A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, opera a cappella now available at Albany Records

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

O beautiful for pilgrim feet?

Most great contemporary songs have figured out that second and third verses are really important. But with old hymns and songs, they can become incomprehensible. Ellen Frankel and I are working on a kind of ecumenical hymn to be inserted in our opera, SLAYING THE DRAGON. We are working to make sure that the second and third verses do not degenerate. Take for example the second verse of this famous song which I was reminded of because my daughter is singing it in her children's choir.

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law! 

When was the last time you thought about a pilgrim's foot? How is something stern and impassioned at the same time? You picture a bunch of pilgrims doing some kind of stomping dance. And "Confirm thy soul in self-control?" Does that mean "Let's be repressed, it's for the best?" And the first four lines are such a long thought that they are incomprehensible when sung. 

By contrast, check out the words to Amazing Grace. Those lyrics make sense and tell a story.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A bit of Psyche and Eros

Pasha, the violinist referred to in the last post, posted this little bit of video from the Psyche and Eros performance on facebook. You can link to it even if you aren't a facebook type. Try it here.

The music describes Aphrodite's anger as she flies off in her chariot.

More video is coming from Abu Dhabi after they finish their festival.