Ari Picker (of Lost in the Trees)
Lion and the Lamb

Ari Picker

Lion and the Lamb


Ari Picker is best known as the front man for the acclaimed orchestral indie rock band Lost in the Trees, but the Chapel Hill native also studied composition at Berklee School of Music. For Lion and the Lamb, a Duke Performances commission, Picker assembled a superb local ensemble of both indie rock and classical musicians for a new work inspired by Book of Hours, Rainer Maria Rilke’s early masterpiece of devotional poetry.

Lion and the Lamb finds Picker expanding his compositional palette, drawing new inspiration from minimalism and jazz improvisation. Picker premiered this piece on March 27 & 28, 2015, at the Nelson Music Room, joined by vocalists Skylar Gudasz and Phil Moore (Bowerbirds), saxophonist Matthew Douglas (Hiss Golden Messenger), percussionist Peter Lewis (Lost in the Trees), pianist Jesse Kapsha, and the New Music Raleigh String Quartet.

“Mr. Picker’s extraordinary arrangements for strings and choral voices find no precedent in rock and pop.”

Wall Street Journal


The Lion and the Lamb song-cycle is an expression of my emotional response to Rilke’s work. As I read and re-read the poetry, I became inspired to make a ‘soundtrack for Rilke.’ Putting poetry to music sometimes required that I make my own translation. Sometimes, the music would require only a snippet of poetry to convey Rilke’s spirit. This experiment in composition needed to feel spontaneous and emotional. The song cycle describes my own experience with poetry and provides a musical companion for Rilke’s reflections on life and mysticism. Songwriting has always been an opportunity for me to feel like I’m connecting to something spiritual, something that I can only touch by creating art. It’s not necessary to explain anything, just to exist with it. My heart seems to open up when beauty is the only goal.

Rilke’s The Book of Hours included all the shadows and rough edges of life, the anxiety that I was feeling, along with glimpses of golden colors and a vast openness. The modern minimalism and beauty of Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt seemed like a landscape where Rilke could live. I took that palette, the feelings those composers gave me, and I had a springboard to jump off from. My goal with this piece is to represent Rilke’s admiration and horror of life and God, and to explore the interplay between minimalist, tight structures and the free rhythm of jazz.

— Ari Picker


Ari Picker, composer/bass
Phil Moore, lead vocals/opener
Skylar Gudasz, lead vocals
Matthew Douglas, saxophone
Peter Lewis, drums
Jesse Kapsha, piano
Michael Hrivnak, french horn

Karen Galvin, violin
Maria Evola Meyer, violin
Sam Gold, viola
David Meyer, cello

Made possible, in part, by the Durham Council for the Arts.


  • WUNC, Lion And The Lamb
  • INDY Week, The restless roots of Ari Picker’s first project after the end of Lost in the Trees
  • INDY Week, Live: Emotional ins and outs with Lion and the Lamb in Durham
  • Independent Clauses, Concert Review: Ari Picker’s Lion and the Lamb

Ari Picker