Song of the Day: October 19

Shea OwensThis week’s Song of the Day curator is baritone Shea Owens. An alumnus of NYFOS’s Emerging Artist program and NYFOS Next, Shea is returning to the NYFOS Mainstage next month in From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and FriendsBe sure to get your tickets today!  

From Shea Owens:

While exploring British repertoire in graduate school, the songs of Gerald Finzi caught my attention. They are an intriguing combination of sweet, pastoral melodies with mournful, tragic poetry. Having lived through two World Wars and losing three brothers and a teacher to them, Finzi was no stranger to sadness. The solemnity he carried as a result of these tragedies shows in his compositions and in his preference for the poetry of Thomas Hardy. One song that touches me particularly is, “To Lizbie Browne.”

How often have we looked back with regret on a missed opportunity? As a young man, Thomas Hardy was in love with a girl named Elizabeth Sarah Bishop (“Lizbie Browne”). He longed to tell her about his feelings, but he never mustered up the courage to do it. He watched her mature and eventually marry, and foretold the sad day when someone would mention his own name, and she would reply, “And who was he?” John Greenleaf Whittier writes: “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’ (The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier (1878), 206). My hope is that we will never let an opportunity pass us by!

My favorite recording of “To Lizbie Browne” (by Stephen Varcoe and Martyn Hill) is not on YouTube, but this one by Roderick Williams and Iain Burnside is lovely too. I hope you enjoy this touching, wistful piece.

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