Everyone Sang: Extended Notes

We’re so thrilled to release David Conte’s 2-disc vocal album Everyone Sang, on the Arsis label, a project which has been several years in the making. A modest booklet is included in the physical copy (and viewable here), and we wanted to share extended performer information, program notes, and texts, below.

Everyone Sang Album Cover
Everyone Sang: Vocal Music of David Conte


Performers

[In order of appearance on the album]

Brian Thorsett, Tenor

Hailed as “a strikingly gifted tenor, with a deeply moving, unblemished voice” (sfmusicjournal.com), tenor Brian Thorsett excels in opera, oratorio and recital across the world. He has been seen and heard across the US and Europe in over 100 roles and a fosters a stylistically diversified oratorio repertoire of over 250 works. An avid recitalist, Brian is closely associated with expanding the vocal-chamber genre and has premiered over 100 works, including those of David Conte, Ian Venables, Shinji Eshima, Stacy Garrop, Scott Gendel, Gordon Getty, Brian Holmes, Eric Choate, Joseph Stillwell, Gregory Zavracky, Michel Bosc and Peter Josheff. His recordings include Transpire (works of Daron Hagen), two song cycles on David Conte’s forthcoming vocal album, Remebering the Voice of Firestone and several as a member of the award winning Philharmonia Baroque Chorale. Brian has also been heard in commercials and movies as the voice for SoundIron’s library Voice of Rapture: Tenor. He is a graduate of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Glimmerglass Opera’s Young American Artist program, American Bach Soloists’ Academy, the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme and Music Academy of the West. Brian is currently Assistant Professor of Voice and Opera at Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts.

John Churchwell, Piano

One of the leading collaborative pianists of his generation, John Churchwell enjoys a career on the concert stage as well as in the nation’s leading opera houses.
In 2011, Mr. Churchwell was named Head of Music for San Francisco Opera.  Prior to that Mr. Churchwell spent fourteen years as an assistant conductor for both the Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera.  In that time he has assisted on more than 95 productions and has collaborated with some of the world’s leading conductors.  Since 2000, Mr. Churchwell has spent his summers teaching at the Music Academy of the West working with young singers and pianists.

On the recital stage, Mr. Churchwell has partnered some of today’s most sought-after vocalists including Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Diana Damrau, Frederica von Stade, Dawn Upshaw, Carol Vaness, David Pittsinger, and Patricia Schuman.  Recent appearances include his debut with San Francisco Symphony and the Mondavi Center for Performing Arts with tenor Michael Fabiano as well as Prairie Home Companion at the Hollywood Bowl with soprano Ellie Dehn.

A native of Knoxville, TN, Mr. Churchwell is a graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program.

Kindra Scharich, Mezzo-Soprano

Mezzo-Soprano Kindra Scharich has been praised by The  San Francisco Chronicle for her “exuberant vitality”, “fearless technical precision”, “deep- rooted pathos” and “irrepressible musical splendor.” As a dedicated recitalist, she has given solo recitals the The American Composer’s Forum, The Wagner Society, Lieder Alive and Sala Cecilia Meireles. In May 2018 she and the Alexander String Quartet will record new arrangements of the great orchestral Lieder of Mahler (Rückert, Kindertotenlieder, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen) and in the summer of 2018, Ms. Scharich will return to Brazil, where she and pianist Ricardo Ballestero will concertize songs of Brazilian composer Alberto Nepomuceno and his contemporaries, which until now have remained in relative obscurity. In the world of opera, Ms. Scharich has sung over 25 roles in the lyric mezzo repertoire.  Enthusiastic about working with living composers, she has frequently collaborated with David Conte, Kurt Erickson and Janis Mattox.

Kevin Korth, Piano

Since graduating from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s renowned Chamber Music program in 2008, Kevin Korth has held a position at the Conservatory as both collaborative pianist and vocal coach.  Now an in-demand recitalist and coach in the Bay Area, he has collaborated with artists such as Robert Mann, Axel Strauss, Joel Krosnick, Frederica von Stade, Suzanne Mentzer, Nadine Sierra, Lise Lindstrom, Marnie Breckenridge, Kristen Clayton, and Brian Asawa.  This fall, Mr. Korth released his debut album Out of the Shadows, a CD of American art song with soprano Lisa Delan and cellist Matt Haimovitz for Pentatone Classics.  Recorded at Skywalker Ranch, the album features premieres by Jack Perla, Gordon Getty, and David Garner, in addition to previously unrecorded works by Norman Dello Joio, Paul Nardoff, and John Kander.

Emil Miland, Cello

Cellist Emil Miland is an acclaimed soloist, chamber and orchestral musician.  He made his solo debut at age 16 with the San Francisco Symphony, the same year he was selected to perform in the Rostropovich Master Classes at UC Berkeley.  A graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, he has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and Chamber Music America.  He has been a member of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra since 1988 and has collaborated with Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade, and the late Zheng Cao and Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson.  In 2010 Miland was invited by von Stade to perform with her at Carnegie Hall for her farewell recital.

Many composers have written and dedicated works for him, including Ernst Bacon, David Carlson, David Conte, Shinji Eshima, John Grimmett, Lou Harrison, Jake Heggie, Richard Hervig, Andrew Imbrie, James Meredith and Dwight Okamura.  Recordings include David Carlson’s Cello Concerto No. 1 with the Utah Symphony on New World Records and his Sonata for Cello and Piano with David Korevaar on MSR Records.  Miland is featured on David Conte’s recently released CD of chamber music for Albany Records, on which he performs Conte’s Concerto for Violoncello and Piano (written for Miland) with Miles Graber, as well as Conte’s Piano Trio with violinist Kay Stern and pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi.  This recording has been met with critical acclaim, with reviewers praising Miland’s “impeccable playing in terms of both technique and taste,” and lauding him for “extracting every ounce of passion from this passionate work.”  Miland is featured on many of Jake Heggie’s recordings, beginning with the RCA Red Seal CD The Faces of Love:  The Songs of Jake Heggie and, most recently,  the 2013 release Here/After:  Songs of Lost Voices on Pentatone.

Miland is presented in “The Heart of a Bell,” a film by Eric Theirmann and Aleksandra Wolska, performing Smirti, a haunting elegy for cello, Tibetan chimes and bells with the Sonos Handbell Ensemble.  Miland joined Sonos in December 2012 as a soloist on their nine city tour of Japan.  He also appears in the 2012 documentary “Lou Harrison:  A World of Music” by Eva Soltes.  In 2013 he made his Paris recital debut under the auspices of The European American Alliance.  Earlier this year, Miland toured to Hawaii and Australia performing chamber music and in July was presented in recital at The Bear Valley Music Festival.  He performs on Love Life, a recording featuring soprano Ann Moss and music by Jake Heggie, Liam Wade and Joni Mitchell.  He performs regularly as a member of The Lowell Trio with Janet Archibald, oboe, and Margaret Fondbertasse, piano.

Matt Boehler, Bass

Hailed by The New York Times as, “a bass with an attitude and the good to back it up,” Matt Boehler is a singer equally at home on the international opera stage, as well as the concert platform. He has appeared as a principal artist with The Metropolitan Opera, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Theater St. Gallen, and Canadian Opera Company, as well as the New York Philharmonic, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, and the New York Festival of Song, among many others. Frequently in demand as a collaborator and interpreter of new music, his discography features several world premieres. A native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, he trained as an actor at Viterbo College, an opera singer at Juilliard, and as a composer at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he received his Master of Music studying with David Conte.

A. J. Glueckert, Tenor

Tenor A. J. Glueckert is a former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow who made his Company debut in various roles in the world premiere of The Gospel of Mary Magdalene in 2013. Other Company appearances include Mr. Knox in Dolores Claiborne, the Steersman in Der Fliegende Holländer, Ambrogio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and The Barber of Seville for Families, Flavio in Norma, Elder Gleaton in Susannah, and the Chief Magistrate in Un Ballo in Maschera. Glueckert is an alumnus of the 2012 Merola Opera Program, where he performed Mr. Owen in Argento’s Postcard from Morocco. Upcoming engagements include Bacchus (Ariadne auf Naxos) with Opera Theatre of St. Louis and roles with the Glyndebourne Festival and English National Opera. In the 2014–15 season he was seen as the Prince (Rusalka) with Frankfurt Opera. As a former resident artist with Minnesota Opera, Glueckert was heard as Arturo (Lucia di Lammermoor) and also created the role of the Crown Prince in the world premiere of Puts’s Silent Night with Opera Philadelphia. He is a graduate of the young artists programs at Santa Fe Opera and Utah Opera. A two-time winner of the regional Metropolitan Opera National Auditions, he holds a degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and appeared as the Drum Major (Wozzeck) with Opera Parallèle in San Francisco.

James Moore, English Horn

James A. Moore III was appointed Professor of Oboe and Chamber Music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2001. As a performer, he can be heard with the San Francisco Ballet and Opera orchestras, the California Symphony, and frequently with the San Francisco Symphony with whom he’s recorded and toured extensively. In addition to his work at the Conservatory, he is a coach for the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. He has also taught at the Oberlin Conservatory and the Aspen School of Music, where he was assistant to John de Lancie. Mr. Moore received B.A. and B.M. degrees from Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music and an M.M. from the San Francisco Conservatory. He has performed for the national touring productions of Ragtime, Aida, James Joyce’s The Dead, Beauty and the Beast and Fiddler on the Roof as well as the world premiere of Wicked. His teachers were James Caldwell and John de Lancie.

Scott Macomber, Trumpet

Scott Macomber has served as Acting 2nd Trumpet of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra since August of 2016. Scott frequently appears with the San Francisco Symphony and Ballet Orchestras in addition to maintaining permanent positions in the Santa Rosa Symphony, California Symphony and Sacramento Philharmonic. A regular in the Skywalker Symphony, Scott has appeared in several commercial game recordings and soundtracks. Currently Scott is on faculty at California State University, East Bay. He holds degrees from Northwestern University and San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Marika Kuzma, Conductor

Conductor Marika Kuzma is a versatile artist with a particular sensitivity to text in music. Her performances have been praised as “electric” (New York Times) and “beautifully nuanced” (SF Chronicle). As the director of choirs at the University of California, Berkeley for twenty-five years, she led ensembles in performances of works ranging from the Machaut Lais de la fonteinne to Monteverdi Vespers, Bach B minor mass, Brahms Requiem, Stravinsky Svadebka, Reich Tehillim, Feldman Rothko Chapel, to premieres of new works. Her recordings have been released on the Wild Boar, Koch International, and Naxos labels. She has also been a chorusmaster for luminary conductors including Gustavo Dudamel (Simon Bolivar Orchestra),  Nicholas McGegan (Philharmonia Baroque), Kent Nagano (Montreal Symphony), and Esa-Pekka Salonen (Philharmonia Orchestra). Of Ukrainian descent, she is an internationally recognized and published scholar-interpreter of Slavic choral music. Marika has also appeared as an actor in various roles on stages such as La Mama Theater in New York City and the Berkeley Repertory Theater.

Marnie Breckenridge, Soprano

From Bel Canto heroines to the comic and modern leading ladies, acclaimed soprano Marnie Breckenridge is enjoying a career throughout the US, Europe and South America in opera, concert and recording. She has sung with the San Francisco Opera, The English National Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Ft. Worth Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Carnegie Hall, Ravinia Festival, Bard Music Festival, Arizona Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Prague State Opera, The Metropolitan Opera Guild, Teatro Sao Paulo, Opera Parallèlè, National Sawdust, San Francisco Symphony and many other US and European houses. As a favored interpreter of living composers’ music, her in-depth portrayals and excellent musicianship have established her as a go-to performer of critically acclaimed new works with her “lovely soprano” voice (The New York Times), “lyrical poignancy and dramatic power” (The Chicago Tribune). Recent favorite roles include, LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, Mother in Little’s, DOG DAYS, Gilda in RIGOLETTO, La Princesse in Glass’, ORPHÉE, Margarita Xirgu in Golijov’s, AINADAMAR, and Cunegonde in CANDIDE deemed “simply terrific” (Opera Magazine UK). She trained at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in voice (MM) and at The American Conservatory Theatre in drama.

Nicole Paiement, Conductor

Nicole Paiement has an international reputation as a conductor of contemporary music and opera. As Artistic Director of Opera Parallèle in San Francisco, Paiement has been responsible for helming the world or American premiere of many new works. Under her baton, the company has earned rave reviews for its innovative work in Contemporary Opera. Paiement is Principal Guest Conductor at The Dallas Opera where she also serves as mentor for The Dallas Opera’s new Institute for Women Conductors.  She is an active guest conductor and has recently appeared with the Glimmerglass Festival, Saratoga Opera, The Atlanta Opera, The Washington National Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Upcoming engagements include debuts at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera and Houston Grand Opera, and a return to Washington National Opera, Glimmerglass and  The Dallas Opera. Her numerous recordings include many world premieres, including David Conte’s “The Gift of the Magi” (Arsis Audio CD 141).  Last year, Paiement was awarded the American Composer’s Forum “Champion of the New Music” Award, for her outstanding contribution to New Music. She also holds the Jean and Josette Deleage Distinguished Chair in New Music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Ann Moss, Soprano

Soprano Ann Moss is an acclaimed recording artist and champion of contemporary vocal music who collaborates with a dynamic array of living composers. Her high, silvery, flexible voice has been singled out by Opera News for “beautifully pure floated high notes” and by San Francisco Classical Voice for “powerful expression” and “luminous tone.” Her newest solo album Love Life (Angels Share Records, 2016), produced and recorded by multi-GRAMMY® award winner Leslie Ann Jones at Skywalker Sound, features music of Jake Heggie, Liam Wade, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Lennon/McCartney with pianists Heggie and Steven Bailey, cellist Emil Miland, violinist Isaac Allen, and GRAMMY® award winning ensemble Chanticleer. Moss has also recorded on PARMA, Naxos, Albany, Navona Records and Jaded Ibis Productions labels. In addition to working closely with well-known composers such as John Harbison, Kaija Saariaho and Aaron Jay Kernis, Ann seeks out and performs music by emerging voices at forums and festivals across the USA. As co-founder and Artistic Director of new-music repertory group CMASH, Moss has been personally responsible for the creation and premiere of over ninety art songs, works of vocal chamber music and operatic roles, and has been a featured soloist with Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, SF Contemporary Music Players, Earplay, Eco Ensemble, the Ives, Alexander, and Hausmann String Quartets, Composers in Red Sneakers, at FENAM, Other Minds Festival, Fresno New Music, PARMA and Switchboard Music Festival, among others. Highlights of the 2016-2017 concert season include a Texas recital tour with pianist Cheryl Cellon Lindquist, previews of new operas by David Conte and Alden Jenks with West Edge Opera, and the World Premieres of A Line Becomes A Circle (2016) by Miya Masaoka, Down the Deep Stair (2017) by Jared Redmond with the Lydian String Quartet, and Finite Differences (2016) by Kenneth D. Froelich (libretto: John Grimmett) with the Hausmann Quartet, all of which were composed specifically for her. Ms. Moss has lectured on vocal composition and led masterclasses on interpretation of contemporary song at institutions including MIT, UC Davis, NYU Tisch School For The Arts, Longy School of Music of Bard College, University of Houston Morse School of Music, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Sacramento State University and CSU Los Angeles. She holds degrees from Hampshire College, Longy School of Music of Bard College, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Kay Stern, Violin

Kay Stern is Concertmaster of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. She has served as assistant to Dorothy DeLay at the Aspen Music Festival, assistant to the Juilliard Quartet at the Juilliard School, and has been a faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She has taught and coached at various music festivals around the world, and has been in residence at Wellesley College and San Diego State University. She has appeared in PBS’s Live from Lincoln Center, CNN’s Women Today, Minnesota Public Radio’s Garrison Keillor A Prairie Home Companion and St. Paul Sunday Morning, and WQXR-NY Robert Sherman’s Listening Room. As former first violinist and founding member of the Lark String Quartet, she performed and gave master classes throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. Kay is an active chamber musician, collaborating with colleagues in numerous venues in and around the Bay Area. Kay attended the Juilliard School as a student of Dorothy DeLay. While there she received full scholarships for her Bachelor, Master’s and Doctoral degree programs. Kay Stern’s concerto and chamber music recordings can be heard on Phillips, Nonesuch, Innova, MusicMasters, Koch International and Gramma Vision. In 2017 she joined the violin faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Douglas Rioth, Harp

Douglas Rioth is Principal Harpist of the San Francisco Symphony. He studied Piano from age 6, and harp from age 15. He attended Interlochen Arts Academy studying harp with Elisa Smith Dickon, and the Cleveland Institute of Music, studying harp with Alice Chalifoux. He served as Principal Harp of the Indianapolis Symphony from 1975-1981, and as Principal Harp of the San Francisco Symphony since 1981. He has been the Harp Instructor at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music since 2007,  and the Harp Coach of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra since 1981.

Eric Dudley, Conductor

Eric Dudley leads a multi-faceted musical career as a conductor, singer, pianist and composer. Following distinguished tenures as assistant conductor for the Cincinnati and Princeton symphony orchestras, his recent guest engagements include the International Contemporary Ensemble, Ojai Festival, National Symphony Orchestra, and the Bendigo Festival and Melbourne International Arts Festival in Australia. Having served for four years on the conducting faculty of Mannes College and The New School in New York, he currently directs the orchestra program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has recently been appointed as the next artistic director for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. A founding member of the Grammy Award-winning octet Roomful of Teeth, he regularly records and tours worldwide with the group in its ongoing mission to create a new body of work for the 21st Century vocal ensemble. While living in New York, he performed and conducted with ensembles as diverse as the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Ekmeles, Talea Ensemble, Tenet, Ensemble Signal, American Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. As a pianist and chamber musician, he has collaborated with members of Novus New York and the Cincinnati, Princeton and Albany symphony orchestras, and his own music has been premiered and recorded by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Quey Percussion Duo, and by Roomful of Teeth. He holds a degree in composition from the Eastman School of Music, and a doctorate in orchestral conducting from Yale.


Program Notes & Texts

American Death Ballads
for High Voice and Piano
Brian Thorsett, Tenor | John Churchwell, Piano
American Death Ballads were composed especially for tenor Brian Thorsett. The choice of texts was inspired partly by Aaron Copland’s Old American Songs, which I deeply admire, and even more by my dear friend and colleague Conrad Susa’s Two Murder Ballads.
“Wicked Polly” is a cautionary tale. Polly has lived a dissolute and immoral life, saying, “I’ll turn to God when I grow old.” Suddenly taken ill, she realizes that it is too late to repent. She dies in agony and is presumably sent to hell; young people are advised to heed. My musical setting is stately and preacherly in character for the narrator; for Polly it becomes pleading and remorseful.
“The Unquiet Grave” is taken from an English folk song dating from 1400. A young man mourns his deceased lover too intensely, preventing her from obtaining peace. My setting is in a flowing andante with a rocking accompaniment. Three voices are delineated here: the narrator, the mournful lover, and the deceased lover, speaking from the grave.
“The Dying Californian” first appeared in the New England Diadem in 1854. Its lyrics are based on a letter from a dying New England sailor to his brother, while at sea on the way to California to seek his fortune in the gold fields. He implores his brother to impart his message to his father, mother, wife, and children. My setting opens with the singer alone, in a moderate dirge tempo, and, joined by the piano, moves through many tonalities and moods before ending with supreme confidence as the speaker “gains a port called Heaven/Where the gold will never rust.”
“Captain Kidd” was a Scottish sailor who was tried and executed for piracy and murder in 1701. Kidd escaped to America, and for a time lived in New York and Boston. He was a wanted criminal by the British authorities, and was extradited and hanged at “Executioner’s Dock.” Though the didactic tone of the text is similar to “Wicked Polly,” it expresses no regret until the final lines. My setting is fast and spirited, expressing the confidence of a man who has lived life as he wanted.

 

I. Wicked Polly

Young people who delight in sin, I’ll tell you what has lately been:
A woman who was young and fair died in sin and deep despair.
She went to frolics, dances and play, in spite of all her friends could say.
“I’ll turn to God when I get old, and He will then receive my soul.”
On Friday morning she took sick, her stubborn heart began to break.
She called her mother to her bed, her eyes were rolling in her head:
“O mother, mother, fare you well, your wicked Polly’s doomed to hell,
The tears are lost you shed for me; my soul is lost, I plainly see.
“My earthly father, fare ye well; your wicked Poly’s doomed to hell.
The flaming wrath begins to roll; I’m a lost and ruined soul.
“Your counsels I have slipted all, my carnal appetite to fill.
When I am dead, remember well, your wicked Polly groans in hell.”
She wrung her hands and groaned and cried and gnawed her tongue before she died;
Her nails turned black, her voice did fail, she died and left this lower vale.
Young people, let this be your case, oh, turn to God and trust His grace.
Down on your knees for mercy cry, lest you in sin like Polly die.

II. The Unquiet Grave

“The wind doth blow today, my love,
And a few small drops of rain;
I never had but one true-love,
In cold grave she was lain.
“I’ll do as much for my true-love
As any young man may;
I’ll sit and mourn all at her grave
For a twelvemonth and a day.”
The twelvemonth and a day being up,
The dead began to speak:
“Oh who sits weeping on my grave,
And will not let me sleep?”
“’T is I, my love, sits on your grave,
And will not let you sleep;
For I crave one kiss of your clay-cold lips,
And that is all I seek.”
“You crave one kiss of my clay-cold lips,
But my breath smells earthy strong;
If you have one kiss of my clay-cold lips,
Your time will not be long.
“’T is down in yonder garden green,
Love, where we used to walk,
The finest flower that e’re was seen
Is withered to a stalk.
“The stalk is withered dry, my love,
So will our hearts decay;
So make yourself content, my love,
Till God calls you away.”

III. The Dying Californian

Lay up nearer, brother, nearer
For my limbs are growing cold,
And thy presence seemeth dearer
When thine arms around me fold.
I am dying, brother, dying,
Soon you’ll miss me in your berth,
And my form will soon be lying
Neath the ocean’s briny surf.
Harken, brother, closely harken.
I have something I would say,
Ere the vale my visions darken
And I go from hence away.
Listen, brother, catch each whisper,
Tis my wife I speak of now,
Tell, O tell her how I missed her
When the fever burned my brow.
Tell her she must kiss my children
Like the kiss I last impressed.
Hold them as when last I held them
Folded closely to my breast.
Twas for them I crossed the ocean
What my hopes were I’ll not tell;
And I’ve gained an orphan’s portion,
Yet he doeth all things well.
Tell them I never reach that haven
Where I sought the “precious dust,”
But I’ve gained a port called Heaven
Where the gold will never rust.

IV. Captain Kidd

“My name was Robert Kidd as I sailed, as I sailed,
My name was Robert Kidd, as I sailed.
My name was Robert Kidd, God’s laws I did forbid,
And so wickedly I did, as I sailed, as I sailed,
And so wickedly I did as I sailed!”
“My parents taught me well, as I sailed, as I sailed,
To shun the gates of hell as I sailed.
I cursed my father dear, and her that did me bear,
And so wickedly did swear, as I sailed, as I sailed,
And so wickedly did swear, as I sailed.
“I’d a Bible in my hand, when I sailed, when I sailed,
But I sunk it in the sand as I sailed.
I made a solemn vow, to God I would not bow,
Nor myself one prayer allow, when I sailed, when I
sailed,
Nor myself one prayer allow, when I sailed.
“I murdered William Moore as I sailed, as I sailed,
And left him in his gore as I sailed,
And being cruel still, my gunner did I kill,
And much precious blood did spill, as I sailed, as
I sailed,
And much precious blood did spill as I sailed.
To Execution Dock, I must go, I must go,
To Execution Dock, I must go;
To Execution Dock,
where many thousands flock,
But I must bear my shock, and must die.
Come all ye young and old, see me die, see me die,
Come all ye young and old, see me die;
Come all ye young and old,
you’re welcome to my gold,
For by it I’ve lost my soul, and must die.
Take warning now by me, for I must die, for I must die,
Take warning now by me, for I must die;
Take warning now by me,
and shun bad company,
Lest you come to hell with me, for I must die;
Lest you come to hell with me, for I must die.

 

Three Poems of Christina Rossetti
for High Voice and Piano
Kindra Scharich, Mezzo-Soprano | Kevin Korth, Piano
Christina Rossetti (1830–1894) began writing at age 7, but was 31 before her first work was published. She was hailed as the natural successor to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. A devout Anglo-Catholic, her popularity faded in the early twentieth century from Modernism’s backlash, but in the past few decades she has been rediscovered. Her visionary poetry has a deeply religious quality, and a keen sense of the spiritual world.
“Rest” describes the soul’s journey from physical death to Paradise. “Echo” describes with great sensitivity and passion an attempt to regain a love in dreams that has been lost in reality. “A Hope Carol” describes a vigil of a soul who is called to a vision of Paradise, and the second coming of Christ. “Echo” and “Rest” were written especially for mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook. “A Hope Carol” was originally composed as a choral piece in for the San Francisco Girls’ Chorus. A version for solo voice was composed shortly after the original and is dedicated to mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Mannion. Several years after the original, I prepared an edition for high voice for tenor Brian Thorsett, who premiered it at the at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music

 I. Rest

O Earth, lie heavily upon her eyes;
Seal her sweet eyes weary of watching, Earth;
Lie close around her; leave no room for mirth
With its harsh laughter, nor for sound of sighs.

She hath no questions, she hath no replies,
Hushed in and curtained with a blessed dearth
Of all that irked her from the hour of birth;
With stillness that is almost Paradise.

Darkness more clear than noon-day holdeth her,
Silence more musical than any song;
Even her very heart has ceased to stir:
Until the morning of Eternity
Her rest shall not begin nor end, but be;
And when she wakes she will not think it long.

II. Echo 

    Come to me in the silence of the night; 
        Come in the speaking silence of a dream; 
    Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright 
        As sunlight on a stream; 
            Come back in tears, 
    O memory, hope and love of finished years.

    O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet, 
        Whose wakening should have been in Paradise, 
    Where souls brimfull of love abide and meet; 
        Where thirsting longing eyes 
            Watch the slow door 
    That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

    Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live 
        My very life again tho’ cold in death: 
    Come back to me in dreams, that I may give 
        Pulse for pulse, breath for breath: 
            Speak low, lean low, 
    As long ago, my love, how long ago.

III. A Hope Carol 

A Night was near, a day was near,
Between a day and night
I heard sweet voices calling clear,
Calling me:
I heard a whirr of wing on wing,
But could not see the sight;
I long to see my birds that sing,
I long to see. 

Below the stars, beyond the moon,
Between the night and day
I heard a rising falling tune
Calling me:
I long to see the pipes and strings
Whereon such minstrels play;
I long to see each face that sings,
I long to see. 

To-day or may be not to-day,
To-night or not to-night,
All voices that command or pray
Calling me,
Shall kindle in my soul such fire
And in my eyes such light
That I shall see that heart’s desire
I long to see.

 

Love Songs
for Tenor, Violoncello, and Piano
Brian Thorsett, Tenor | Emil Miland, Cello | John Churchwell, Piano
The three songs gathered here were composed over a long time period. The first, “Levis Exsurgit Zephirus,” was originally composed in 1993 for male chorus and piano four-hands as the second movement of my “Carmina Juventutis.” I adapted it for solo voice, cello, and piano for several singers in 1999 and 2007, including soprano Sylvia Anderson, mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook, and countertenor Ian Howell. “D’Anne qui me jetta de la neige” and “The Moment” were composed in August, 2016, especially for Brian Thorsett, Emil Miland, and were premiered on October 11th, 2016, at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I have collaborated extensively with both artists; with Mr. Thorsett in my “Yeats Songs” for Tenor and String Quartet, and my “American Death Ballads,” and with Mr. Miland in my Sonata for Violoncello and Piano. For a specific concert, I decided to build a set of three love poems in three different languages; Latin, French, and English. In all three pieces, the violoncello, that most expressive and soulful instrument, represents the very soul of the speaker of these three texts, as he moves through many emotions, including passion, suffering, vulnerability, and joy.
“Levis Exsurgit Zephirus” is taken from the eleventh century Cambridge Songs. This love song is in rhymed couplets written in Ambrosian quatrains—the most common of all forms used for Latin hymns. The music has a gentle undulating quality as the speaker is “possessed by deep sighs in the midst of all this beauty,” for his soul languishes. After several climaxes, the opening music returns in the minor mode, accompanied by “sighs” in the piano and cello.
Though I’ve spent many years in France, “D’Anne qui me jetta de la neige” is my first setting in French. The text is by the sixteenth century French poet Clément Marot. The narrative describes a young man suddenly hit by what Italians poetically call the “Thunderbolt,” a single moment where one falls suddenly and passionately in love with someone. The poem is remarkable in that the speaker’s passion is also tempered by a touching vulnerability, as he asks his beloved to show him kindness, even taking pity upon his newfound passion.
Theodore Roethke is one of my favorite American poets, whom I first set in my choral piece “The Waking” in 1985. His poem “The Moment” is both subtly and unabashedly erotic, and indeed “ends in joy.”

Levis exsurgit zephirus
Levis exsurgit zephirus,
Et sol procedit tepidus,
Jam terra sinus aperit,
Dulcore suo diffluit.
Ver purpuratum exiit,
Ornatus suos induit,
Aspergit terram floribus,
Ligna silvarum frondibus.
Quod oculis dum video
Et auribus dum audio,
Heu pro tantis gaudiis
Tantis inflor suspiriis.
Cum mihi sola sedeo
Et hæc revolvens palleo,
Si porte caput sublevo,
Nec audio nec video.
Tu saltim, veris gratia,
Exaudi et considera
Frondes, flores et gramina,
Nam mea laguet anima.
Cambridge Songs (11th century)
– Translation below –

The West Wind Rises Softly
The west wind rises softly,
the warm sun rides on its course,
the earth bares its bosom
and overflows with its sweetness.
The purple spring comes forth
and girds on its apparel.
It sprinkles the earth with flowers
and the trees in the forests with leaves.
While I see all this with my eyes
and hear it with my ears
I am possessed, alas! by deep sighs
in the midst of all this rejoicing.
While I sit all by myself with a pale face,
turning all this over in my mind,
if by chance I raise my head
I neither hear nor see.
Do thou at least, for the sake of spring,
hear and consider
the leaves, the flowers, and the grass,
for my soul languishes.
Translation that appears in
Carmina Juventutis

D’Anne qui me jetta de la neige
Anne par jeu me jeta de la neige,
Que je cuidois froide certainement:
Mais c’était feu, l’expérience en ai-je,
Car embrasé je fus soudainement.
Puisque le feu loge secrètement
Dedans la neige, où trouverais-je place
Pour n’ardre point?
Anne, ta seule grâce
Eteindre peut le feu, que je sens bien,
Non point par eau, par neige, ni par glace,
Mais par sentir un feu pareil au mien.
– Clément Marot
– Translation below –

Anne Who Threw Snow at Me
Anne playfully threw snow at me,
That I certainly found cold:
But it was fire, the experience I had,
For I suddenly felt aflame.
Since fire secretly lodges
In the snow, where can I find a place
That is not burning?
Anne, only your grace
Can extinguish the fire that consumes me,
Not by water, snow, or ice,
But by feeling a fire like mine.
Translation by the Editor

The Moment
We passed the ice of pain
And came to a dark ravine,
And there we sang with the sea:
The wide, the bleak abyss
Shifted with our slow kiss.
Space struggled with time;
The gong of midnight struck
The naked absolute.
Sound, silence sang as one.
All flowed: without, within;
Body met body, we
Created what’s to be.
What else to say?
We end in joy.
– Theodore Roethke

 

Everyone Sang
for Bass and Piano
Matt Boehler, Bass | Kevin Korth, Piano
Everyone Sang is a collection of four songs, composed at various times between 1998 and 2003. The fourth song which gives the collection its name, “Everyone Sang,” was commissioned by and is dedicated to the late James Schwabacher, who was a dear friend and important tenor and patron of the arts in San Francisco. It was premiered by bass-baritone Maris Vipulis and pianist Marc Shapiro in 1998. The songs “Homecoming,” dedicated to baritone Robert Barefild, and “Quilt,” dedicated to baritone Ryan Villaverde, were commissioned by the West Chester University Poetry Conference and were premiered by Robert Barefield and pianist Carl Cranmer in June 2003. “Entrance,” dedicated to baritone Tim Krol, was written in July 2003 for inclusion in this set. In 2016, I prepared an edition for bass voice for Matt Boehler, who premiered the set in April 2018.
The four songs of Everyone Sang treat sequentially the themes of attachment, discovery, loss, and celebration. “Homecoming” by A. E. Stallings, an American poet who lives in Greece, explores the psychic thread which binds Odysseus and Penelope. Penelope is weaving a coat to put off her suitors, hoping still for Odysseus’s return. The poem envisions “man and wife dwelling together in unity of mind and disposition.” In Rilke’s poem “Entrance,” translated by American poet Dana Gioia, the speaker entreats the listener to discover the new, see the old through fresh eyes, embrace the unknown, and ultimately let go. “Quilt” by Diane Thiel has a wonderful relaxed formality, being in Terza Rima form, invented by Dante. The quilt is a metaphor for the compartmentalization of life; each patch represents an aspect or event. The poem suggests how we all try to make sense of life by transforming disorder into the order of a quilt. “Everyone Sang” by English poet Siegfried Sassoon expresses the varied emotions of joy and relief at the end of World War I, and sadness for those who have died.

I. Homecoming

It was as if she pulled a thread,
Each time he saw her, that unraveled
All the distance he had traveled
To sleep at home in his own bed,
Or sit together in a room
Spinning yarns of monsters, wars,
The hours counted by the chores.
He loved to watch her at the loom:
The fluent wrists, the liquid motion
Of small tasks not thought about,
The shuttle leaping in and out,
Dolphins sewing the torn ocean.
A. E. Stallings

II. Entrance

Whoever you are: step out of doors tonight,
Out of the room that lets you feel secure,
Infinity is open to your sight.
Whoever you are.
With eyes that have forgotten how to see
From viewing things already too well-known,
Lift up into the dark a huge, black tree
And put it in the heavens: tall, alone.
And you have made the world and all you see.
It ripens like the words still in your mouth.
And when at last you comprehend its truth,
Then close your eyes and gently set it free.
Original words in German by Rainer Maria Rilke.
Translation by Dana Gioia.

III. Quilt

At night this quiet covers me,
grown ragged on the center seam,
dividing all this history.
I touch the patches always known,
the ones they wrapped me in, passed down
for far too long for anyone
to still remember what was cut,
that it was once a blouse, a skirt
she wore the night he took her heart.
I touch the fields I thought I knew
and smooth the places healed into
each other, at the ridges sewn
with careful secrets mouthed for all
the years she couldn’t tell a soul.
– Diane Thiel

IV. Everyone Sang

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on- on- and out of sight.
Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away…O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless;
the singing will never be done.
– Siegfried Sassoon

 

Lincoln
for Baritone, English Horn, Trumpet, and String Orchestra
A. J. Glueckert, Tenor | James Moore, English Horn | Scott Macomber, Trumpet
San Francisco Conservatory String Orchestra, Marika Kuzma, Conductor
Lincoln was commissioned by the city of Concord, Massachusetts, in celebration of the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. The text by John Stirling Walker quotes liberally from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s eulogy for Lincoln. The work alternates between recitative and lyrical passages, with the noble, visionary quality of Lincoln’s character represented by the trumpet, and the quieter, more pastorale and dignified character by the English Horn. The work was premiered by the performers on this recording at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on March 17th, 2013.

I.

He stood here in Concord.

Emerson stood here, and gave us
Remarks…

They pertained to a man;
And that man,
No matter what you think about it,
That man was True.

Emerson stood there, and gave us remarks
About a man,
True, who,
Through and through,
Felt what was to Do.

II.

 “His occupying the chair of state was a triumph of
The good sense of mankind,” said the sage of Concord.  

“Providence makes its own instruments,
Creates the man for the time,
Trains him in poverty,
Inspires his genius,
And arms him for his task.
It has given every race its own talent,”
Ralph went on, “and ordains
That only that race
Which combines
Perfectly
With
The virtues of all
Shall
Endure.”

Such a race,
Yes, such a race

Is True.

III.

Are we True?

Are You?

– John Stirling Walker

 

Sexton Songs
for Soprano and Chamber Ensemble
Marnie Breckenridge, Soprano
San Francisco Conservatory New Music Ensemble, Nicole Paiement, Conductor
The five poems of Sexton Songs span Anne Sexton’s fifteen-year career. The central two poems, “Her Kind” and “Ringing the Bells,” are taken from her book From Bedlam And Part Way Back, published in 1960 and inspired by her stay in a mental institution. They are framed by “Rowing” and “Riding the Elevator to the Sky,” two poems from The Awful Rowing Toward God, published in 1973, one year before she committed suicide at the age of 46. “Us” is from her collection, Love Poems. Through my study of Sexton’s poetry and her life, I gradually formed an image of her as a kind of cabaret performer: a microphone in one hand and a cigarette in the other, delivering her funny—and often devastating—jokes. In my musical settings I have tried to mirror Sexton’s vernacular language and popular images with a style that evokes aspects of jazz and cabaret, and mixes sustained aria-type music with recitiative passages. Sexton’s poet friend Maxin Kumin wrote about Awful Rowing: “The Sexton who had so defiantly boasted…‘I am God la de dah,’ had now given way to a ravaged, obsessed poet fighting to put the jigsaw pieces of the puzzle together into a coherence that would save her—into ‘a whole nation of God.’” For me, Anne Sexton’s painful journey is ultimately a very brave one. She dredges up her feelings and experiences and challenges us to reflect on them, on our own. The version for chamber ensemble was written for and premiered by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music New Music Ensemble, Nicole Paiement, conductor, Marnie Breckenridge, soprano, on October 9th, 2010.

I. ROWING

A story, a story!
(Let it go. Let it come.)
I was stamped out like a Plymouth fender
into this world.
First came the crib
with its glacial bars.
Then dolls
and the devotion to their plastic mouths.
Then there was school,
the little straight rows of chairs,
blotting my name over and over,
but undersea all the time,
a stranger whose elbows wouldn’t work.
Then there was life
with its cruel houses
and people who seldom touched –
though touch is all –
but I grew,
like a pig in a trench coat I grew,
and then there were many strange apparitions,
the nagging rain, the sun turning into poison
and all of that, saws working through my heart,
but I grew, I grew,
and God was there like an island I had not rowed to,
still ignorant of Him, my arms and my legs worked,
and I grew, I grew,
I wore rubies and bought tomatoes
and now, in my middle age,
about nineteen in the head I’d say,
I am rowing, I am rowing
though the oarlocks stick and are rusty
and the sea links and rolls
like a worried eyeball,
but I am rowing, I am rowing,
though the wind pushes me back
and I know that the island will not be perfect,
it will have the flaws of life,
the absurdities of the dinner table,
but there will be a door,
and I will open it,
and I will get rid of the rat inside of me,
the gnawing pestilential rat.
God will take it with his two hands
and embrace it.
As the African says:
This is my tale which I have told.
If it be sweet, if it be not sweet,
Take somewhere else,
and let some return to me.
This story ends with me still rowing. 

II. HER KIND

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable good;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.  

III. RINGING THE BELLS

And this is the way they ring
the bells in Bedlam
and this is the bell-lady
who comes each Tuesday morning
to give us a music lesson
and because the attendants make you go
and because we mind by instinct,
like bees caught in the wrong hive,
we are the circle of the crazy ladies
who sit in the lounge of the mental house,

and smile at the smiling woman
who passes us each a bell,
who points at my hand
that holds my bell, E flat,
and this is the gray dress next to me
who grumbles as if it were special
to be old, to be old,
and this is the small hunched squirrel girl
on the other side of me
who picks at the hairs over her lip,
who picks at the hairs over her lip all day,
and this is how the bells really sound,
as untroubled and clean
as a workable kitchen,
and this is always my bell responding
to my hand that responds to the lady
who points at me, E flat;
and although we are no better for it,
they tell you to go.  And you do.

IV. RIDING THE ELEVATOR INTO THE SKY

As the fireman said:
Don’t book a room over the fifth floor
in any hotel in New York.
They have ladders that will reach further
but no one will climb them.
As the New York Times  said:
The elevator always seeks out
the floor of the fire
and automatically opens
and won’t shut.
These are the warnings
that you must forget
if you’re climbing out of yourself.
If you’re going to smash into the sky.

Many times I’ve gone past
the fifth floor, cranking upward,
but only once
have I gone all the way up.
Sixtieth floor:
small plants and swans bending
into their grave.

Floor two hundred:
mountains with the patience of a cat,
silence wearing its sneakers,
Floor five hundred:
Messages and letters centuries old, birds to drink,
a kitchen of clouds,
Floor six thousand:
the stars,
skeletons on fire,
their arms singing.
And a key,
a very large key, that opens something –
some useful door – somewhere –
up there. 

V. US

I was wrapped in black
fur and white fur and
you undid me and then
you placed me in gold light
and then you crowned me,
while snow fell outside
the door in diagonal darts.
While a ten-inch snow
came down like stars
in small calcium fragments,
we were in our own bodies
(that room that will bury us)
and you were in my body
(that room that will outlive us)
and at first I rubbed your
feet dry with a towel
because I was your slave
and then you called me princess.
Princess!

Oh then
I stood up in my gold skin
and I beat down the psalms
and I beat down the clothes
and you undid the bridle
and you undid the reins
and I undid the buttons,
the bones, the confusions,
the New England postcards,
the January ten o’clock night,
and we rose up like wheat,
acre after acre of gold,
and we harvested,
we harvested.  

Requiem Songs
for Soprano, Solo Violin, Harp, and String Orchestra
Ann Moss, Soprano | Kay Stern, Violin | Douglas Rioth, Harp
San Francisco Conservatory String Orchestra, Eric Dudley, Conductor
Requiem Songs were commissioned by the American Music Research Center, Boulder, Colorado, Thomas Riis, director, in loving memory of Don Campbell (1946–2012). Don Campbell and I were deeply connected through our mutual teacher Nadia Boulanger. The inspiration for this commission came from organist Carolyn Shuster Fournier, a dear mutual friend and long-time resident of Paris. The work was premiered at l’Eglise de la Sainte-Trinité, Paris, in 2013 by Alexis Galpérine, violin, Magali Léger, soprano, Saori Kikuchi, harp, and Carolyn Shuster Fournier, organist. In 2016 I created a new version of these songs, replacing the organ with string orchestra.
To honor Don’s memory I chose three Latin texts from the Requiem Mass. The first, “Exaudi,” is Larghetto and serves as a prelude. The entire composition is based on a plaintive, three-note descending motive first stated in the strings and taken up by the singer and solo violin. The mood begins in a dark and questioning C-sharp minor, and only after much dissonance and tension, resolves quietly in the key of E major; the supplicant’s voice has been heard.
“Dies Irae,” marked Allegro agitato, is an intense and dark scherzo in D minor with chromatic runs in the strings and solo violin accompanying the soprano, whose line is disjunct and dramatic. There is a central, more lyrical section based on the Lacrymosa text in a slower tempo, which leads to the song’s only serene moment: “Pie Jesu Domine.” The “Dies Irae” music returns, and the song ends violently and decisively.
The third song, “In Paradisum,” introduces the harp. The soprano melody is modeled very closely on the Gregorian chant based on this text. This song is consciously inspired in part by both Fauré’s setting of the same text and the Lux aeterna of Nadia Boulanger (a work always played at the annual Lili Boulanger memorial service at La Trinité). The song is in the radiant and serene key of F-sharp major (a favorite key of Olivier Messiaen, long-time organist at La Trinité), and almost completely diatonic. There is a gentle climax on the text “habeas eternam,” and the song slowly winds down to its end, having laid to rest life’s struggles in the eternity of heaven.

I. Exaudi

Exaudi orationem meam
Ad te omnis caro veniet.

Hear my prayer
All flesh shall come before you.

II. Dies irae

III. In Paradisum  

In paradisum deducant angeli;
in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.

Chorus angelorum te suscipat
et cum Lazaro, quondam paupere,
aeternam habeas requiem.

May the angels lead you into paradise;
at your coming may the martyrs receive you
and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.

May the chorus of angels receive you
and with Lazarus, once poor,
may you have eternal rest.

 

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