Montana Public Radio

Moira Smiley’s Latest Album Answers The Question, 'Why Sing?'

Jun 27, 2019

She sings “old modal folk songs” with Solas one week and performs with the indie band tUnE-yArDs the next. You might catch her with her own group as they re-imagine the piano miniatures of Bartók, or at a choir rehearsal of her original choral compositions.  Musical improviser and experimenter Moira Smiley returns to “Musician’s Spotlight” on the heels of her latest release, “Unzip The Horizon.” About it, she says: “The lonesome freedom and experience of years on tour were midwife to this music, all about seeing down to the origins of anxiety and up into the freedoms we ignore.”

She’s released a 118-page companion songbook to “Unzip The Horizon” containing sheet music, vocal parts, lead sheets and a “guide to body percussion” for the album’s twelve songs - the better to guide soloists and ensembles to create their own interpretations. Getting groups of people singing and moving is a habit for this conservatory-trained student of folk songs and theater improv; her solo shows are often paired with residencies, teaching participants how to make their whole selves ‘be’ the music.

In addition to her own group, moira smiley & VOCO, she’s toured with Indie artist tUnE-yArDs, Irish-American band, Solas, The Lomax Project and jazz pianist Billy Childs’s “Laura Nyro Re-Imagined.” Smiley has also toured with Paul Hillier’s Theater of Voices and KITKA.  You might see her onstage at a TEDx conference, a BBC Proms concert, or behind the scenes in Helena, Montana, at the premier of her choral work, “Headwaters,” which was commissioned for Helena high school singers.

Join host John Floridis as he catches up with Moira Smiley’s musical marriage of tradition and experimentation.

(Broadcast: "Musician's Spotlight,"  6/27/19. Listen on the radio Thursdays, 7:30 p.m., or via podcast.)