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Image for Byron Jones, baritone & Alexander Bernstein, piano
Byron Jones, baritone & Alexander Bernstein, piano
02.19.24 | Goodson Chapel – Recital Hall
Faculty Recital
Byron Jones, baritone
Alexander Bernstein, piano

Monday, February 19, 2024 at 7:30 p.m.
Goodson Chapel – Recital Hall
Shenandoah Conservatory

Histoires naturelles (Jules Renard)

Le Paon
Le Grillon
Le Cygne
Le Martin-pêcheur
La Pintade

Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)

Found Postcards

To Miss Mary Burke, Sparta WI (1906)
To Mr. Walker Estes, New Gloucester ME (1937)
To Charlie, May 2, 1911
To Mrs. Leander Holdridge Harwick, Chenango Co, NY (1909)

Jonathan Newman (b. 1972)

- intermission -

The Last Blast of Anthony the Trumpeter

Kamala Sankaram (b. 1978)
Text based on Washington Irving

A Love Cycle

A Love Song (Dunbar)
O del mio amato ben (Donaudy)
Herz, mein Herz, sei nicht beklommen (Heine)
Adieu, jusque je vous revoye (anon.)

Marques Garrett (b. 1984)

Final Monologue from Master Class

Jake Heggie (b. 1961)
Text by Terrance McNally

Program Notes

The marriage of text and music holds endless fascination for me: how composers respond to poetic imagery, how story is told through song, how sung speech makes us hear things differently…all of it. On this program, Alex and I are presenting texts that come from a variety of sources: anonymous poetry, prose, a monologue from a play, snippets of casual correspondence, texts adapted from works of literature, and poetry by Dunbar and Heine. Tenor Ian Bostridge, in Schubert's Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, states that “performance is a meeting between the composer and the performer and the listener, and it is only together that they can create the piece.” Though I would add “poet” and an “s” to performer, I agree so deeply with Bostridge’s statement. We are here to use our skills to bring this music to life, so that it might be received by you, and completed by your presence and your listening. Ralph Vaughan Williams said it clearly in 1932: “The actual process of artistic invention, whether it be by voice, verse, or brush, presupposes an audience; someone to read, hear, or see.”

Maurice Ravel caused quite a scandal when he set prose texts by Jules Renard (1864–1910) in Histoires naturelles. These five animal portraits—the peacock, the cricket, the swan, the kingfisher and the guinea hen—were written for and premiered by French mezzo-soprano Jane Bathori (1877–1970), an ardent supporter of new music in her era. First performed in 1906, these songs are unique in French vocal literature as the final mute “e” is often either elided or omitted, as it is in spoken French. While many appreciated this new approach to text, there were those who found the songs to be in opposition to formal, accepted rules of French declamation.

Jonathan Newman’s Found Postcards, first performed in 2006, is a collection of settings of abandoned postcards discovered and compiled by playwright Gary Winter. In Jonathan’s words, “Found over years of Gary’s antique store and used bookseller browsing, the brief, sometimes enigmatic messages in these postcards are forever frozen in time, and they offer a curious glimpse into capricious sentiments of sweetness, disappointment, sorrow, playfulness, and wonder.” Originally a set of three, a delightful rag was added in fall 2018 as part of a song composition project in Survey of Vocal Literature. Many thanks to the composer not only for some really great songs, but also for his willingness to add a fourth one for me!

American composer Kamala Sankaram moves freely between the worlds of experimental music and contemporary opera. Known for her work pushing the boundaries of the operatic form, she has created operas as varied as The Last Stand, a ten-hour opera created for the trees of Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Looking at You, a techno-noir featuring live datamining of the audience and a chorus of twenty-five singing tablet computers, all decisions will be made by consensus, one of the first live performances over Zoom, and The Parksville Murders, the world’s first virtual reality opera. Recent commissions include works for the Glimmerglass Festival (where she was the 2022 composer-in-residence), Washington National Opera, the PROTOTYPE Festival, and Creative Time, among others. As a biracial Indian-American and trained sitarist, Kamala has also drawn on Indian classical music in many of her works, including Thumbprint, A Rose, Monkey and Francine in the City of Tigers, and the Jungle Book. Select awards, grants and residencies include: composer-in-residence at the Kaufman Music Center, Jonathan Larson Award, NEA ArtWorks, MAP Fund, Opera America, HEREArtist Residency Program, the MacDowell Colony, and the Watermill Center.

The Last Blast of Anthony the Trumpeter was commissioned by the Five Boroughs Music Festival and is part of volume two of the Five Borough Songbook (2017). The text, adapted by the composer, comes from Knickerbocker’s History of New York by Washington Irving. Marques L. A. Garrett, a Virginia native, is an associate professor of choral studies at the University of North Texas. “The order of these songs is very intentional. Each text is a different chapter in this cycle. From happiness to heartbreak to hope to healing, each song paints another picture in this oft-confusing cycle we call love,” says Garrett. I discovered the composer and his works during my fall 2022 sabbatical while attending the African American Art Song Alliance Conference.

In 1971, acclaimed Greek-American soprano Maria Callas returned to the stage to give a series of master classes at The Juilliard School. During her farewell to the singers, she said, “…whether I keep on singing or not doesn’t make any difference. You are the younger generation and you must apply it. And the only thanks that I really do want: keep on going, and the proper way—not with fireworks and easy applause, but with the expression of the words, the diction, and your real feelings…this is what I want to say, and I’m not good at words, so…that’s that.”

This provided the inspiration for Terrance McNally’s 1995 play Master Class. Zoe Caldwell created the role of Callas. Other interpreters of the role include Tyne Daly, Patti LuPone, Dixie Carter, and Faye Dunaway. Jake Heggie set the final monologue for Joyce DiDonato; they premiered it on May 19, 2007 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera.

– Byron Jones

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Shenandoah University is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All gifts are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.