Middlebury Song Fest

I’m excited about the upcoming recital at the new Middlebury Song Fest this Friday evening, May 18.  Favorite songs written in the recent past, very accessible tunes on New England poets, with a bit of improvisation and whimsy thrown in.  Peter Cirka on piano, (until I play on my own arrangement of a Ricky Ian Gordon tune).  We’ll also teach the audience a few settings of Emmas Lazarus’ famous “Give me your tired…” and a fun song about the library by Deborah Henson-Conant.

Bonus for Boston area friends:  an open dress rehearsal at the JP branch of the public library on Wednesday May 26, 2:30-3:30.  (30 South Street, Jamaica Plain, downstairs).

mockingbirdart

What a delight to come together with my pals to revisit some delightful song cycles by Fran Trester and learn some new tunes!  Celebrating Scott Woolweaver’s birthday (Mr. Viola to you), John McDonald has written a gorgeous new tune on a poem of Scott’s friend,  Cheryl Savageau, called “Equinox”.  It’s about a goldfinch, natch, because we are all a bit bird- and nature-crazy in this trio.  John plays piano for the rest of the pieces, but this bird song is just viola and contralto and it might rival John’s “The Mockingbird of Mockingbirds”, which was written for a big birthday celebration of mine in 2004.

Here’s the details for the two concerts, both at All Newton Music School                  321 Chestnut Street West Newton, MA 02465   (617) 527-4553

Sunday March 11, 3:00pm  Scott’s birthday bash with nice reception afterwards.  Free, lots of good music for viola and I will be part of the 2nd half.  Includes
“Domestic Affairs” by Francine Trester (10 songs on domestic life, including raccoons in the garbage and a bird named Ruffles) and “Equinox” by John McDonald (premier, described above).

Friday March 23, 11:00am  All-Mockingbird Trio in an informal setting, which includes lunch afterwards.  $30, reservations required.  Program includes Howard Frazin’s “A Wren” and “Lullaby”, song cycles about birds by Francine Trester and John McDonald, his new “Equinox” and “The Mockingbird of Mockingbirds”.  Some on poetry by Denise Levertov; Fran writes her own fabulous lyrics. Howard Frazin’s Viola Sonata is also featured (premier, also being heard on March 11 concert).

How fun is this?  For me, nothing more delightful than singing music that was written for me and my pals, on gorgeous texts and getting to play music with them again after a hiatus (John was on sabbatical,  after being dept. chair and other grown-up duties).

Mockingbird illustration by Lisa French.

The Marathon anniversary has come and past and we’ve performed A View from Heartbreak Hill enough times that I cannot get one of the tunes out of my head.  “This, this gleaming April”, begins the song “Still”, speaks of the beauty all around us –“tulips beautiful”, “stroll to the park”, and then seeing the flags at half mast.  That’s how it is: this year as well as last.  So much beauty and so many reminders, all together.   Sad and wistful and poignant and so much beauty, so much new growth.

This month I’ve sung, taught, had a wonderful Passover Seder with friends and family, walked, rode my bike, gardened, and had terrible allergies.  The week of the last performance I had to cancel teaching in order to save my voice, and hide from the beckoning garden on the day of the concert.  I went swimming instead, letting the chlorine banish the tree pollen from my instrument, or respiratory passages anyway.  After so many years of taking care to avoid colds, not drink or eat certain foods before big concerts (for days or even weeks, in some circumstances), it is a relief to have fewer concerts for which to prepare, and more that simply fit the current me:  less travel on planes near concert dates, pieces that are written for me and that fit me perfectly.  That is a wonderful gift of being a mature singer who has paid my dues–I sang plenty of awkward music in my 20’s,  too high or too soft or uncountable.   I did enough premieres of “just okay” music, and many more of sublime music.

pink flowers in early spring

Today, this gleaming April day, the first flowers on my apricot tree opened.  Apricots bloom early, and often get hit by frost afterwards, but they seem to know what they are doing.  I’ve seen about 2 apricots ripen on that tree over the past 10+ years.  First the aphids and then the birds get them.  But it is a lovely sight, along with the daffodils, hyacinths and all the little green spouts of perennials coming back to life again (“I’m so glad to see you again,” I say to them in the mornings when I make my rounds, “Please remind me of your name.”)

April is also National Poetry Month, and I got a chance to hear Martha Collins read from her new books right down the street in Roslindale, where my JP Jubilee group sang for the seniors last semester.  Martha wrote “The Green House”, which Dana Maiben set so beautifully for me to sing last year.  So I was particularly pleased to hear poems about April–she writes a poem a day for a month and has a book with 6 months covered, all from different years.

April’s more

red than green,

              when I wrote at seven

the busy maple I didn’t know what

the maple was doing,

               but now I’m fixed

on magnolia: rose bullets on one side

of this tree and opening open-

ing open on the other

 

Martha Collins, Day Unto Day, ©2014

 

 

Newton Public Library 3-2-14Beautiful new songs and favorites from our Mockingbird Trio “archives” including texts by Robert Frost, May Sarton and others.  Songs about animals, nature, awe, and wonder.  We’ve been rehearsing this program and delight in the beauty…as well as a few misty moments.

Beautiful drawing of a mockingbird, nestled in a blooming almond tree, with the words "Mockingbird Trio, Music of the 21st Century below"
Mockingbird Trio logo by Lisa French

We’ll be performing a new work by our esteemed colleague Francine Trester in the coming months.

Here’s how Fran describes it:

“A View from Heartbreak Hill, a cycle of six songs whose themes stem from the events of last year’s Boston Marathon attack.
The songs, scored for contralto, viola, and piano are reflections on the tragedy, a memorial to the victims, and an offering of hope.
“I wrote the words and music to the cycle – more of my work can be found at: www.francinetrester.com.
The performers are the Mockingbird Trio
along with pianist Lois Shapiro and violist Melissa Howe 
I think we have an interesting story to tell.
And we will be presenting it through three performances this year:
  • Berklee College of Music on Thursday February 20 (7:30 pm),
  • Newton Free Library on Sunday March 2 (2:00 pm), and
  • Harvard Business School on Thursday  April 10 (6:00 pm–private concert, limited availability for guests)

All performances are free.  
The March 2 event at the Newton Free Library will be a full concert by The Mockingbird Trio.

More news to come about this special cycle and its premiere.