Modern music and classic literature will combine Thursday at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
Hadestown is a folk opera by Vermont singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell, who rewrote the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to the music of her own soundtrack. She released an album version last year on Ani DiFrancos Fort Lewis College Righteous Babe Records. DiFranco, Bon Iver and Greg Brown are a few of the neo-folk stars who voiced the underworld roles on the album.
For the traveling show, Mitchell lined up a special group of Colorado voices: Reed Foehl, K.C. Groves, Michael Chorney and the Hadestown Orchestra and Paper Bird, the trio of chanteuses Esme Patterson, Sarah Anderson and Genny Patterson, who already have established a modest Durango following.
Coming from an academic and musical background (her father was an English professor), Mitchells songwriting style is more accurately described as storytelling set to music. Other influences are classic country, the cabaret sound of Brecht and Weill and even Pink Floyds semi-narrative The Wall.
The books and the records all lived in the same room, Mitchell writes, which I am sure led to me thinking of songwriting as a kind of literature, a noble poetic enterprise.
Her influences and styles are heard in Hadestown. The story, reset in a post-apocalyptic world with an almost gypsyesque feel, follows the poet who ventures into the underworld to rescue his dead wife. Such projects can be created in a quiet, TV-free New England setting. What started with Mitchell and a few friends, has grown into first, a regional, then a national tour with a cast of two dozen.
Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer, a Brooklyn-based musician who is known throughout Colorado as a member of Great American Taxi, will open the show with a more traditional performance of Child Ballads, a selection of traditional songs.