Song of the Day: February 29


Efrain-3212+copy
This week we welcome baritone Efrain Solis to Song of the Day! He has sung with companies such as San Francisco Opera, Virginia Opera, and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. You can hear him with NYFOS on Tuesday, April 26th concert at Merkin Hall in Compositora: Songs by Latin American Women (get tickets here). 
 
Being asked to pick five songs that reflect who I am seems like a very challenging task – especially for someone like me, who gets easily carried away in their thoughts. But, I’ve decided to start with my childhood and see how far I get. Here we go!

As a kid I was always involved in music – attempting to play the flute, never grasping my father’s ability with the guitar, but always singing away. I remember in middle school we watched a film that always stuck with me. We have all seen (I hope) the 1993 classic Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit with Whoopie Goldberg and Lauryn Hill, but did you know there was a 2004 French remake?! Of course, it wasn’t truly a remake – but it’s pretty darn close.

Les Choristes roughly follows the same storyline as Sister Act 2, but with a bit of a classical twist. The new music teacher, Clément Mathieu, can’t figure out what to do with his class of ill-mannered, rotten kids – until he discovers they can sing. He then holds chorus auditions (they are hilarious and included for your viewing pleasure) and finds that the most talented and sensitive student (Pierre Morhange) is also the most emotionally destructive. He proceeds to guide him towards receiving a music scholarship, and brings local fame to the choir and school. Mathieu takes the boys on an unsanctioned day trip, but the school ends up burning down the same day. The headmaster takes out his aggression on Mathieu and he is fired. We discover at the end of the film that Morhange did receive the scholarship to study music at the Conservatory in Lyon and became a famous Conductor.

All of this was so moving to me. Seeing a boy with practically nothing and a music teacher who believed in the power of music so much that he changed the lives of so many children, I was inspired then to strive to do the same with my singing. The second clip is one of the most beautiful moments in the film when Mathieu teaches Morhange about humility and respecting the music and being a member of the ensemble. Enjoy!

The Auditions

La Nuit – Jean Phillippe Rameau

Song of the Day: February 26

CaramoorThis week our curators of the Song of the Day blog are the Artistic Administration staff of the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts (our next concert, “At Home,” which will take place both at Caramoor and at Merkin Hall, features Caramoor’s 2016 Schwab Vocal Rising Stars). Today’s selection comes from Caramoor’s Manager of Artistic Planning, Ellie Gisler Murphy:

 

Ave Maris Stella – Edvard Grieg (1898)

My husband and I both come from formal classical musical backgrounds and as a result, have gathered a large contingent of incredibly talented friends.  As we planned our wedding, we knew we wanted to utilize these high quality (and free!) musicians to create a sacred space in which to bless our marital bond.  Choosing the music was far more difficult – we are both spiritual people but come from opposite ends of a spiritual spectrum.  He is a by-the-book Catholic and I am an increasingly conflicted Unitarian.  When we decided it was appropriate to be married within a Unitarian congregation, we felt just as strongly that we wanted to honor my husband and many of our family with sacred texts as long as they still coincided with the liberal and feminist beliefs of the Unitarian community.  To that end, we chose two settings of Marian texts to be sung by a male chorus– Ave Maria (Rachmaninoff) and Ave Maris Stella, my favorite setting of which is by the great Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg.

 

I have long loved Grieg and have also spent a great deal of time in Norway, but somehow didn’t find out until after the wedding that Grieg himself was a Unitarian.  The composer tended towards deep religious crisis throughout his life and following the death of his parents and a momentary breakup of his marriage, turned to his wife’s Unitarianism as a vehicle to explore the great theological questions of life and what comes after.  His music touched on sacred texts only rarely during his prolific lifetime, dedicating himself instead to the Norwegian people, folk tales, and the mountainous landscape of his beloved country.  Ave Maris Stella , originally a solo song, was rewritten for double chorus and published in 1898 as the second in Grieg’s “Two Sacred Choruses” .  The miniature work is rarely written about in Grieg biographies, so it’s difficult to assume what exact importance Grieg himself placed on the piece.  What is indisputable is the great care with which the piece is crafted, evidence perhaps of the reverence that Grieg still held toward the most sacred of women in spite of his sustained religious doubt.  The piece is wholly sacred, pious, and somehow, in the same breath, soaring and joyful.

The Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge, performing Edvard Grieg’s Ave Maris Stella

Song of the Day: February 25

CaramoorThis week our curators of the Song of the Day blog are the Artistic Administration staff of the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts (our next concert, “At Home,” which will take place both at Caramoor and at Merkin Hall, features Caramoor’s 2016 Schwab Vocal Rising Stars). Today’s selection comes from Caramoor’s Manager of Artistic Planning, Ellie Gisler Murphy:


I Will
– The Beatles (1968)

I grew up in a family of incredibly serious amateur musicians.  My father, a scientist and an early music fanatic is quick to write off anything that was composed after 1920 and his ear very quickly turns off in disgust at the hint of anything electronic, post-tonal, or explicit.  He’s a purist, which I’m proud of, with very few exceptions, one of them being The Beatles, which my mother, a true child of the 60’s, fully endorsed.  The Beatles became just as steadfast a character in my childhood as classical composers were. Perhaps because of their similar reverence to form, romanticism, drama and a clear willingness to change and evolve, they drew great respect from my father, and thus was allowed to be played freely and loudly throughout my life.

 

I’m feeling very close to the song “I Will” lately, as it was the backdrop for my husband’s and my first dance at our recent December wedding.   The very short (and very sweet!) acoustic song seems nearly an afterthought on the extensive White Album, surrounded by irreverent, electric and ground-breaking pieces like “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” and on another side, “Helter Skelter”.   But of all the pieces in the Beatles canon that came before and after, Paul McCartney said that I Will was one of his favorite melodies of all time.   The affection he had for the piece resulted in a drawn out search to find the words to fit.  Each different set of lyrics Paul and his partners came up with left him wanting, and in the end he settled for something he had written himself. The words, “very simple”, “straight love-song words really”1, make it a complete snapshot – simply a tender, uncomplicated and vulnerable love.

 

My favorite words:

And when at last I found you

Your song will fill the air

Sing it loud so I can hear you

Make it easy to be near you

All the things you do endear you to me

Oh, you know I will.

1Paul McCartney, Many Years From Now by Barry Miles

Song of the Day: February 24

CaramoorThis week our curators of the Song of the Day blog are the Artistic Administration staff of the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts (our next concert, “At Home,” which will take place both at Caramoor and at Merkin Hall, features Caramoor’s 2016 Schwab Vocal Rising Stars). Today’s selection comes from Caramoor’s Artistic Coodinator, Timothy Coffey:


First off, thank you to NYFOS for allowing me to come up with a Song of the Day for your blog! Secondly, it is incredibly hard to come up with one song from one artist, but I don’t think I can go wrong with Paul Simon – a childhood favorite of mine who has remains a favorite today.

As a young, aspiring, wannabe rockstar, my 12 year old self bought his very first guitar. I can remember a few songs that were on the top of the “I must learn this song immediately” list; Don Mclean’s American Pie, Led Zeppelin’s Stairway (what 12 year old with a guitar did not want to learn that one), Tom Petty’s Free Fallin, and a few other (obvious and perhaps overplayed) guitar favorites. However, my younger self also had an “I must learn every song by this artist” list which included the great Paul Simon.

Below is one that I still play on a regular basis. It always puts me in good spirits and I’ll never get bored of singing the opening line “Mama Pajama…”

Song of the Day: February 23

CaramoorThis week our curators of the Song of the Day blog are the Artistic Administration staff of the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts (our next concert, “At Home,” which will take place both at Caramoor and at Merkin Hall, features Caramoor’s 2016 Schwab Vocal Rising Stars). Caramoor’s Managing Director, Paul Rosenblum, brings us this selection:

Craigslistlieder are an intriguing and very diverting excursion into the creative mind of Gabriel Kahane, an amazing, but very unassuming musician, performer and composer. “Neurotic and Lonely” is my favorite song from this work, except perhaps for all of the others. To my ear, Gabe’s influences, reflected in this one song, include Hindemith, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Debussy and Gershwin.

neurotic and lonely – 20
Reply to: pers-134000159@craigslist.org Date: 2006-02-14, 9:45PM EST

average height, brown eyes (slightly disportionate), brown curly hair (jewfro), 20 y/o, slightly hunched, occasionally employed anthropologist, chainsmoking jew, currently living with parents, off from school to deal with emotional problems (medicated), seeks gorgeous artsy genius woman interested in philosophical discourse, making out, television, woody allen movies, thelonious monk, the nazis, chinese food, thomas pynchon, digestive disorders. must enjoy video games. must own a video game system. (my parents refuse to buy one for me) no ugg boots. no long island.

 

Song of the Day: February 22

Caramoor

This week our curators of the Song of the Day blog are the Artistic Administration staff of the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts (our next concert, “At Home,” which will take place both at Caramoor and at Merkin Hall, features Caramoor’s 2016 Schwab Vocal Rising Stars). First up is Caramoor’s Managing Director, Paul Rosenblum :
 
“Bist du bei mir” by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel (formerly attributed to J.S. Bach)

I became aware of this beautiful aria only a few years ago, on a recording by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, with Gerald Moore, piano. Yes, I know that everybody else has always known it, just not me. Very popular for weddings and funerals, due to the sentiment of the lyric and the eminent peacefulness of the tune.

Included in the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, of 1725, and therefore assumed to have been written by J. S. Bach, more recent scholarship shows it to be the work of Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel. How fortunate for him that it was copied into her notebook as it has made his name and work familiar to many.

Bist du bei mir, geh ich mit Freuden

zum Sterben und zu meiner Ruh.

Ach, wie vergnügt wär so mein Ende,

es drückten deine schönen Hände

mir die getreuen Augen zu!

 

If you are with me, then I will go gladly

unto [my] death and to my rest.

Ah, what a pleasant end for me,

if your dear hands be the last I see,

closing shut my faithful eyes to rest!

Song of the Day: February 12

barrett

from Michael Barrett:

I earlier wrote about David Del Tredici’s Final Alice, his Pulitzer Prize winning salvo of tonality in an age of atonality. It is a remarkable work. I love all of David’s big symphonic Alice pieces. They are full of fantasy, wonder and beauty. Here is the Acrostic Song from Final Alice sung by Hila Plitmann. She’s a wonderful actress and singer whom I remember from the time she sang the solo from Chichester Psalms with me and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestra, besides playing, is also the whisper chorus spelling out the letters of Alice Pleasance Lidell (the acrostic). At the end, the soprano counts in Italian to thirteen, ending on “tredici”- the composer’s signature.