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A Simple Collaboration - live!

After months of simple rehearsals, Bill Reyer and I gave our Palm Sunday vocal program, an evening of favorite songs, selected and performed by Bill, while I collaborated on the piano. Bill created a clever and thoughtful program, one that used Broadway standards, Hank Williams tunes, and traditional spirituals to tell a story, or deliver a message. These selections gave me the opportunity to devise my own accompaniments, which was a lot of fun. It turns out that I can play "honky-tonk" piano after all, with apologies to Mr. Williams, of course......

Also on the program were the official first performances of Simple Songs. Bill wrote the poems and I set them to music (see my earlier article). Bill lent his lyric baritone voice to the performance, while I did my best to play my own keyboard music!

Each song had its own particular character:

A Summer Lizard: the text is a children's poem, according to Bill, one that I think has great charm. In some ways, this was the most "classical" of the three pieces, but mostly in jest. Suffice it to say that this is a piece about a lizard with a great sense of self......

A Prayer for this Day: by far the most serious song in the set. Bill's poem evokes the memory of Nat Turner, to reflect on our own troubled racial landscape, circa 2017. The final line, "Grant us, O Lord, peace in our day," is repeated as a mantra in the second half of the song. Bill sings this line over and over again, while the piano has its own repetitive melody, a sorrowful setting of the spiritual, "I'm Troubled in Mind." The song ends with an unsettling, dissonant chord.

Your Lullaby: Words to a Newborn: Bill wrote a lullaby text, and I decided to evoke the spirit of Brahms in my setting. I told the audience that this piece was a mashup of Bill, Johannes and myself. At times, you will hear snippets of the more famous lullaby setting, before it morphs back to McConnell. There are some references to the troubled times that this newborn child will have to experience, but this time, gentleness and hope rule the day.

Will there be more Simple Songs in the future? Bill and I certainly hope so! The saving grace is that Bill has a number of wonderful texts, and I am already making my list of which ones to set. Stay tuned for more developments.......


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