The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) announced the winners of their 2018 Art Song Composition Award, and Mark Abel’s The Ocean of Forgiveness received Honorable Mention! The Ocean of Forgiveness can be heard on Mark Abel’s 2018 Delos recording, Time and Distance. More information on the award can be found at NATS.org.
The Ocean of Forgiveness
The Ocean of Forgiveness cycle showcases the unique art of Joanne Regenhardt, a former opera singer and recitalist from La Jolla, CA., whose poetry is marked by deep compassion for people and vivid identification with the natural world. Her verses and Janelle DeStefano’s rich, expressive mezzo are a hand-in-glove pairing, carried along by Tali Tadmor’s always-creative pianism.
The desolate beauty of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, east of San Diego, is the setting for the colorful songs Desert Wind and In Love With the Sky. The first is a solitary meditation interrupted by invisible forces, the second a personification of the heavens coupled with the celebration of a cherished friendship with a fellow lover of the outdoors. Both poems are suffused with awe at nature’s majesty and respect for its spiritual values. Who can resist the thought of an endless, sentient sky that “wraps me to her, holding me closely and strongly like a mother … .”
Another powerful aspect of Regenhardt’s work is displayed in Sally’s Suicide, a moving depiction of a friend undone by life’s cruel strokes. The likening of her growing stasis and paralysis to a sea anemone passively tethered to a submerged rock is a particularly striking piece of imagery. The urge to set such a poem to music is irresistible, I can attest. Reunion and Patience exert a strong pull of a different kind. Regenhardt is a romantic of a type infrequently encountered these days. Her sentiments about love and commitment, as expressed in this pair of poems, speak of a world where certainty about these matters is the natural order of things. Yet there is no naivete; hard work is required to reach the goals that elude so many. I tried to express this in the Patience piano solo that follows “no state of mind nor person’s pain can separate us anymore.” The episode’s initial feel is “Off we go!” but it soon runs off the track and breaks down into a moment of crisis and testing for the lovers. A few deep breaths from the piano restore calm, and an ecstatic confidence reasserts itself in the closing measures.