banjo innovator Jayme Stone, Leah & Chloe Smith of Rising Appalachia, Darrell Scott of Band of Joy, and avant-folk duo, Anna and Elizabeth. Building on a world of creaks and whispers, sighs and half-hummed melodies, Smiley jumps into new territory that straddles Americana, indie rock, and folk.  She captures the raw urgency of human connection in these songs - our vulnerable need to stay open to each other even when it hurts.

“I found more voice when I left the isolation of my own ideas and survival instincts.  My sound-world grew, and at the same time I bumped up against my own culture’s limited ideas of what a female voice should sound like and sing about,” Smiley says. “From that conversation in Ukraine through finishing the album, I knew my songwriting would embrace my own raw, ‘calling’ voice because it made my music - and me - feel fierce, personal and true.”

{full story below}

“The voice is a big, fierce, expressive instrument.” muses Smiley. “You feel that when singing many traditional folk songs, but I longed to pull these sounds more into my original music,” Smiley reflects. “Partly because of this longing, I went from leading a vocal group in my little corner of the music world to performing intensively in others’ projects. As each project demanded the utmost of my voice and my ability to listen, I was compelled to break through my self-imposed creative limits - changing everything from how I structured time to how I allowed myself to conjure music and lyric.”

Smiley bursts through these limits in multiple ways on Unzip the Horizon.  Supporting her voice are poised instrumental performances and a delightfully messy, enigmatic set of incidental and ‘found’ sounds. “I didn’t want a clean space for these songs. I wanted the songs to bump up against other noises, and knock around in a world of surprises” Smiley says.  A frightening tenderness hums behind Smiley’s unflinching voice on tracks like “One Step Dance,” about a brief meeting with a stranger that cracked her world open.  In this song, you feel the transformative power of an honest connection - however brief - with another human.

Her emotive range and engagement with folk styles (heard on the Celtic-leaning folk tale of “Wiseman” and the shiver-inducing Appalachian ballad-style “Dressed in Yellow”) is built on years of exploration and training. 

In addition to the influences of her recent collaborations, the tracks contain subtle hints of Smiley’s training in early music and classical piano, which blossomed into a successful early career of performing and recording the music of Arvo Pärt, Hildegard von Bingen, Stockhausen, Purcell and Louis Andriessen with the likes of Paul Hillier, Stevie Wishart, and other leading lights in new and early art music. At the same time, Moira explored the polyphony of Eastern Europe’s striking female singing traditions that she’d heard and sung as a child. She dove into these traditions with her vocal groups, VIDA and VOCO, and brought them to prestigious venues like Lincoln Center, tours of the US and Europe, and into a series of albums. Her fascination with this music took her on several study trips to Eastern Europe, including that fateful midsummer trip to Ukraine.

Closer to home, Unzip The Horizon takes on the issue of white supremacy and its role in shaping American culture with “Sing About It,” whose rich harmonies echo both Sweet Honey in the Rock and Kate Bush. Yet while grappling with the deeply painful, Smiley often overflows with an irrepressible joy at being an artist and having a voice, as heard on the track “So Glad” - another side of the gratitude for human connection that propels the album.

The truth of human resilience, and need for each other came into focus when Smiley went to the Calais Jungle refugee camp in France as part of a project with Expressive Arts Refuge. “I woke to culture and language completely beyond my understanding, and also the simple power of humans making beauty together – from nothing,” she recalls. She distills this experience and finds its universal resonance on “Refugee,” a song that inspires compassion with an urgency reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s brightest moments.

Smiley will celebrate Unzip the Horizon with a Songbook, vinyl release and an all-hands-on-deck release party at the Savannah Music Festival on April 7, 2018 that will trace Smiley’s evolution as singer and composer.  She describes the show: “A stark beginning:  My unaccompanied voice and projected images move to invite bass, banjo, and piano as we travel among mostly original and some traditional songs. The finale is the full 11-person cast singing, stomping and clapping ‘Bellow’ and ‘Sing About It’.”  The Songbook is geared toward her broad base of choral music fans across the world - fully realized vocal arrangements, with and without accompaniment. 

Experience and age transform a singer, giving both insight and a shifting instrument. Smiley found the expressive opportunities of her changing range and style dovetailed with the tales she longed to tell as a songwriter. “I’m letting my voice relax and deepen” Smiley reflects. “Where I was bright and pushing forward before, my voice takes more time to taste the words, let them affect me. I feel more in-relationship to the world when I sing now. There’s a depth and a vulnerability that can happen, that couldn’t before.”

Event
04/21/2018