Rehearsing Shadow Memory

lisa-homeSongFest has gifted me with a couple of splendid young musicians to give the first performance of my new Susan Orlean song, Shadow Memory. I rehearsed with soprano Lisa Williamson (at left – photo by Brian Hatton) and pianist Rami Sarieddine on Wednesday up at Bard College, and it was immediately clear that they had the piece well in hand. We were able to work on relatively subtle details, little nuances of tempo and dynamics. It’s a simple song, but I think it will be affecting, especially with its beautiful text. Go here to read the essay where I found the text – I used just the last paragraph.

You always learn a few things about a piece and about your notation when you finally hear it tried out. For example, Rami took my notation (see below) to mean that he shouldn’t change the pedal in the first bar. The combination of my request for generous pedaling and the high C sustained in the upper register across the chord change suggested a single pedal for the whole measure. I asked him to change the pedal when the left hand chord changed, otherwise it was too blurry. I think I need to re-write this so that the high C terminates when the harmony changes, that will help make it clear that the pedal should change.

Go here for a page at the SongFest website on the June 3 concert that includes the Shadow Memory premiere. While you are there, look around at some of the other events – there is an astonishing array of talent on the faculty, and with a faculty like that the program attracts very gifted young performers.

Here are a couple of snapshots from my visit to Bard.  The Bitó Music Conservatory Building where we rehearsed:

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There is a suite of John Cage drawings in the lobby:

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as well as a Joel Shapiro, elegant and playful in its balance of forms:

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“Cinder” in New York and Boston

539wIt was about this time of year in 1999 that I completed a set of songs for Dawn Upshaw called Holy the Firm. The best song from the cycle, one that she and others have often performed, is “Cinder”, and it sets a poem by my friend Susan Stewart. I just got a message from Dawn that she has programmed that song on concerts to be given this week by herself and some of her students from Bard College. Here are the dates and locations:

Feb. 19 at Bard, in the new Bito Performance Space at 8pm
Feb. 21 at the Morgan Library in NYC at 7:30pm
Feb. 24 at the Longy School of Music in Boston at 7pm

Student Kameryn Lueng will sing “Cinder” – I don’t have her pianist’s name yet. The program will include a number of new songs written specifically for the students, three songs from John Harbison’s Simple Daylight, a song by Laura Schwendinger, as well as a new song by George Tsontakis performed by Dawn herself with pianist Kayo Iwama. (picture: Dawn Upshaw)

Update: Kameryn’s excellent accompanist is Christina Giuca.