Song: Mary Dyer

Wikimedia image of Mary DyerSong blogging time again. I introduced this song at the MASSFILC gathering on March 4. I’ve been thinking about an alternate history cycle involving the Quakers, and decided to start with actual history. The lyrics and sheet music are on my website.
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“The Impossible Voyage” update

Sorry, my showing of “The Impossible Voyage” next week is off.

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Wagner’s Ring (the “good parts” version)

Yesterday in Nashua I got to see a concert performance of Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, cut down to three hours including an intermission. The performance was fantastic. The experiment of squeezing it down had a mixed result.

1876 scene from Das RheingoldSymphony NH, Nashua’s resident orchestra, combined forces with the Lexington Symphony Orchestra and a group of soloists in Keefe Auditorium, Elm Street Middle School. The stage had to be extended to accommodate all the musicians. Between the two orchestras, the contingent was close to what Wagner specified; they even had Wagner tubas and anvils. It was my first time seeing anything close to a live performance of the Ring, with or without constumes and staging. There are some thing you need to see to appreciate, such as singers who can hold their own against a hundred-piece orchestra. I was particularly impressed by Alfred Walker’s Wotan. Wotan’s definitely the main character in Rheingold and has a good claim to it in Walküre, and walker brought a lot of power and emotional effectiveness to the role. (By the way, his skin is dark. Take that, Nazi Wagnerians!) Pawel Izdebski, who played the giant Fafner, really is a giant, a head taller than any of the other singers. Many of the singers covered more than one role; Sam Handley doubled as a dwarf and a giant.
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Naxos Music Library revisited

My love-hate relationship with Naxos Music Library continues. It has an ever-growing collection of on-demand streaming music. I love being able to listen to unfamiliar composers without any cash outlay beyond the monthly subscription fee.
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Kurt Masur

Kurt MasurToday I learned that conductor Kurt Masur has died. It always saddens me to learn about the loss of a major musician, but I’ll admit I’m not a connoisseur of conductors. Unless a performance is really out of the ordinary or noticeably sloppy, I don’t notice the difference, except for a few bits of interpretation which I’m fussy about. On that point, Masur doesn’t pass my Beethoven’s Ninth test (the passage at measure 513, as Toscanini knew, is a juggernaut, not a funeral march!). But no matter; in reading about him, I learned something much more important.
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Chris Hadfield’s “Space Sessions”

Cover of 'Space Sessions'Like others coming home from OVFF (the Ohio Valley Filk Festival), I found find Chris Hadfield’s CD, Space Sessions: Songs from a Tin Can, waiting for me. My reactions are mixed. It has some very good songs on it, but it’s not the CD I expected.

Hadfield is an astronaut and a musician. his “I.S.S. (Is Someone Singing)” is very popular among filkers, and I hope a convention can snag him as a guest. Space Sessions is described as “11 new songs — all recorded in space. … Hadfield says he hopes the music, lyrics, and the unique circumstances of its creation will give listeners a taste of life in outer space.”
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Filkers on Patreon

Just a list of some filkers’ (or close-to-filkers’) pages on Patreon:

If I’ve missed some, please let me know.

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Miscellaneous musical notes

Some singers allegedly have four-octave vocal ranges. This is very doubtful. That would cover F below the bass clef to F above high C, allowing the same person to sing Sarastro and the Queen of the Night. (Update: I’ve found numerous claims that certain singers have ranges of five octaves and even more. My impression is that they’re counting the ability to produce sounds, not their usable singing range. I can produce three octaves myself when I have a cold, but you wouldn’t want me to.)

You don’t “rise to a crescendo.” A crescendo is a rise in volume, and if you want it to be effective you start softly.

If random notes scattered in an illustration represent music, then random letters likewise scattered ought to represent literature.Franz Schubert postage stamp

Alto is the shortened form of contralto. They mean the same thing.

There are two musical instruments whose name means “small”: the piccolo and the cello. The piccolo makes sense. The cello does too, if you know its name was originally violoncello, or “little big viol,” but I can’t think of any other case of a word being worn down to its suffix while retaining its specific meaning.

Until the twentieth century, no one set out to write “classical music.” Bach and Beethoven wrote for their audiences, employers, or students.

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Humperdinck’s Dornröschen

Album cover for DornroeschenEngelbert Humperdinck is best known for his opera Hänsel und Gretel, and his Königskinder (royal children) is heard now and then. More obscure is his Dornröschen (Sleeping Beauty), which I just finished listening to on the Naxos Music Library. I can’t say it’s an undiscovered masterpiece, but it’s interesting enough to merit a few comments.

The Prelude nods without subtlety to Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream overture, and the first act is the familiar Sleeping Beauty story, up to the point where everyone in the castle goes to sleep. The king is amusingly overconfident, and the evil fairy Daemonia has an impressive part, spoken in rhythm rather than sung.

In the second and third acts, things get weird. A hundred years have passed, and Prince Reinhold has learned about the Castle of Thorns and sets out to wake Sleeping Beauty. Daemonia likes him too much to kill him outright, so she sends him into an astrological realm. On his return, he has somehow acquired a Ring of Power (or perhaps more than one; it’s sometimes plural), and the music starts taking a Wagnerian turn. Daemonia tries to seduce him with her magic, but the ring enables him to resist her. He comes to the castle and fights Daemonia offstage, as Mercury provides a blow-by-blow description. After Daemonia dies, the thorns recede, he wakes Sleeping Beauty and everyone else in the castle, and we have the happy ending.

It’s musically enjoyable, and I followed along with an online piano score.

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The Helva Peters CD project

An IndieGoGo campaign has started to produce a CD of Helva Peters’ recordings and help pay her medical expenses.

In the early nineties, Helva often sang at conventions in the northeast and MASSFILC gatherings. At the time she had a very impressive voice and gave a moving interpretation to her own songs as well as songs by others. She can be heard on the Wail Songs tapes Shoot the Moon, The Programmer and the Elves, and Let’s Have a Filk Sing, as well as the CD set Balticon Tapes (all out of print). Since then, various health issues, particularly Multiple Chemical Sensitivity aka Toxin-Induced Loss of Tolerance, have taken their toll on her, though she still sometimes comes to filksings.

Things have lately taken a more serious turn with her; she now has Stage IV cancer, and family sources are advancing her money for a trip to Tijuana, where she believes a treatment not available in the US will be more helpful to her. She’ll be piling up a lot of expenses and would like to be able to return at least some of that money.

At the same time, it would be a wonderful thing if more of her old recordings became better known to filkers. This project’s goal is to produce a CD from them and raise money that will help her meet her expenses. Harold Stein will produce the CD. All proceeds after costs of materials, which will be minimal, will go to Helva.

Please support the campaign and help spread the word.

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