No Song is Safe From Us

No Song Is Safe From Us - The NYFOS Blog
 |  Michael Barrett

Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea is the setting of an epic poem by Pablo Antonio Cuadra. The protagonist, a sailor named Cifar is destined to sail the greatest lake in Nicaragua. All his life lessons, challenges, and triumphs are a result of his life on the water. It all begins with Cifar’s birth. Here is “El Nascimento de Cifar” by Gabriela Lena Frank. Andrew Garland is the excellent baritone. Warren Jones is at the piano.




 |  Michael Barrett

Hildegard von Bingen is a tough act to follow for anyone. But about 500 years later Barbara Strozzi appears in Venice (1619-1677). Another remarkable person, all the more remarkable because of her status, talent, and visibility. She published a great deal of her fine music, and performed widely as a soprano. So how did a […]




 |  Michael Barrett

This week we’ve been talking about and hearing from women composers. Women composers are achieving mixed success in entering the male dominated world of classical composition. I think that the quality of one’s work tends to carry the day, and help establish a compositional voice and career, but it has traditionally been the dearth of recognition, and lack of opportunity that has held back talented women.




 |  Michael Barrett

Following yesterday’s post about Gabriela Frank and Anne Ronell, I started thinking about Clarice Assad. She is a wonderful pianist, composer and vocalist. If you hear her in concert, you will probably be swept away by her virtuosic Brazilian scat singing. But being Brazilian, she owns Brazilian music and is one of the upcoming keepers of the traditional flame as well as a creator of the next music in the Brazilian musical lineage.




 |  Michael Barrett

Here’s one of my favorite jazz standards. Not too many songs found in the Fake Book are by women, but Ann Ronnel wrote this (music and lyrics) in the early 1930’s. She was a contemporary of Dorothy Fields and Kay Swift, and a friend of George Gershwin, working as his rehearsal pianist. Leonard Bernstein met his future wife Felicia Montealagre, at a party in Ann’s Manhattan apartment. Here’s a young Sarah Vaughan in a live performance. Listen to the end and you’ll hear a great example how to handle a screw up with grace and humor.




 |  Michael Barrett

And now we come to Manhattan Transfer, or what we later came to refer to as just “the Transfer”. What an amazing run they had- 35 years of great tight harmony, jazz, standards and brilliant singing and smart, urbane musicianship. Just four singers, sometimes a piano or a small band. They didn’t need much accompaniment. If they are new to you, get their albums.




 |  Michael Barrett

Steve Blier flipped for their brilliant part writing and wacky take on the quirkier aspects of human frailty and eccentricity. (Just check out “Through the Wall”) . We’ve included lots of their songs on Nyfos programs over the years, and they inevitably have an immediate effect on the audience.




 |  Michael Barrett

It’s Tuesday. It’s really hot this July. Tempers are flaring, folks are getting violent (though I’ve read that crime is down 50% over the past 20 years). Politics looks like some wierd version of “Survivor”. What we need is something cool and uplifting. Take 6, who emerged in the late 1980’s has always been my favorite a cappella boy band.




 |  Michael Barrett

Ending the week on a transcendent, serene note, I’m returning to Leonard Bernstein at the piano with baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in Mahler’s “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”. This piece is an ultimate test for both singer and conductor, but when reduced to just piano, it really stretches one’s talents and ears.