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Updates on the Teasdale Project


Sara Teasdale Carol Dusdiker Jeff Manchur


LISTEN TO THE TEASDALE PROJECT: The RECORDINGS section from this website offers several songs from the Teasdale project:


 ·        A Minuet of Mozart

·        Faces

·        Pierrot

·        In a Cuban Garden

 

For many years, I have read and enjoyed the poetry of Sara Teasdale (1884–1933). Her overall style is most lyric, one that easily lends itself to musical settings. For many years, I have sent my student composers to her poetry as they went looking for texts to set for their first attempts at composing classical art songs. I had not set any of her texts myself however, despite my recommendations to students.

 

The Covid health crisis provided me with an opportunity to finally address this challenge; I started a more comprehensive review of her poems and found myself with a long list of wonderful texts to set. Nineteenth-century composer Robert Schumann had his “year of song.” I contented myself with a “pandemic of song,” a period where writing short songs was appropriate and satisfying.

 

Initially, I completed about a half dozen songs using Teasdale texts. My dear friend and colleague, soprano Carol Dusdieker jumped on board with my project and provided first performances of the earliest songs. Collaborative pianist Jeff Manchur also joined our project, and we were off and running. By the time that we engaged Mark Bunce, recording engineer and Stone Soup Studios in Maumee, Ohio, to record our work, the number of songs had increased from six to 11.


Mark Bunce, Jeff Manchur and Carol Duskieker. Stone Soup Studios, Maumee OH

Carol suggested that we target the number of 15 as a goal, to produce a complete CD recording of Teasdale songs. As of this writing, the collection is closing in on 20 items.  We may still record only 15 or so; the goal is to select the finest options for audiences to enjoy. We also hope to combine this recording project with publication of the songs. The Teasdale Project is a collection of songs, not a song cycle. Singers may freely select the songs that they would like to perform as appropriate.

 

A brief summary of the current songs from the Teasdale project:

 

Alone: A dark, intimate song of love and loss. Is it possible to move on or does one envy the dead?

 

At Night: a floating, dream-like piece; Love and sleep gently combine to invite the listener to a different world. Down the road: I may set this text in more than one fashion, allowing performers to select the one that best works for them.

 

A Ballad of Two Knights: a whimsical tale about two gentlemen who seem to know what they are looking for in a woman. The final results do not turn out as planned…..

 

Broadway: a bluesy, romantic salute to Broadway during that quiet time when the curtain has gone up inside the theaters. The streets outside the theaters take on a special quality of their own.



Christmas Carol: The traditional Christmas story with a few twists of its own in the text. Listen for snippets of well-loved Christmas carols that are woven into the texture of this song.

 

Faces, Version 1: We see people on the street and pass them by; what do we really know about them? Do we care?.......There are two McConnell settings of this powerful text; I couldn’t decide which road to travel on, so I completed both versions. This setting is rather dramatic and dissonant at times, in service of the Teasdale text. (See RECORDINGS)

 

Faces, Version 2: An alternate setting to the song described just above. The middle sections of both songs have much in common in terms of their basic approach. The outer A sections in this song are considerably different, employing a style that is more objective and less emotional at times.

 

Faults: a fiery song of resistance, as the singer refuses to leave a man that she has been told will bring her grief.

 

Gifts: A simple love song, with motivic references to the English folk tune, The Riddle Song.

 

In a Cuban Garden: This is a dance-like setting of one of Teasdale’s more colorful love poems. Passion and rhythm work together to set the tone!


The Kiss: Not all romances work out as we once dreamed…….

 

Let it Be Forgotten: This is a song about letting go….the Teasdale poem urges us to do this very thing, however regretfully. But is the music willing to go along?

 

A Minuet of Mozart’s: A salute to Mozart and his graceful style. Listen for quotes taken from the Minuet and Trio from Symphony No. 40; they appear in both the voice and the piano.



Morning Song: The coming of a new day reminds the poet of great loneliness.

 

Peace Flows Into Me: A gentle experience; Sara Teasdale speaks of the warmth of inner peace on a variety of levels. Traditional tonalities and phrase structures underline this mood as the song progresses.

 

Pierrot: Columbine dreams of her lover, Pierrot, in this short love poem……the spirit of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire permeates this song, combined with my own harmonic language.

Redbirds: the calls of birds bring back memories of a day in May at Saxton Hill.

 

The Rose: an unofficial “sequel” to the Pierrot song listed above…..once again, a Schoenberg-like harmonic language is suggested, as Columbine reflects on her lover’s musical abilities with his lute. A beautiful flower is also discussed, whose origin places Columbine’s love for Pierrot on shakier ground?!........

 

Stars: Rolled chords in the piano’s upper register, supplemented by ostinato patterns in the left hand provide support for this fantasy poem about the night sky.

 

Wisdom: a short but telling tale, a celebration of wisdom gained throughout life, but at a tremendous price……

 

When will the completed CD/streaming recording be available? This is hard to say. We need more funding and more time! But Team Teasdale is working on this. More news as it develops…..


Team Teasdale: Carol Dusdieker, Doug McConnell, Jeff Manchur


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