How long now have I been alluding to this recital project? Far too long, and as my work on the program builds up, I’m finally getting around to writing about it.
The seed for this project was actually planted in May of 2005, so it will be just about two years when it all comes to fruition (somebody knock on wood) on May 17th. Judd Greenstein and I met when we were both Fellows at Tanglewood, and I think we got back in touch when we were both listed on the blogroll at The Rest is Noise. I was in the early planning stages for a CD project (which never happened) and asked Judd if he would be interested in writing me a new song or group of songs to be included. I think the original program theme back then was American song, but I quickly realized that that is a very popular CD theme!
As Judd and I tossed text ideas back and forth, a theme emerged built around Judd’s piece, which I knew I wanted to be the centerpiece of the recital. We moved through Millay’s poetry to the writings of Sufi mystics, only to settle on passages from the Zohar, a central text of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. I also knew that I wanted to program some or all of John Harbison’s Mirabai Songs, settings of the ecstatic poetry of a 16th century Krishna devotee, so from these two ideas came the theme: intimacy with Spirit.
By January of this year, the theme and program had pretty much solidified. Here’s what I wrote up for the venue website:
What happens when you take away the trappings of religion and leave behind faith and doubt? How have poets and composers captured the intimacy of a relationship with the Spirit? What is a relationship with the Spirit? Soprano Anne-Carolyn Bird and pianist Jocelyn Dueck present songs pulled from diverse spiritual traditions with an eye toward answering these questions and more. The recital will feature works by Rachmaninoff, Barber, Dallapiccola, Messiaen, and Harbison, as well as folks songs and other native musics. A world-premiere work by Judd Greenstein, - based on texts from the Zohar, the central book of Kabbalah - rounds out this intimate and challenging program.
Oh, and the venue? Also a cool development over the past year. Judd has joined with another Tanglewood alumnus, Kimball Gallagher, to create VIM:TriBeCa, a concert series held in a TriBeCa art gallery. They started with five or six programs scheduled when the inaugural season started in September, and as of now they will present fifteen distinct programs in the 06-07 season. Focusing on new music and young performers, VIM presents concerts at Gallarie Icosahedron, often in conjunction with openings and exhibitions. It’s great to see a new venture like this take off and be so successful right away.
As for the program, entitled “I Have Some Light: Songs of Spirit,” I wanted to try and include as many different voices and spiritual backgrounds as I could. Jocelyn and I could have kept digging and searching and finding new music for years, but I made myself stop and commit! I didn’t find everything I was looking for (I wish I’d found something Islamic or some folk songs in another language), but I’m pretty pleased with the diversity. We’ll have Hindu (Harbison, Mirabai), European Catholic (Barber, Hermit Songs), existential (Messiaen, Poemes pour mi), Russian Orthodox (Rachmaninoff), Spanish mysticism (Dallapiccola), American Protestant (hymns, folk songs), and I consider Bolcom’s “Waitin’” (poem by Arnold Weinstein) to be a beautiful description of the Buddhist search for enlightenment:
I’ve been waitin, waitin, waitin all my life.
That light keeps on hiding from me,
But it someday just might bless my sight.
Waitin, waitin, waitin
I have a lot of work to do in the next two months to get this program in shape, but I love this project! What a journey it’s been on, and there’s so much more to come. Sounds like life, doesn’t it?