‘Sound the Bells: Recorded Live at Orchestra Hall,’ the collaboration between singer, rapper, author, philosophy enthusiast, and ice cream/whiskey inspiration Dessa, and the Grammy-winning Minnesota Orchestra, is out today via Doomtree Records. Combining the raw energy and swagger of Dessa’s slam-poetry past and indie hip-hop present with the finesse and cinematic textures of the Orchestra (conducted by Sarah Hicks), the album presents seventeen of Dessa’s best-known tracks expertly reimagined by musician and composer Andy Thompson.
Recorded live over two nights at Minneapolis’ famed Orchestra Hall, ‘Sound the Bells’ is an embodiment of the creative partnership between Dessa and the Minnesota Orchestra that has blossomed over the last four years. Beginning with collaborative live performances, and punctuated by Dessa’s travel to South Africa with the Orchestra to record the physical and emotional experiences of performing in the church that was the epicenter of Nelson Mandela’s struggle against apartheid, ‘Sound the Bells’ is the natural progression of the alliance between these two Minnesota institutions.
Grant Meachum, Director, Live at Orchestra Hall, said “The Minnesota Orchestra’s collaborative relationship with Dessa has been lightning in a bottle since our first shows together in April 2017. To be able to join the talents of Dessa and arranger Andy Thompson with one of the world’s great orchestras is a shining example of how musicians from different worlds can partner to create something greater than the sum of their parts. We’re so proud to be able to share this collaboration with the world.”
Listen to ‘Sound the Bells’ HERE
From the sweeping strings of cathartic post-heartbreaker “Call off Your Ghost” to the fierce flow of certified orchestral-banger “Fighting Fish” and earnestness of “Boy Crazy” (which, at first, might make you think you Spotify-searched “Tchaikovsky”), ‘Sound the Bells’ is an equally cerebral and emotionally-rich work, reflective of Dessa herself. On “The Chaccone,” a maddening tale of a musician whose obsessive love for his chaccone (a type of baroque dance) consumes his life and costs him his relationship, she flips an 18th century scenario into a 21st century reality for anyone who has ever dated a lawyer, banker, or tortured artist; on “The Bullpen,” she proves a penchant for feminist anthem-writing; and on the heart-pounding crescendos of closer “Skeleton Key,” she successfully argues the final leg of her dissertation on why rap and classical music might not be such strange bedfellows after all.
Starting November 20th, Dessa will take the music of ‘Sound the Bells’ on tour with a string quartet, transforming her typically badass, tear-it-up club shows into tear-it-up club shows with the elegance and richness of a string quartet backing. She’s honed the show over six sold out performances with the Minnesota Orchestra, and a recent rehearsal regiment leading up to her European orchestral debut with the BBC NOW Orchestra in Cardiff Wales (watch a video HERE), and all her US dates are below.
11/20 New York, NY - The Greene Space
11/21 Washington, DC - Sixth & I
11/22 Brooklyn, NY - National Sawdust
11/23 Boston, MA - City Winery - SOLD OUT
11/24 Philadelphia, PA - City Winery
1/16 San Francisco, CA - The Chapel
1/18 Seattle, WA - The Crocodile
1/19 Portland, OR - Aladdin Theater
Dessa is a rapper, writer, and public speaker whose extraordinary career spans many genres. As a writer, she has contributed to The New York Times, the Star Tribune, the hit podcast Welcome to Night Vale,and literary journals around the country. She’s hosted radio and TV events, delivered keynote speeches around the country, contributed to The Hamilton Mixtape, and tried every dessert that was ever offered to her. Dessa has toured North America, Europe, Australia, China, and South Africa, both as a solo artist and as a proud member of the Doomtree hip-hop collective.
In August of 2019, TED.com featured a talk on heartbreak and neuroscience that Dessa delivered in Hong Kong. In the weeks since, her speech, titled Can We Choose to Fall Out of Love, has accrued more than 1.5 million views. Other recent career accomplishments include 2018’s acclaimed album Chime, a Super Bowl 2018 performance, in spring of 2019, she performed her sixth straight sold-out show with the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall. The Utne Reader called her simply a “one-woman powerhouse.”