Robert Coningsby Clarke: The Blind Ploughman

6 04 2009

Let the little birds of faith come and nest therein

"Let the little birds of faith come and nest therein"

This gem be Robert Coningsby Clarke (or possibly Conigsby Clarke) may be his only musical legacy — he is not even mentioned in Baker’s Biographical Dictionary, which is usually exhaustive. Regardless, it is one of my favorite pieces to give baritones early in their study. The text is inspirational and the music is dramatic and compelling.

There are few recordings of this, and I find Robeson’s to be the best, with Eddy’s a close second. Though expressive, Feodor Chaliapin’s voice and English leave something to be desired, but I feel I should mention it because of his phenomenal career on stage and screen.

I’ve submitted the text to recmusic.org, but until it’s published, I present it here.

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Edvard Grieg: Jeg elsker dig (I love you / Ich liebe dich)

4 04 2009
Thought of my thoughts alone have you become

"Thought of my thoughts alone have you become"

The thought of being so in love with someone that you want to be near them into eternity is quite romantic, so romantic, in fact, that once Grieg set Hans Christian Andersen’s poem Jeg elsker dig to music, it soon had multiple singing translations in German, English, and other languages (I have located numerous editions, all widely published and performed, with no less than two in German and five in English!) The song was included in the 1944 operetta Song of Norway by Robert Wright and George Forrest.





Roger Quilter: Now sleeps the crimson petal

30 03 2009

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"The fire-fly wakens; waken thou with me"

There is a tenderness to this song which is quite fetching. The piano is light and delicate, gentle. The voice must also maintain a certain tender quality throughout. And yet, the love the singer feels is powerful, palpable, sensuous.





Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Call

29 03 2009

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"Such a heart as joys in love"

The fourth movement of Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs for choir and baritone soloist, full of light and festivity, calls to mind the joyful banquet of heaven.  I particularly enjoy the recording of the St. Paul’s Cathedral Choristers because the purity of the voices seems appropriate for the music.





H.T. Burleigh: Deep River

25 03 2009

Red River Flooding #1, by Cobber99 (CC)

The Red River flooding is on my mind today. I recently sang with Fargo-Moorhead opera. I have friends in Fargo. My parents are from Bismarck/Mandan, where the Missouri is flooding, too.

I woke up with this song in my head this morning and found it comforting. “Oh, don’t you want to go…?” Yes, I do. But I must stay home and work on finishing my doctoral thesis. My thoughts and prayers go out in support of those living and helping in these communities.

Deep river, my home is over Jordan.
Deep river, Lord, I want to cross over into camp ground.
Oh, don’t you want to go to that gospel feast?
That promised land, where all is peace?





Charles Tomlinson Griffes: An Old Song Re-sung

23 03 2009

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"The summer wind was failing and the tall ship rolled"

A grand pirate ship sails by and the crew drinks merrily. For whatever reason, the ship begins to sink, but the crew takes no notice. Finally, the ship goes under and only the floating bottles remain, clinking against one another. Griffes captured all these moments deftly in this gem.

As a young singer, I patterned my voice after singers I liked the sound of. Before formal study, it was David Gayne of Depeche Mode; when I started singing in earnest, I copied Thomas Hampson, to the point my teacher regularly reminded me, “Stop trying to sound like him!” This piece shows well what I liked about him — the dedication to the text paired with a warm but powerful vocal instrument capable of an extremely wide range of dynamics and colors.





Ludwig van Beethoven: Come draw we round a cheerful ring, from Irish songs, WoO 152, No. 11

17 03 2009

No, Gossip Winter, snug within, we have no room for thee.

"No, Gossip Winter, snug within, we have no room for thee."

One of the hallmarks of the Irish is their love of stories, music, and community. Though not Irish, Beethoven caught the festive mood of a celebration in this catchy tune.

Beethoven wrote three sets of Irish songs for voice and string trio at the behest of Scottish folk song collector and publisher George Thomson. The songs range from quick and lively to heart-rendingly touching.

As it is St. Patrick’s day, I was searching for musical scores of Irish music this morning. Since I couldn’t find the Beethoven songs, I offer instead an online volume of Sixty Irish Songs, edited by William Arms Fisher.