Since Mama is holding you close
“I have always resonated with the joy and color in his [Alarcón] poetry. He prints his poetry with an English version on one side and Spanish on the other. And even though I don’t have an ounce of Latin blood, he makes me feel like one when I set his words. I call Francisco my Mexican Buddha.”- Composer Roger Bourland
A prolific writer for adults and children, Francisco X. Alarcón was born in California and grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico. Latino and gay identity, mythology, the Nahuatl language, Mesoamerican history and American culture are all portrayed in Alarcon’s writing.
There are 3 Alarcón Madrigal Books and all were commissioned by women’s ensemble groups. Cal State Fullerton commissioned the first one and Vox Femina, the other two. Composer Roger Bourland wrote the music for all three.
I learned Spanish from my grandma – mijito don’t cry she’d tell me don’t cry
On the mornings my parents would leave to work at the fish canneries
My grandma would chat with chairs…sing them old songs dance waltzes with them in the kitchen.
When she’d say niño barrigón she’d laugh,
With my grandma I learned to count clouds to point out in flower pots mint leaves.
NO MORE KISSES… MAYBE
Take, o take those lips away
Amy Beach, Composer
Take, o take those lips away,
That so sweetly were forsworn:
And those eyes, the break of day.
Lights that do mislead the morn!
But my kisses bring again, bring again,
Seals of love, but sealed in vain, sealed in vain!
Mariana, in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure is suggesting that Angelo take his lips away, since he used them to break promises, and to take his eyes as well, because they also lie. She asks that he return her kisses to her – a double meaning, of course, in that it means, on the one hand, that she wishes she’d not kissed him in the first place and, on the other, that she’d like to kiss him again.
Amy Beach was an American composer and pianist. She was the first successful American female composer of large-scale art music. As a child prodigy, she was able to sing forty songs accurately by age one; by age two she could improvise a counter-melody to any melody her mother sang; she taught herself to read at age three, and began composing simple waltzes at age five. Her song is from a set entitled Three Shakespeare Songs. “Mrs. Beach’s setting is extremely passionate and aches with unrequited love.” -Jill Anderson, Artistic Director
SWEET LOVERS LOVE THE SPRING
It Was a Lover and His Lass
Ward Swingle, Composer
“World-renowned American jazz vocalist and musician Ward Swingle, who founded The Swingle Singers in France, composed this piece. The text is from As You Like It, a favorite of audiences and another play filled with mistaken identities and mismatched lovers. A page sings the song to Touchstone, the clown and his intended bride, Audrey in Act 5.
“This setting comes to us from Elektra Women’s Choir in Vancouver, Canada. There’s no mistaking that ‘Swingle Singers’ sound with the altos crooning ‘doon..doo..doon..doo..doo..doo’ under ‘with a hey and a ho and a hey nonny no’. This is the closing number for our program which will feature several Canzona soloists in a jazzy style that’s sure to please.”
-Cricket Handler, Artistic Director
WORDS MAKE THE MUSIC
A Shakespeare Sequence
John Gardner, Composer
“We bring you a charming collection of 8 short movements featuring settings of some of Shakespeare’s most beloved words. Each movement creates a new atmosphere, from jaunty and angular to an off-beat waltz and a mysterious song of the sea.
“This tribute to the Bard will feature guest artist Susan Azaret Davies joining Canzona’s pianist Janis Johnson in an accompaniment composed for piano 4-hands. You’ll hear the tolling of the ship’s bell from The Tempest, a jazzy, soulful piece from Measure for Measure, a setting of “Orpheus with his lute” from Henry VIII which includes a piano part that imitates a lute, and a rousing double-choir finish from As You Like It.”
-Cricket Handler, Artistic Director
The Gardner Sequence Songs:
It Was a Lover and His Lass
Who is Sylvia
O Mistress Mine
If music be the food of love, play on
Take, O take those lips away
Full fathom five
Orpheus with his lute
Under the greenwood tree
Many composers have taken Shakespeare’s beautiful words and set them to music. The Ensemble will sing one version of Winter and the second will be sung by a soprano soloist.
Each composer effectively sets the scene, contrasting the bitter cold of the season with the comforts found inside during the winter. ” In Huber’s composition, we can hear the wind blow, the parson cough, and see the woodcutter bear logs into the hall while the milk freezes in the pail. And yet inside, Joan keels (skims) the pot, stirring a steaming soup, crabapples hiss in the bowl, and through it all, we hear Tu-whit, tu-whoo passed through each voice part – a staring owl singing a merry note that comes back again and again through the night.” -Cricket Handler, Artistic Director.
“Argento’s rollicking and bombastic piano accompaniment makes Winter sound like a whirling windstorm, combining the owl’s cry with the lowly drone of ‘While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.'” – Jill Anderson, Artistic Director
The original melody and words of Zion’s Walls is credited to John McCurry, compiler of the The Social Harp in 1855. This popular “shape-note” tune book from rural Georgia featured secular and spiritual songs for singing in schools, camp-meetings and revivals. American composer Aaron Copland included a setting of this jubilant piece in his second collection of Old American Songs from 1952, and our choral version was arranged by Glenn Koponen. “Come fathers and mothers, come sisters and brothers, come join us in singing the praises of Zion – we’ll shout and go round the walls of Zion!” The grand piano opening sounds like chiming bells, and with each repetition of the text, the piece grows to a dramatic finish.
Songbird by Canadian composer Sarah Quartel is the light-hearted and playful story of eight little songbirds threading webs of gold, painting moonlit sighs, splashing in fountains, and singing to the wind. This charming piece opens our fall concert to highlight our spring tour to Vancouver, Canada as part of the Tapestry International Choral Festival, and our marvelous Canzona Takes Flight quilt honoring that trip (more about the quilt soon.) There’s a touch of jazz in the rhythms – and a lilt in the melody!
Le Train du Ciel (Train from Heaven) is one of the songs Kurt Weill wrote for Marie Galante, which opened at the Théâtre de Paris on December 22, 1934 to mixed reviews, and closed in the first week of January 1935. The choral number follows a scene in which Marie is caring for the dying Josiah, a kindly old black man who had worked on the Panama Canal during the 1880’s. As he expires, a group of seven old men enter and pray the rosary accompanied by a musical underscore. Finally, they sing “Le Train Du Ciel” as a requiem. “This music, for a baritone soloist and three-part male chorus must have made a tremendous dramatic impact and sonic reverberation in the theatre.” (John Mucci – Kurt Weill Foundation for Music Newsletter) Our own Kristina Horacek is featured as soloist with the choir in the intense, dramatic piece, one of the seven principal numbers from this work, which were published in a popular format songbook by Weill’s publisher in 1935. We guarantee chills!
This is Canzona’s season to portray les sirènes, the beautiful and dangerous mythological creatures who lured sailors to their deaths on the rocks. We just finished singing the Sirènes movement from Debussy’s Nocturnes with the SLO Symphony, and now we’re preparing Les Sirènes by Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) for Singtime in Paris. Possibly as a tribute to Debussy, who admired her work, the composer chose the opening motif of the harp part in his Nocturnes to create the extended pattern in the left hand of the piano. But unlike Debussy, whose sirens are heard as a distant, haunting sound, Boulanger’s are front and center, boasting of their deadly beauty themselves! Soprano Kristina Horacek is our soloist, singing of “immortal sisters offered to the desires of your earthly hearts.”
One of my favorite pieces on our concert, Le Ruisseau (The Stream) by Gabriel Fauré, was written in 1881 for Madame Pauline Roger who had a choir of young ladies. Fauré is beloved for his exquisite solo songs, and he created the sensual melody of this duet for sopranos and altos with perfect craftsmanship to express the theme of thwarted love. Chrystie Osborne is our featured soloist, singing the voice of the stream entreating the pensive flower to come away to the deep ocean! Alas, the flower avoids the stream’s humid kisses and the stream sadly continues on his way.