I wanted to do a project for my grandchildren. After much thought, I decided performing Poulenc’s The Story of Babar would do nicely. I’d always admired Poulenc’s Babar music, and think it contains some of his best material. My only disappointment with Babar was that Poulenc used an abridged version of the story. I always wondered what other great music we missed out on because Poulenc didn’t do the whole thing.
Then I had a crazy thought. “I’m a composer. Why don’t I just fill in the bits Poulenc didn’t do? That will make the gift of the Babar story that much more personal and special !”
If I hadn’t been thinking about who is was for, I’d have thought about it too much and would never have had the courage to put my music side by side with Poulenc’s. Fortunately, I just naively pressed ahead and intimidation never set in.
I didn’t try to imitate Poulenc in any way. I just wrote as I naturally would. The result holds up just fine, I think. And Poulenc’s music and mine go together surprisingly well. (Considering how much I love his music, and what an influence he’s been, maybe not so surprising?)
The resulting music is about 50% Poulenc and 50% me. If you’re not already familiar with the Poulenc, and are curious who wrote what, here’s a breakdown showing the composer for each scene:
Babar is born
digging in the sand
riding on his mother’s back
Babar’s mother is shot
Babar runs away
the city and two gentlemen
the Old Lady gives Babar her purse
riding the elevator
the Floor Manager
having a picture taken
dining with the Old Lady
going to sleep
exercise and bath
riding in the car
stories of life in the forest
Babar remembers his mother
buying Arthur and Celeste clothes
the pastry shop
Arthur and Celeste’s mothers are worried
the old stork returns with news
mothers scold Arthur and Celeste
packing the trunk
leaving for the forest in the car
the Old Lady misses Babar
the King of the elephants eats a bad mushroom
the three oldest elephants have a meeting
Babar arrives at the forest
Babar accepted as King
birds invite animals to wedding
the marriage and coronation of Babar
after the party
leaving in a balloon for the honeymoon
The bold items are my favorite Poulenc sections.
The entire story is about 38 minutes, so settle in before giving a listen.
So if you missed the CF2 Preludes and Serenades concert on Friday night, Oct. 1st, I’m terribly sorry! What a great program of piano music it was! I’m always proud to be associated with such fine composers, but never more so than after such a wonderful program! Orlando is so lucky to have these people locally!
Everything was great, but a particular shout-out to Erik Branch, Troy Gifford and Charlie Griffin! What fabulous works!
Dr. Rose Grace gave a slightly different interpretation of my Serenade than my own (which you can find posted here earlier). Honestly, I wish that happened more often. She even found a way to re-finger part of it to avoid crossing hands. It is such a luxury to hear one of my own piano works without having to perform it myself!
Big thank you to Dr. Grace and, as always, Benoit Glazer and Timucua! And congratulations to all the composers on the program!
So if you missed the 8th Annual CF2 Salon Concert on Aug 29th, no worries. Here’s a video of the premier of Seven Wonders, a set of songs about the 7 wonders of the ancient world, with text by Al Rocheleau. Bri Anna Davis is the mezzo-soprano and I’m at the piano. Special thanks to Al and Bri Anna! And, as always, thanks to Benoit Glazer for the recording!
Here’s a recording of Gigue performed by the wonderful Fernwood String Quartet. After many delays due to Covid, the premier performance finally took place Jan 23rd, 2021 at the Dr Phillips Center (with proper precautions and social distancing of course). Big thank you to the members of Fernwood: Julia Gessinger – violin 1, Andreas Volmer – violin 2, Daniel Cortes – viola, and Hanrich Claassen – cello.
The epigraph to the work is a quote from the Irish poet William Allingham (1824 – 1889) – “She danced a jig, she sung a song that took my heart away.”
During the covid lockdown one of my piano pieces, Serenade, was published in the Timucua Arts’ Piano Anthology. Benoit Glazer did some recordings of some of the pieces in July of 2020 to help promote the book. Originally, I thought I only had an audio recording of mine, but I recently realized that I had this video copy. So here it is. Special thanks to Benoit for recording and providing this.
With the Covid-19 lockdown, I really miss audiences and the energy they provide! So I decided to post an old performance (Sept. 2014) from my archives that I haven’t posted before. It has that great quality of group shared experience, which is one of the wonderful things about going to concerts and movies don’t you think?
This recording is the first performance of my Billy Collins songs. Anytime art is converted from one medium to another some features of the original are lost. Some things are added by the new medium in compensation, but it’s the nature of the beast that those changes or additions are added by the artist doing the conversion or translation and are outside the original artist’s control. So to allow a derivative work the original artist has to be willing to let go of his creation and let it “have a life of its own”. Billy was very kind to give me permission to use these poems, despite his not being a big fan (to put it mildly) of his poetry being turned into song. Of course, I always try hard to stay true to the original spirit of the poetry and I’m proud of how these songs turned out. But see for yourself.
I can’t say enough nice things about the singer here: Suzanne Gifford. Not only does she have a beautiful voice, but there were a lot of behind-the-scene challenges that she handled with charm and grace. It was a long program and we were near the end. The was no place to warm up so she just had to step up and do it. The songs themselves are not as easy as she makes it seem. And the last song was “hot-off-the-press”, completed maybe a day before, so there really wasn’t enough rehearsal time. Entirely my fault and lead to both of us making minor errors in the third song. Despite all that, she sang wonderfully as you will hear.
Today marks the 145th anniversary of Charlies Ives’ birth.
What a fascinating inner musical life he must have had as a maverick and a traditionalist smushed together! Not all of his music works for me. But when it does, it is riveting.
I remember the first time I heard his choral Psalm 24. Portions of it are filled with huge dissonant chords. When I closed my eyes, it stopped being singing. Instead, it was easy to imagine I was standing before a terrifying creature, a seraphim, reciting Psalm 24 in a deep otherworldly voice, filled with partials and overtones. Listen to the excerpt and see if you can hear it that way. Especially at the words “and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty. The Lord mighty in battle.” Gives me goosebumps every time.
On Sept. 9th there was a program that included a few of my choral works. A dedicated and wonderful group of singers got together to perform of few of my pieces that had not been performed before, some older, some newer. We coaxed Bill Shortal out of retirement and he graciously agreed to conduct.
Thanks so much to my friends, both old and new, that worked to make this concert possible. I hope we get to do it again with a broader range of music than just my own!
Here’s one of them: Jacob’s Ladder.
Sunday, Feb. 11th, the Alterity Quintet premiered my On Reading Shakespeare at the Timucua White House.
In case you missed it, here are the two middle movements with titles and epigraphs:
II. Nocturne – “Soft stillness and the night become the touches of sweet harmony.” – Lorenzo, Act V, Scene 1 : Merchant of Venice
III. Serenade – “Let there be no noise made, my friends, unless some dull and favourable hand will whisper music to my weary spirit.” – King Henry IV, Act IV, Scene 5 : King Henry IV Part 2