For many years, I have read and enjoyed the poetry of Sara Teasdale. Her overall style is most lyric, one that lends itself to musical settings. For a number of years, I have sent my student composers to her as they went looking for texts for their first attempts at classical songwriting. And yet I had not indulged myself; I came close on a couple of occasions, but nothing landed on paper.
In 2019 I was planning my “retirement” Faculty Artist recital at Heidelberg and wanted to have some new compositions on the program to balance the older works. My good friend and colleague Carol Dusdieker offered to sing on the program, and I decided that I finally had my excuse! I went back to my Teasdale file and did some serious study…..
Carol is one of the most wonderful and versatile singers that I know; her voice is stunning, of course, but so is her acting range Somehow, this new set of songs needed to take advantage of this wonderful combination. Ms. Teasdale wrote a number of love poems, and I have used one or two of these so far, but I also wanted to expand the subject matter of the texts that would be set to music. This would also afford the opportunity for me to be fairly eclectic in my choice of musical styles.
Carol Dusdieker, soprano
A Minuet of Mozart: a chance to touch upon my classical influences, not to mention the Minuet and Trio from Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in particular…..
Broadway: a chance to connect with my inner George Gershwin.
Faces: Sara speaks of the distances we keep, and the dehumanization that sometimes results from this behavior. Dramatic poems like this also allow me to pursue a more dissonant tonal language…..
In a Cuban Garden: I needed to write a song to get myself back on track after a long hiatus partially due to the distractions of the 2020 Covid-19 crisis. Cuban music feature such a wonderful use of percussion; in this case I had to only suggest this with the piano that accompanies the voice. Slow, sensual fun, this love poem….
The Kiss: The less said, the better here! Wait for the punch line in this more playful love poem……
This is not a song-cycle, at least not at the moment. I hope that there will be more songs to come. Carol will premiere these songs at that upcoming faculty recital, whenever the current health crisis will allow us to schedule it (I am holding out for a live audience, not a virtual one.) Until that day, I’ll keep adding to this collection of songs. Stay tuned……
PHOTO: Sara Teasdale. Photograph by Gerhard Sisters, ca. 1910 Missouri History Museum Photograph and Print Collection. Portraits n21492