Lori Laitman: They might not need me

6 01 2010

Hidden smile

by focus2capture, used under Creative Commons

Since I try to highlight works in the public domain, I have essentially been ignoring anything published after 1923. This is a pity, because there is so much wonderful and exciting music that has come along since then! Lest you get the wrong impression that we might not need them, I’ll try to be better about incorporating them.

Several years ago, I performed at a national convention, and composer Lori Laitman approached me afterward, suggesting I look at some of her songs. I was not disappointed, as her music covers quite the range of expression, from humorous and lively (as in this song from the cycle Night and Day) to dark and somber. All her songs have a lot of heart, making it easy for both singer and audience to connect with them. Additionally, Laitman selects excellent texts, demanding equally excellent diction and commitment to character from the singer.

They might not need me — yet they might —
I’ll let my Heart be just in sight —
A smile so small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity —

–Emily Dickinson

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Sir Hubert Parry: Jerusalem; Under the Greenwood Tree

21 09 2009

It’s a two-for-one day!

by Scott St. George (used under Creative Commons)

picture by Scott St. George (used under Creative Commons)

And did those feet in ancient times walk upon England’s mountains green?

Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (referred to as C.H.H. Parry or Sir Hubert Parry) does not have the same name recognition, perhaps, as some of his contemporaries or successors (Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Finzi, or Quilter, to name a few) despite his distinguished positions at the Royal College of Music and Oxford University. Regardless, his noble, stately setting of William Blake’s poem, Jerusalem,  has become something of an unofficial English national anthem.

Dame Felicity Lott was one of the first lyric sopranos I ever heard who grasped me with not just her beautiful voice, but also with herability to really communicate a text; I still remember her vividly as Pamina in the video of Mozart’s The Magic Flute and as Anne Truelove in the recording of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. So when I came across her 2004 CD of English Song, entitled “My Own Country,” I knew I had to feature it, especially when combined with a discovery of a vast public domain treasure trove of songs by Parry.

Under the Greenwood Tree is another great example of Parry’s ability to create a sound-world in music that echoes the mood of the text. The music is playful throughout, but the enemies of “winter and rough weather” sound stark, though not particularly threatening.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?




Rhené-Bâton: Sérénade Mélancolique

6 05 2009

With your body, with your arms, make a tomb

With your body, with your arms, make a tomb

My love for the International Musical Scores Library Project grows by the day! Today, I discovered scores by a conductor and composer from the early 20th Century named Rhené-Bâton. His music sounds like a hybrid of Debussy and Fauré – not a bad thing!

The fourth song of Rhené-Bâton’s Op. 16 has an unabashed romantic flair. Much of the text describes the beauty one finds in a lover. At the end, though, the text turns dramatically, and the singer asks the beloved to “make a tomb” with his or her body within which the singer can hide from pain, hence the “melancholy” of the title.

Text (Jean Lahor) and new translation behind cut: Read the rest of this entry »





Ralph Vaughan Williams: Easter

12 04 2009
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The cross taught all wood to resound his name

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him may’st rise;
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, Just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied,
And multiplied;
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

–George Herbert





William Walton: Holy Thursday

9 04 2009

O what a multitude they seemed, these flowers of London town!

O what a multitude they seemed, these flowers of London town!

Today is Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday, given your tradition. It is the day of the Last Supper and of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. I will be in Church this evening, singing in the choir and watching the crowds and the stately procession, just like Walton captures in this song.





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.