Stiles, Patricia: Song Tapestry

Patricia Stiles: Song Tapestry
Title: Song Tapestry
Label: CD Baby

Although the musicians assembled here represent varied musical traditions, they share an academic and geographical connection, practicing their craft in Bloomington, Ind., as professors and instructors at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. In 2001, I had the pleasure of singing Don Freund's Three Songs with a wonderful ensemble of colleagues and students from the Jacobs School of Music. Having just completed another CD, I was ready for a new project, and the germ of an idea began to form. Throughout my singing life, I have always particularly enjoyed the interplay between composer and singer, the process of exchanging ideas until they are thoroughly woven together. Being so close to the creative process-working to realize another artist's vision-is a challenge and a privilege that has truly fascinated me. Just two years later, I was the privileged recipient of an Arts and Humanities Grant from Indiana University to record Songs of Indiana. As a professor at the Jacobs School of Music, I am so fortunate to be surrounded by composers of great originality and freshness, and my search for new music required me to reach out to colleagues, whom I did not know, in order to ask if they might have songs for a mezzo- soprano. I feel very honored by the faith of the composers who entrusted their works to me and by those who either wrote, rewrote, or reworked songs for this project. Song Tapestry is the product of learning, rehearsing and recording these very individual creations. Themes of nature, love, conflict, dreams, death, and God, which come from such different cultures and languages, become intertwined. Poetry that spans eight centuries is sewn into a new, modern cloth. This rich and colorful tapestry is spun from surprises, new friends, and songs which speak the truth and which speak to the heart. I am glad to share it with you. Patricia Stiles The first of Don Freund's Three Songs, a setting of Gerard Manley Hopkins, stands apart from the rest of the group. "God's Grandeur," says Freund, "is different in that the entire conception was ignited by the mixing of Hopkins' scintillating poem with sounds made possible by the chamber orchestra medium." The second and third songs were first performed in an orchestral setting in 1968. The second song, "Sephestia's Song to Her Child," is a setting of a secular poem by Robert Greene, contemporary and critic of William Shakespeare. In contrast, "I Syng of a Mayden," a "magnificat" of sorts, is an anonymous, fifteenth-century text in which Mary anticipates, and then celebrates, the birth of Jesus. Haiku, by Edwin Penhorwood, features 13 of Harold G. Henderson's English translations of the restrained Japanese poetic form. Interestingly, Penhorwood discovered these haiku as a college student, in 1959, and kept them until 1995, when he decided they would make a good song cycle for a mezzo soprano. Such a long wait is richly rewarded-the poetry is subtle and subdued, but it's profound ideas and emotions are captured in the composer's dramatic, soaring vocal lines and expansive piano accompaniment. P. Q. Phan's Confession, composed for and dedicated to Stiles, captures "the outmost internal expression and social belief" of eighteenth-century Vietnamese poet Ho xuan Huong. Rather than "describing the poetry," says Phan, in these songs, "I have imagined what the poet would have sung." Ho Xuan Huong, writing during an era dominated almost exclusively by men, challenged authority with ideas from the erotic to the linguistic. Phan notes, "Her choice to write poetry in [the Vietnamese dialect] Nom, as Chaucer chose to write in English and Dante in Italian, gives her poetry a special Vietnamese dimension filled with the aphorisms and speech habits of the common people." The poetry of Thomas Beversdorf's Songs is taken from the œuvre of E. E. Cummings. Beversdorf died in 1981. His wife, Norma Beversdorf, said, "I cannot speak for my husband, yet I would imagine the appeal of E. E. Cummings' words might come from their brush with substance, moving inward from literal to ephemeral. All this melds with a glimpse into the eternal." Beversdorf captures Cummings' fleeting prosody in songs that have a tremendous sense of direction and no word repetition. During the 1920s, Cummings lived in Greenwich Village, New York City. Throughout the same decade, New York literary life flourished uptown as well, among the assembly of writers, musicians, and artists that created the Harlem Renaissance. In Songs of Living and Dying, David N. Baker takes inspiration from the era's "celebration of life" and it's connection to the poetry of Samuel Allen, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and Langston Hughes. "Langston Hughes was an active participant in the Harlem Renaissance; Samuel Allen was a student of Harlem Renaissance legend James Weldon Johnson; and Georgia Douglas Johnson had three major works published during the decade of the Harlem Renaissance," writes Baker. "Paul Laurence Dunbar was a precursor to the literary flowering of the 1920s." Songs are "evocative of love and death, Eros and Thanatos," says composer Émile Naoumoff. The three poems are by Paul Valery, a fruitful source for many composers of mélodies; the Belgian symbolist Emile Verhaeren; and Armand Marquiset, a French philanthropist. The first two songs, "Compagnon de silence (le bois intime)" and "Ta bonté," evoke love and companionship, though from different temporal perspectives. The third song, "O mort!," says Naoumoff, is "Marquiset's own prayer to death." The varying themes of the songs are bound together not only by evocations of love and death, but also by their conception: Naoumoff found compositional inspiration for each in Stiles' artistry. For his Three Songs of Love, Sven-David Sandström turned to the Swedish poetry of Gunnar Ekelöf ("Väck mig till sömns i dig"), Claes Anderson ("Hon går med vinden I sitt hår") and Bertel Gripenberg ("Månskäran lyser"). Composed for voice and piano with violin obbligato, the first and third songs evoke the intimacy and excitement of night. The second song, says Sandström, "is a play with the words 'walk,' 'the wind,' 'her hair,' 'love,' and 'the way,' which are constantly put in new combinations." In each song, there is a sense of conversation between voice and violin as they call and answer each other, weaving their melodies into the text. Marion L. Harrison's Songs of Nature captures the breadth of the environment with her chosen instruments. Although we hear voice, flute, and violin, it is the singer who performs on a compass stretching from speech to song. A poem by Edward Thomas ("Snow") is followed by settings of Christina Rossetti ("The Wind"), and Nicholas Kilmer ("Now Silence"). Harrison's creativity stems from the poetry's imagery, whether it is the killing of a white bird in "Snow" or Rossetti's rustling wind. Although "Now Silence" is the final song, it was composed first. The three are completed by the contrast of "God's Will" with "the seeming randomness of Nature." PATRICIA STILES Patricia Stiles, mezzo-soprano, has been taught voice for the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music since August, 1998. She was born in Houston, Texas, graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown College, and received a Master of Music degree from the University of Maryland. She studied voice with Oren Brown and Phyllis Bryn-Julson, among others. Stiles made her operatic debut with the Washington Opera as the Third Spirit in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, after which she went on to have an extensive career in Europe, singing over 40 leading operatic roles such as Rosina (Barber of Seville), Dorabella (Cosi fan tutti), Octavian (Der Rosenkavalier), Orpheus (Orpheus by Gluck), Hänsel (Hänsel und Gretel), Eboli, (Don Carlos), Ortrud (Lohengrin), and Erda (Das Rheingold), to name only a few. She is well known for her very personal interpretations of song literature as well as oratorio and concert repertoire. Stiles has reco

1.1 Three Songs: God's Grandeur
1.2 Three Songs: Sephestia's Song to Her Child
1.3 Three Songs: I Syng of a Mayden
1.4 Haiku: Summer Evening
1.5 Haiku: The Way of Zen
1.6 Haiku: Clouds
1.7 Haiku: Coolness
1.8 Haiku: Onitsura's First
1.9 Haiku: Loneliness
1.10 Haiku: Where the Cuckoo Flies
1.11 Haiku: Spring
1.12 Haiku: The Sudden Chillness
1.13 Haiku: Maple Leaves
1.14 Haiku: Bell Tones
1.15 Haiku: The Mushroom
1.16 Haiku: The Cuckoo
1.17 Confession I
1.18 Floating Cake
1.19 Confession: Jackfruit
1.20 Confession: Confession II
1.21 Confession: On Sharing a Husband
1.22 Confession: Confession III
1.23 Three Songs: For Also Then's Until
1.24 Three Songs: Love Is a Place
1.25 Three Songs: Chansons Innocentes
2.1 Songs of Living and Dying: Forever
2.2 Songs of Living and Dying: The Place Where the Rainbow Ends
2.3 Songs of Living and Dying: To a Dead Friend
2.4 Songs of Living and Dying: To Satch
2.5 Songs of Living and Dying: Trifle
2.6 Songs of Living and Dying: Without Benefit of Declaration
2.7 Songs: Compagnon de Silence
2.8 Songs: Ta Bonte
2.9 Songs: O Mort!
2.10 Three Songs of Love: Vack Mig Till Somns I Dig
2.11 Three Songs of Love: Hon Gar Med Vinden I Sitt Har
2.12 Three Songs of Love: Manskaran Lyser
2.13 Songs of Nature: Snow
2.14 Songs of Nature: The Wind
2.15 Songs of Nature: Now Silence After Petrarch

Stiles, Patricia: Song Tapestry

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