A little over a year ago, the Tanglewood concert that began with my Dark the Star continued with an all-too-rare performance of Dallapiccola’s Concerto per la notte di Natale dell’anno 1956, for soprano and a chamber orchestra of 17 players. John Harbison ably conducted, and the extraordinary soprano was Suzanne Rigden. Thanks to her formidable musicianship and gleaming voice, Dallapiccola’s angular lyricism came across powerfully. I’ve stayed in touch with Suzanne, and next month she will be giving the first performance of a set of songs for soprano and piano that I completed this summer. Her recital will be September 18 in Sherbrooke, Canada at the Maison d’opéra et de concerts à Sherbrooke (Québec) Plymouth Trinity United Church, 380 Rue Durrerin, and her pianist will be Francis Perron.
Like the Dallapiccola, my new set works with sacred texts, in this case a group of traditional songs in English. Three Folk Hymns is based on some familiar tunes: What Wondrous Love Is This?, Be Thou My Vision, and How Can I Keep From Singing? There is a somewhat complicated history that led to the version of the settings that Suzanne will premiere. I originally wrote an arrangement of How Can I Keep From Singing? in connection with a 1996 concert of my music at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The soprano was Christine Schadeberg, and I played the piano part. I later made a flute, harp, and voice version of that arrangement, along with versions of Be Thou My Vision and Wondrous Love, but the piano settings are preferable to the trio versions. I also used Be Thou My Vision as the theme for the variation set that closes my A Flutist’s Sketchbook (flute and piano, 2012) and I incorporated some material from that instrumental piece in my recent piano and voice arrangement. My first plan for Wondrous Love was to draw upon some material from my organ piece, Meditation on What Wondrous Love Is This?, and I tried that in the trio version, but this recently completed arrangement with piano seemed to call for its own gestures.
There are sample pages for all three of the Folk Hymns available on this page. No need to do the entire set if you want to program just one or two of the arrangements. Be in touch (jamesprimosch at gmail dot com) if you’d like to purchase PDFs of any or all of these.