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Monthly Archives: May 2018

  • Featured @ NATS

    The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) is one of the newer conferences we've added to our summer rounds, and we couldn't be more excited about it collaborating with this great group! In 2018 we loved hosting a showcase of Juliana Hall's music, performed by soprano Amy Petrongelli and pianist Blair Salter, as well as watching Matt Boehler perform his own Foursquare Cathedral.

    NATS Logo NATS logo

    American composer Juliana Hall is well known for her gorgeous and meticulously-crafted art songs, which have been described as “beguiling” (Times of London), “beautiful in ways both traditional and strikingly original” (Austin Chronicle), and “the most genuinely moving music of the afternoon” (Boston Globe). Singers and audiences alike take delight in her songs, whose brilliant tonal, textural, and rhythmic language makes her work immediately recognizable and wonderfully familiar, and show her to be “a composer who savours lyrical lines and harmonies peppered with gentle spices” (Gramophone). Meet the composer at this live performance by soprano Amy Petrongelli and pianist Blair Salter, and find out why the art songs of Juliana Hall are “positively magical.”

    “A Birthday” from Christina’s World

    “Some Things Are Dark” from Night Dances

    “Silver Bells” from The Bells

    “A Northeast Storm”

    “Hiding” from A World Turned Upside Down

    “Dream” from Propriety

    “Under the Harvest Moon” from When the South Wind Sings

    “Sonnet” from Night Dances

    “Papa above!” from In Reverence

     

    In addition to the showcase, we're proud to have several NATS award winners in our catalog. Most recently they are:

    2018: Tawnie Olson, Three Songs on Poems by Lorri Neilsen Glenn (second prize)

    2017: Matt Boehler, Foursquare Cathedral (first prize)

    2016: David Conte, American Death Ballads (first prize)

     

    We're also pleased to release a new 2-disc album just in time for this event: Everyone Sang: Vocal Music of David Conte.

     

    We hope to see you there!

     

  • Invitation: St. Olaf Conference on Worship, Theology and the Arts

    Guest post by Mark Stover, Conference Coordinator and Lisa Brown, Conference Administrator.
    2018 Conference on Worship, Theology and the Arts Logo 2018 Conference on Worship, Theology and the Arts Logo

    The St. Olaf Conference on Worship, Theology and the Arts offers professional development, spiritual nourishment and networking opportunities for persons engaged in congregational ministry. The conference is offered in partnership with MorningStarMusic Publishers.

    Are you in need of spiritual refreshment? Do you want to breathe new life into your ministry?  Are you looking for new ideas for worship? Do you want to polish your handbell skills? Would you like to make beautiful music in a beautiful place? Do you have a yearning to learn?

    If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then The St. Olaf Conference on Worship, Theology and the Arts is the place for you! The conference will be held on the St. Olaf College campus July 16-20, 2018.

    At this conference, participants are invited to experience the “Living Breath of God” with the choral, organ and handbell faculty of St. Olaf College and guest faculty from a range of denominations and ministries. Our conference week will focus on the workings of the Holy Spirit and our daily worship will be built on this foundation.

    Registration for this conference is now open. We are offering a discounted registration fee for those bringing 3 or more participants (staff or lay) from a single congregation. We’d love to have you join us!

  • May 23, 2018 | A Double-Feature for Juliana Hall

    Art song composer Juliana Hall will be featured in two concerts on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - first in the U.K., then in the U.S. a few hours later.

    At 6:00 PM in London, the new art song series Re-Sung is devoting an entire concert to Hall's work, touting her as "one of the brightest voices in contemporary American art song."  The concert takes place at Bloomsbury Baptist Church, 235 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8EP, and will include Hall's soprano song cycle "When the South Wind Sings" and her baritone cycle "Death's Echo."

    Re-Sung was founded by Dylan Perez, an American pianist who graduated in 2016 with Distinction from the Artist Masters programme at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London; he is currently enrolled in the Artist Diploma course at the School. Perez was recently awarded the Gerald Moore Award and the Paul Hamburger Prize for Accompaniment.

    Joining Perez is Australian/American soprano Corinne Cowling, who recently graduated with a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance with Distinction from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and has performed widely throughout the U.K. and internationally. She was awarded first place in the 2016 Franz-Schubert-Institut Competition and placed third in the 2017 Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition.

    Performing "Death's Echo" is New Zealand baritone Julien Van Mellaerts, who graduated from the Royal College of Music International Opera School and has also concertized throughout the U.K. and internationally. Van Mellaerts won first prize at the 2017 Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation International Song Competition and first prize in the 2017 Kathleen Ferrier Awards.

    Perez Perez
    Cowling Cowling
    Van Mellaerts Van Mellaerts

     

     

     

     

     

    Returning to U.S. shores, Hall's music will be celebrated in a special concert presented by the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar at the Crane School of Music on the campus of SUNY Potsdam in upstate New York. Fall Island's mission is to encourage autonomous artistry in emerging artist-level performers through the study and interpretation of art song by living American composers.

    Stephanie Blythe Stephanie Blythe

    Hall was invited by Artistic Director Stephanie Blythe to be the 2018 Guest "Spotlight" Composer at this year's seminar. During the day on Wednesday the 23rd, Hall will coach the outstanding 2018 Fellowship Artists in the preparation of her songs, which will be performed later at the 7:30 PM concert "An Evening with American Composer Juliana Hall." This event will be live-streamed by the Crane School and Fall Island.

    Blythe and Music Director Alan Smith will also speak with Hall about her music.

    Songs will include "A Birthday" from the song cycle Christina's World, A Northeast Storm,"Under the Harvest Moon" from the cycle When the South Wind Singscycle, "Death's Echo" from the eponymous-named , "Dream" from the cycle Propriety, and "Song" from the cycle Night Dances.  In addition, Blythe and Smith will perform the premiere of "At That Hour When All Things Have Repose," from the cycle Of That So Sweet Imprisonment, which Hall composed especially for Blythe (and which will be premiered in its entirety at a later date).

    Next sighting:

    Juliana Hall's next big event, "Positively Magical" - The Art Songs of Juliana Hall takes place on Sunday, June 24, 2018 at 1:10 PM at the National Conference of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). Soprano Amy Petrongelli and pianist Blair Salter will perform a program of art songs by Juliana Hall, sponsored by E. C. Schirmer. Come meet Juliana Hall at NATS!

  • For a Breath of Ecstasy - Gramophone Review

    Michael John Trotta's For a Breath of Ecstasy, was recorded by the Northwestern State University Chamber Choir, under the direction of Nicholaus B. Cummins. The recording recently received a review in Gramophone by Donald Rosenberg:

    The American composer Michael John Trotta has concentrated on choral music for most of his career. The newest disc devoted to his works offers both secular and sacred fare. Its title, ‘For a Breath of Ecstasy,’ is a line from one of the seven Sara Teasdale poems Trotta has set for choir, oboe and string quartet. The poems come from an extensive Teasdale collection, Love Songs, that won her the first Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1918.

    The poems in Trotta’s cycle, commissioned to mark the Teasdale-Pulitzer centennial, are reflections by a woman grateful for the affection she has received. The lyrical verses prompted the composer to summon equally lyrical musical responses, with appealing melodic lines, tender harmonies and a palette of glowing vocal and instrumental colors.

    Trotta binds the cycle together with a beguiling theme, first played by the oboe, that leads to all manner of lovely choral lines. The ‘ecstasy’ soars in the fifth song, ‘Spend all you have on loveliness’, a poignant and apt thought, especially for a poet who was called ‘first, last and always a singer’ in an early review of Love Songs. The disc is rounded out by three sacred pieces for unaccompanied choir that show Trotta in his rapturous element, whether the texts are English or Latin.

     

    Listen to the complete recording below.

     

     

  • Discovering Forgotten Treasures

    Guest Post by Dr. Carol Kimball

    Songs of Gouvy, edited by MeeAe Cecilia Nam.  In two volumes. Vol. 1: 40 Poèmes de Pierre de Ronsard, 12 Poèmes de La Pléiade; Vol. 2: 18 Sonnets et Chansons de Desportes; 18 Poésies de Moritz Hartmann. Published by E. C. Schirmer Music Company.

    MeeAe Cecilia Nam MeeAe Cecilia Nam

    Explorers of French mélodie have an interesting journey ahead. Have you heard of the songs of Théodore Gouvy? Neither had I, but thanks to the research and study of Dr. MeeAe Cecilia Nam, there are eighty-eight songs by this nineteenth-century composer now available for perusal and performance. E. C. Schirmer Music Company has recently released a two-volume critical edition titled Songs of Gouvy, containing the song catalog of composer Louis Théodore Gouvy (1819-1898), edited by Dr. Nam, Professor of Voice at Eastern Michigan University, who has devoted the last number of years to Gouvy’s song output. These publications are the fruits of that labor.

    This sizeable collection of 88 French songs has been virtually unknown and forgotten until recently. In order to preserve Gouvy’s legacy and perpetuate research and performance of his music, L’Institut de Théodore Gouvy was founded in 1995 in Hombourg-Haut, France and began to lure scholars and performers to work with and perform his music in concerts. A small number of CDs have been produced, and little by little, Gouvy’s name is surfacing as more than a petit maître.

    Gouvy was a prolific composer; his catalog includes more than 200 compositions, including works for large orchestra (including 8 symphonies), a huge repertoire of chamber music, large vocal religious works, two operas, and over 100 songs.

    His catalog of compositions has been slow to surface, quite possibly due to his birthplace in Alsace, which at the time straddled two countries and cultures, Germany and France. In 1815 the border between France and Germany fluctuated, and Gouvy was the only family member designated as German instead of French. He was denied French citizenship until he was thirty-two.

    Louis Théodore Gouvy (1819-1898) was born into a wealthy French industrial family. He studied law in Paris, but gave it up to pursue a career in music. Always drawn to music, art, and languages, he began to compose, working privately with teachers at the Paris Conservatoire, since the circumstances of his birth precluded admitting him to study there. His compositions drew inspiration from both German and French cultures.

    Gouvy produced a sizeable listing of symphonies, chamber music, and other instrumental forms, waiting until the mid-century mark to really concentrate on composing songs. He led a diverse cultural life, interacting with contemporaries who admired his work and whom Gouvy knew well: Liszt, Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, and Gounod among others. Though he knew and was admired by many fellow composers, his career never really took off as he'd hoped, and his musical legacy remained largely obscure as well. At his death in 1898, his music was largely forgotten. Today his name is slowly being revived.

    It is not surprising that Gouvy’s love for art, and languages manifested itself in his composing a large body of French song, and that he chose poetry almost exclusively from sixteenth-century French poet Pierre de Ronsard, and the group of his compatriots known as the Pléiade poets. Gouvy was a lover of nature and as such, would naturally be drawn to the poems of Ronsard and this group. Gouvy only deviated from Ronsard and the Pléiades to set the verses of his good friend, poet Moritz Hartmann (1821-1872), whom he met around 1845.  Hartmann’s verses tend toward the political, championing the freedom of the individual. The French poet, Adolph Larmande, translated eighteen of Hartmann’s poems from German to French and when these songs were published, they were published in both languages. His cultural duality was very much a part of Gouvy’s compositional persona even then.

    Gouvy’s settings of Hartmann appear in Larmande’s French translation in volume 2. The songs that make up Opus 21 and Opus 26 are Gouvy’s settings of Hartmann’s poetry and are designated for baritone and tenor, respectively.

    E. C. Schirmer’s two anthologies are handsomely designed and sturdily packaged. Each large volume is spiral-bound for ease in handling and performing.  In addition to the musical scores, both volumes contain complete texts and translations, with critical notes on the texts. The original texts in sixteenth-century French spellings—and in the case of Hartmann’s poems, the poems in their original German—are given as well.  All the texts in the musical score appear in modern French used today.

    Songs of Gouvy Songs of Gouvy

    Finally, both volumes end with an extensive article dealing with French versification written by Catherine Bessone, Professor of French Language and Literature. For singers, collaborative pianists, teachers, and any other musicians who want to understand more about the French texts with which they’re working, it is full of information. Some may find it most useful to start by looking up the French poetic forms and using those as guides for exploring the complexities of sixteenth-century French verse.

    Although the two volumes contain works for voice and piano, there are several instances of additional performance combinations: “Avril,” Rémy Belleau’s paean to nature’s bountiful gifts is set as a duet; and “A Cassandre, ” perhaps Ronsard’s best-known ode (“Mignonne, allons voir si la rose”) features a cello obbligato, as does another of the poet’s most celebrated verses, “A sa maîtresse,” which contains a favorite sixteenth century poetic theme—carpe diem—an exhortation to seize and enjoy the moment since youth and love are fleeting. As Ronsard spins his web of seduction, the cello echoes its own tempting subtext.

    Gouvy produced his large body of songs in the compressed time of several years; they were not well known in his life time, and they remain so today, yet here is a composer who had an extraordinary warmth of feeling for the human voice and produced not only songs, but larger vocal works and two operas as well.  In the notes that accompany her CD of Gouvy songs, MeeAe Cecilia Nam writes that the songs have both a French and German character, which might well have caused some confusion in classifying them as French mélodies or German Lieder.  We might conclude that his songs were too German for the French, and too French for the Germans.

    Gouvy’s musical style has been likened to Mendelssohn or Gounod. It may be that like Gounod, Gouvy intended his songs for the consumption of the bourgeoisie, interested in in taking French song into their parlors along with Schubert’s Lieder. Gouvy’s beautifully crafted songs helped establish that French song could blend lovely melodies, expressive accompaniments, and fine poetry with the same results as the German composers did with Lieder. There is a fluid lyricism in the piano accompaniments, and an adherence to classical French style, which combines lyricism and precision.  The songs are notable for their French sense of proportion—graceful and well crafted. Gouvy was himself a pianist, and in his songs, the piano writing often collaborates with the voice, most especially in creating the emotional mood and overall poetic atmosphere.

    Rather than languishing in obscurity, these songs definitely deserve careful consideration as both teaching and performing material. We applaud Dr. Nam’s passion and research for bringing them to light so that teachers and singers may give them careful examination. They have their own unique voice that deserves to be heard, full of melodious vocal phrases rather than subtle details, underpinned with undulating accompaniments encased in colorful rhythmic figures which sustain overall emotional mood. They are inventive, engaging, quite approachable musically, and pose few vocal difficulties. They deserve a place in the body of standard French song repertoire.

    We are fortunate to live in a time in which the rediscovery of musical treasures long forgotten is more possible than it has ever been. Many thanks to Dr. MeeAe Cecilia Nam for her dedicated efforts in bringing this fascinating and substantial catalog of songs to light. In doing so, she has further enriched the art song catalog for singers, scholars, and the many artists for whom discovering new repertoire is always an important part of the vocal experience. Chapeau!

     


    Dr. Carol Kimball is Emerita Professor of Voice, and Barrick Distinguished Scholar at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is the author of Song: A Guide to Art Song Style and Literature; Art Song: Linking Poetry and Music

     

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