Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Song Recital, Reimagined

One of the interesting ways forward for the song recital may involve reinventing the relationship of new to  old. A recent recital by soprano Julia Fox and pianist Keith Weber in Houston featured the juxtaposition of Aaron Copland's 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson with the music on the rest of the program. From Bruce Robinson's account of the recital:
The performers divided the program into six sets, three each before and after intermission. Sets 1, 3, 4 and 6 consisted of Copland’s Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson. The interior sets of each half leavened the mix with songs of Bernstein, Monteverdi, Purcell and David Evan Thomas, as well as an improvisation by Mr. Weber.

At the end of each set the performers paused and sat down, perhaps sixty seconds each time. Did they need rest? No. Did the audience? Absolutely.

Erica Sipes sends word about a similar approach she will be using in an upcoming Love.Songs program in Whitewater, Wisconsin. A quote from Erica's Twitter feed:
@TheodoreSipes & I did something like that on a recent program of ours. Before each Respighi song we did, he stepped 2 side of stage, we projected the entire poem up on screen, had some sound effects in background that related 2 upcoming song after about a minute, I started the intro. It was so refreshing 4 both the audience and ourselves. A neat experience.
You can read in much greater detail about Erica's recital concept at her Love.Songs blog.


  1. I like this sort of programming idea. This spring I was at a concert in Beverly Hills that consisted of a program of fairly standard choral/orchestral repertoire (it was a graduate recital), but it was punctuated by intermittent renaissance music sung but an conductor-less quartet. At first it was weird. Toward the end I enjoyed it. Afterward I relished it.

    I have really seen a performance with such intentional downtime though. It's an intriguing idea.

    Thanks for this good post.

    Grant Charles Chaput

  2. Thanks, Grant!

    At the Toronto Nuit Blanche last week, I did a one-hour performance with Quintimacy's Ramona Carmelly, where we performed only four songs (ee cummings settings by Chad Martin), but performed them several times, interspersed with commentary and conversation between the songs.

  3. Playing the same piece more than once on the same program seems like a very good yet risky idea. I really believe people need to hear music more than once to even begin to "get it." But of course, one risks boredom too. Maybe the whole "Classical Revolution" thing presents a way to mitigate the risk of boredom by getting out of the concert hall and including downtime, like the conversation you mention.

    This could be particularly cool with songs that have profound texts. There could be a singing, a reading, analysis of the text, another singing, etc. The concert might become more like an interactive lecture.

    Sounds fun to me...

    Grant Charles Chaput