Two Cabaret Songs
Poems by Friedrich Hollaender
Early in our collaboration, Sonja brought me a slim volume entitled Lieder und Chansons für Blandine Ebinger. This was a collection of German poems that Friedrich Hollaender wrote in the 1920s for his wife, the noted cabaret singer Blandine Ebinger, at the crest of the wave of cabaret, extraordinarily popular in Weimar Germany, particularly in Berlin. Sonja and pi- anist Tali Morgulis had developed and been performing a considerable repertory of cabaret music, and these poems provided me an opportunity to tap into and carry forward the cabaret tradition. I selected two poems from the collection that seemed particularly evocative and that could be effectively set to music. Both poems are quite dark and tragic and have much to do with the challenges of dealing with the misfortunes of day-to-day life, and ultimately with death. Hollaender was both poet and composer, best known as the composer of “Falling in Love Again,” which he wrote for Marlene Dietrich to sing in her movie The Blue Angel. Hollaender himself composed music for Abzählen but apparently not for Mit Einer Scheusslichen Puppe. I decided to set the songs in the original German as most be tting the character of the poems and in keeping with the Expressionist character of 1920s German cabaret.
Two Love Lyrics
These two songs give Sonja the opportunity to demonstrate her wonderful lyricism and expressiveness. What Is Love? is an actual song text from Act II, Scene iii of William Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night. A Valentine is a title we have applied to an untitled poem by the American poet E.E. Cummings.
Original stories by Kate Pogue
Eric McIntyre is a former student of mine, an accomplished hornist and composer, and currently teacher of composition and director of the orchestra at Grinnell College. Several years ago, he formed an improv ensemble consisting of himself, a pianist, and a female actor/singer. They had been invited to do some children’s programs, and they asked me to contribute a piece. We agreed that this piece would be completely notated and not improvised. We decided to do three stories in which each member of the ensemble would have the opportunity to narrate and in effect act out the stories, though the burden of the narration would naturally fall to the singing actress.
I approached a dear friend and colleague of many years, Kate Pogue, to write the stories. Kate has both a strong theatrical and literary background. She teaches theatre courses at Houston Community College, and she has written the librettos for a number of operas. I had the great pleasure of collaborating with Kate on one such venture, The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyville, based on a short story by Mark Twain. Kate created three wonderfully amusing and yet profound fables centering on the animals in the zoo. Kate’s stories provided me with material that was dramatic yet afforded ample opportunities for lyrical writing for both voice and horn. The more expository parts of the stories are spoken in turn by all three performers, but the story settings are fundamentally musical. In a bow to Aesop, each story ends with a moral.
Poems by Ava Leavell Haymon
The song cycle for voice and piano that closes the CD is a setting of poems taken from a volume of collected poems entitled Kitchen Heat. I combined a set of four poems titled Watercolor Lessons with a free-standing poem titled Watercolor: Two Rockers on a Sun Porch. As is so typical of Ava’s work, these poems take mundane events—in this case, the techniques of creating watercolor paintings—and draw universal lessons from them. “Watercolor: Two Rockers on a Sun Porch” is probably my favorite of all of Ava’s poetry, and I wanted to write something that was unabashedly lyrical and expressive. Enjoy!