New York Festival of Song
Steven Blier, Artistic Director
Michael Barrett, Assoc. Artistic Director
Elizabeth Ellis Hurwitt, Executive Director
Paul DeRosa, Chairman, Board of Directors
Corinne Winters, soprano
Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano
Andrew Garland, baritone
Jay Campbell, cello
Michael Barrett, piano
Steven Blier, piano and arranger
At Merkin Concert Hall
(Merkin Hall Website)
Press: Aleba Gartner Associates
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 4, 2012
Works by: Musto, Rorem, Schoenberg, Chausson, Adamo, Kihlstedt, Meltzer, Musgrave, Britten, Collins, Fairouz.
Once again, New York Festival of Song presented a gorgeous concert for its fans and vocal music aficionados. Kaufman Center was packed, as always, and the audience was invited to a wine reception upstairs, after the final song, to meet the artists, along with Steven Blier and Michael Barrett, pianists and organizers of this series. Tonight’s artists were Corinne Winters, soprano, Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano, Andrew Garland, baritone, Jay Campbell, on cello, Michael Barrett, on piano, and of course Steven Blier, on piano and arrangements. The title of this event was “Women”, and it included three World Premieres from Mark Adamo, Mohammed Fairouz, and Harold Meltzer.
In the song series called, “Good and Bad Relationships”, “I Stop Writing the Poem”, music by John Musto and poem by Tess Gallagher, has dissonant tones but endearing musicality. It was sung by Corinne Winters with theatrical humor, as a woman irons her man’s shirt, instead of finishing her poem. “Rome: In the Café”, music by John Musto and poem by James Laughin, is like film noir, about a woman who cries every time she sees her lover, who loves her not enough. Andrew Garland sang this atonal song with a tight treble in his voice. “A Birthday”, music by Ned Rorem and poem by Christina Rossetti, was sung by Ms. Winters. This song is upbeat, filled with longing and fantasy, and Ms. Winters performed with enthusiastic verve. “We Never Said Farewell”, music by Ned Rorem and poem by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge, was also sung by Ms. Winters with mixed emotions, about two lovers who remain far apart. Ms. Winters sings with clear inflection and resonance.
The next song series was called “Sacred and Profane Love”. “Galathea”, music by Arnold Schoenberg, poem by Frank Wedekind, was sung by Mr. Garland. This six verse song, sung in excellent original German, had fuller musicality and intense emotionality. Mr. Blier always provides English translations, and, in “Galathea”, the verses included phrases about how tempting it would be to kiss Galathea’s knees, hands, and hair. “Cantique à l’épouse”, music by Ernest Chausson, poem by Albert Jounet, was sung in French by Mr. Garland. This piece was more mellow and troubling, sung with yearning, longing lyricism. The translation included a phrase about “the mystery and grandeur of our solemn love”. Mr. Garland has muscular pitch and modulation.
The third song series was called “Contemporary Life”. “The Racer’s Widow”, music by Mark Adamo, was composed around five poems, by Linda Pastan, Tennessee Williams, Marge Piercy, Louise Glück, and Sara Teasdale. It was sung by Sasha Cooke, accompanied by Jay Campbell on cello, a lovely addition to the series. It should be mentioned that throughout tonight’s concert, Steven Blier, as always, introduced each group of songs, and sometimes individual songs, with historical, humorous, engaging anecdotes. His accompaniment on piano, as well as Mr. Barrett’s, was always in just the right tone, not to obscure the vocals, but to enhance the entire listening experience. “The Racer’s Widow” touched on “lifting the car’s hood”, “I watch you fade into the fading air”, “we’ll be stuck, two mounds of wet dough”, “I can hear that car careen again”, and “the sad laughter and the pride of pride”. Mr. Campbell’s cello strings expanded the mournful melancholia of the five poem song. Ms. Cooke remains one of the finest new mezzo sopranos I have heard..
“An Intimate Look” was the title of the fourth song series of just one song. “A Woman’s Body”, music by Carla Kihlstedt, lyrics assembled from various poems by Ms. Kihlstedt, was sung by Mr. Garland. It was quite entertaining to hear a man singing about a woman’s lament about her body, a compilation of laments from so many women. Lyrics included “these veins and these furrows were hers and were his”. Mr. Garland reached some high notes for effect, and sang with languor and dreaminess. “Daughters, Fathers, and Mothers” was the next series. “I love my Jean”, music by Thea Musgrave, poem by Robert Burns, was sung by Mr. Garland. He sang this airy romantic poem with a Scottish brogue. “Sephestia’s Lullaby”, music by Benjamin Britten, poem by Robert Greene, was sung by Ms. Cooke, with compelling warmth and outsized expressiveness, in lyrics such as “weep not, my wanton, smile upon my knee; when thou art old, there’s grief enough for thee.” “My father”, music and words by Judy Collins, was sung by Ms. Winters. This was an eloquent song about a daughter’s living out her father’s promise to move the family to France, for boating and dancing.
The final series of one song was called “The Middle East”, and the song was “A Prayer for the New Year”, music by Mohammed Fairouz, poem by Fadwa Tuqan. It was sung by both Ms. Winters and Ms. Cooke and accompanied by cellist, Jay Campbell. This work was written with dramatic vocal tones and exotic string composition. Michael Barrett accompanied on piano. The youthful composer dashed to the stage for accolades after the final notes. The lyrics had included phrases in English, such as “give us love, so we may build the collapsed universe within us anew”. Tonight’s concert was another huge success, with generous audience applause and appreciation.
Photo courtesy of Dario Acosta