Encore Michigan

Acclaimed singer/songwriter Gabriel Kahane’s “Book of Travelers” at UMS February 2

Preview January 11, 2018 Encore Staff

ANN ARBOR—UMS will present Gabriel Kahane’s 8980: Book of Travelers February 2 at 8:00 pm.

Over the last decade, Gabriel Kahane has quietly established himself as one of the leading exponents of American song, grafting a deep interest in character and narrative to a keen sense of harmony and rhythm. Kahane has collaborated with a diverse array of artists, including Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, Blake Mills, and Chris Thile.

In Ann Arbor, the singer-songwriter will perform 8980: Book of Travelers, the highly anticipated follow-up to his acclaimed stage piece, The Ambassador.

The morning after the 2016 presidential election, Kahane packed a suitcase and set out for a two-week train trip across the US with no phone or internet, embracing 8,980 miles of a reclusive Amtrak existence. Book of Travelers is the resulting hymn to the analog intimacy of American rail culture as an antidote to the fragmentation and efficiency of modern life.

Alone at the piano, Kahane draws from dining car conversations with dozens of strangers — cowboys, postmasters, religious luddites, national park conservationists, drifters, and software engineers — to sing of his own upended assumptions about the body politic as revealed through his unplugged railroad exile.

Gabriel Kahane began to work in theater in New York City after winning a Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Award for Straight Man, which he wrote in college. He worked with New York theater company Les Freres Corbusier, music directing A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant and the LA production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson for Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers.

His musical February House, commissioned by The Public Theater, told the story of a Brooklyn World War II-era commune, where W.H. Auden, Gypsy Rose Lee, Benjamin Britten, Carson McCullers, Jane Bowles, and Paul Bowles all lived together.

His album “The Ambassador” was staged in 2014-15 by Tony-award winner John Tiffany with set design by Tony-award winner Christine Jones. Kahane is currently under commission for new pieces by Virginia’s Signature Theatre and by The Public Theater in New York.

In Kahane’s best-known work, the song cycle “Craigslistlieder”, the composer set real Craigslist ads to music. Other artists have covered this voice-and-piano piece, and Audra McDonald has included “Craigslistlieder” in her standard repertoire.

As part of a 2012-2013 residency with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Kahane wrote “Gabriel’s Guide to the 48 States”. The piece was inspired by the American Guide Series commissioned by the government during the Great Depression. The piece received its New York premiere at Carnegie Hall in April, 2013.

Tickets for 8980: Book of Travelers are available online at ums.org/performance/gabriel-kahanes-book-of-travelers/.