Charles Ives “Religion” and “The Cage,” performed by Gerald Seminatore

SV_Taso_Gerald_animated_singing_color_webFor our recent AMERICAN PILGRIMAGE concert, tenor Gerald Seminatore and pianist Mark Salters offered songs by Charles Ives ( 1874-1954). (Links to performance videos of two songs appear below.)

Ives was one of the most original of twentieth century American composers. In more than 100 songs, Ives wove together original melodies, fragments of popular songs and hymns, and harmonies of sweet simplicity or crashing dissonance. There is a pronounced nostalgia in many Ives songs, and sometimes a humorous or ironic note. Two of these songs–“Religion” and “The Cage”–are models of economy, brevity, and harmonic expressiveness.

"Religion" (1920), words Dr. James Thompson Bixby

 There is no unbelief.
 And day by day and night by night, unconsciously,
 The heart lives by faith the lips deny;
 God knows the why.

Click here for Gerald's performance of "Religion." 

"The Cage"(1906), words by Charles Ives

 A leopard went around his cage
 From one side back to the other side;
 He stopped only when the keeper came around with meat;
 A boy who had been there three hours
 Began to wonder, “Is life anything like that?”

Click here for Gerald's performance of "The Cage." 


(Photo courtesy of Taso Papadakis)

Arnold Geis performs Richard Hundley’s “Isaac Greentree”

SV_Taso_Arnold_portrait_webOn our recent AMERICAN PILGRIMAGE concert, tenor Arnold Geis offered songs by composer Richard Hundley. For “Isaac Greentree” (1981), Hundley adapted a text from Samuel Palmer’s “Epitaphs and Epigrams: Curious, Quaint, Amusing” (1869). Arnold’s performance captured both the lyricism and the tenderness of this epitaph. (The text appears below.)

Click here to view Arnold’s performance of “Isaac Greentree” on YouTube.
Mark Salters is at the piano.

(Photo courtesy of Taso Papadakis)


In springtime comes
The gentle rain,
Soothing honey sweet breeze
And sheltering sun.

Beneath these trees
Rising to the skies

The planter of them
Isaac Greentree lies.

The time shall come
When these trees shall fall
And Isaac Greentree rise
Above them all.

Bianca Hall performs “Hark, the echoing air”

94_Cupid_F90x70[1][1]Henry Purcell (1659-95) was to English music what Shakespeare was to English theater. Purcell composed “Dido and Aeneas,” the first opera we have in English, and many other works for the musical stage, including “The Fairy Queen.” Many sopranos (and a few tenors) have made its famous aria “Hark, the echoing air” a showpiece of their skills.

Britten created his own performing editions of “The Fairy Queen,” “Dido and Aeneas,” and many other works of Purcell. In Britten’s concert arrangement of this famous aria, the vocal parts and bass lines were preserved intact, while the orchestral accompaniment is re-imagined in a modern idiom.

Click here to view Bianca Hall’s performance of “Hark, the echoing air,” from our recent “Britten in Song” concert in Glendale. Krystof Van Gyrsperre is at the piano. Winged cupids are prominently featured.

Jonathan Mack performs “At the mid hour of night”

Following up our January 16 post featuring Jonathan Mack, here is a second Britten folk song setting. The author of “At the mid hour of night” was poet and songwriter Thomas Moore’s, whose collection “Irish Melodies” from was published in 1807. Moore’s poem is typical of the lyrical nostalgia found in much Irish poetry of that era. Jonathan’s rendition of Britten’s arrangement perfectly captures this feeling.

Click here to view the video of Jonathan Mack singing “At the mid hour of night.”
Kristof Van Grysperre is at the piano. This is from the 2013 concert by the Spacious Vision Song Project at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glendale, CA.

Jonathan Mack sings “The Salley Gardens”

From our 2013 “Britten in Song” concert at St. Mark’s in Glendale, CA, here is a video performance by tenor Jonathan Mack of “The Salley Gardens,” one of Britten’s most popular folk song settings. Jonathan’s performance perfectly captures the intimacy of the song, and his vocalism recalls (and surpasses) the classic recording by Peter Pears. Kristof Van Grysperre is at the piano. Read on for a few clues to enhance your enjoyment!

hqdefaultBackground. Down by the Salley Gardens (Irish: Gort na Saileán) is a poem by William Butler Yeats, first published in 1889. It was based on the words of an older folk song, to which Yeats added new words of his own. The tune Britten used for his 1943 setting was “The Moorlough Shore,” which Irish composer Herbert Hughes had also used for his classic 1909 setting of the Yeats poem.

Some clues. The “Salley Gardens” may have been on the banks of the river at Ballysadare near Sligo. “Salley” or “sally” is a form of the Standard English word “sallow”, i.e., a tree of the genus Salix. It is close in sound to the Irish word saileach, meaning willow.

Click here for the video of “The Salley Gardens.”

Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.
In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

A Lied for Three Kings Day (Jan. 6)

For many folks, a song in a foreign language can sound unfriendly, but we certainly want to introduce songs from different countries to our listeners! Here’s one attempt to cross the language barrier–a track from our 2013 Holiday concert (in German), with an introduction to the song, along with a photo montage which includes an English translation. Click here for “Die Könige” (The Kings) by Peter Cornelius. Happy 12th day of Christmas!999px-Magi_1-Wikimedia-Commons

Hugo Wolf “Schlafendes Jesuskind”

Continuing our participation in the musical energy of this holiday season, this week’s post introduces German composer Hugo Wolf’s famous song “Schlafendes Jesuskind” (Sleeping Infant Jesus). Wolf’s music is in late Romantic style, with echoes of Richard Wagner and a subtle interplay between harmony and text. The image rich poem is by Eduard Mörike (1804-1875 ), who was inspired by a painting in the style of Francesco Albani (Italy, 1578-1660).

The poem’s German text and an English translation appear below the picture. We invite you to read the poem, and then to click here for a live, unedited 2013 performance of “Schlafendes Jesusukind” by tenor Gerald Seminatore and pianist Libor Dudas.

Infant_Christ_Asleep_on_the_cross_manner_of_Francesco_Alfani

Sohn der Jungfrau, Himmelskind!
Son of the Virgin, Heaven’s child!

Am Boden auf dem Holz der Schmerzen eingeschlafen,
On the ground, asleep upon the wood of suffering,

Dass der fromme Meister, sinnvoll spielend,
That the devout painter– with gentle allusion –

Deinen leichten Träumen unterlegte;
has placed under your light dreams;

Blume du, noch in der Knospe dämmernd,
You flower, still  in the opening bud,

Eingehüllt die Herrlichkeit des Vaters!
Encased in the glory of of your Father!

O, wer sehen könnte, welche Bilder
O, who could see, what pictures

Hinter dieser Stirne, diesen schwarzen Wimpern
Behind this brow, and these dark lashes,

Sich in sanftem Wechsel malen!
Are being painted in gentle changes!

(Trans. Gerald Seminatore)