Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Surviving: Women's Words and a play with few survivors

New CD cover: photo by Michael Halberstadt

...from Berkeley

Today's post starts with a flat-out plug for E4TT's new CD, released on Centaur Records
on April 8, "Surviving: Women's Words."

The CD features pianist Dale Tsang, cellist Adaiha MacAdam-Somer, and--as Miss Piggy would say--moi, performing four song cycles written by composer David Garner for the group, to poetry by four different Jewish women poets. The  culmination of an ambitious five year commissioning project, the CD gives a musical voice to these women's viewpoint and experiences of wartime, the Holocaust, exile, and displacement.

Stephen Smoliar in  describes "Surviving: Women's Words" as "a fascinating project within a project"--alluding to the fact that the project is itself a project of E4TT's Jewish Music & Poetry Project--and goes on to say that "...this album offers four passionate meditations on the Holocaust experience, delivered through a unique and highly compelling pair of voices, those of both composer and singer."

(For the curious, the CD's title, "Surviving," comes from the fourth song in the final cycle on the CD ("Song Is a Monument"), which sets words by Polish-American Holocaust survivor, Yala Korwin. We were honored to be able to use poems written by Korwin, who passed away in May, 2014, only two months after E4TT premiered the cycle. The other poets  whose texts are set muscially on the CD are Mascha Kaleko, Rose Auslaender, and Else Lasker-Schueler.)

"Surviving: Women's Words" is available from Amazon, HBDirect, Arkivmusic, and E4TT. Check it out now or starting May 13, when streaming and downloading will be available for purchase!

And the play with few survivors? Shakespeare's Hamlet, which I saw this evening in a fabulous production by the England's National Theater Live with the inimitable and multiply talented Benedict Cumberbatch (of "Sherlock Holmes" and "The Imitation Game" fame).

Watch the trailer.  Watch Prince Charles deliver Shakespeare's arguably most famous line.

Partly a ghost stoy with a great fight scene, Hamlet is a "greatest hits" play, and deservedly so: much as the opera "Porgy & Bess" is filled with hit after Gershwin musical hit, so too is Hamlet filled with quote after famous Shakespeare quote.  The NTL's stunning production--albeit often very loud--brings out an important sequence in "Hamlet" about the army led by the character Fortinbras--well nigh the only principal character left standing by the final curtain, other than Horatio, whom Hamlet has begged to stay alive to bear witness to his story.

That sequence?  To set the scene, Hamlet has happened upon the Norwegian army on its way to attack Poland and asks the Captain what they're up to. The interchange:
"Hamlet: Goes it against the main of Poland, sir, Or for some frontier?
Captain: Truly to speak, and with no addition/ We go to gain a little patch of ground/ That hath in it no profit but the name./To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it;/Nor will it yield to Norway or the Pole/A ranker rate, should it be sold in fee.
Hamlet:Why, then the Polack never will defend it.
Captain: Yes, it is already garrison'd..."

Thus does Shakespeare four centuries ago emphasize the insanity of war--so often waged for "a little patch of ground"--and the suffering that results, and that, you see, is the connection with the CD, as well.

What I'm reading: More Louise Penny Inspector Gamache mysteries

What I'm listening to: Mp3 after mp3 for making the final vocal decisions for E4TT's call for scores :).  Plus the wonderful artist known as Prince, may he rest in purple peace.

What I'm working on: new music by Judith Shatin and Emma Logan, plus Hans Winterberg and songs by Vitezslava Kapralova

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