No Song is Safe From Us

No Song Is Safe From Us - The NYFOS Blog
 |  Steven Blier

Noël Coward said it best: Mr. Irving BerlinOften emphasizes sinIn a charming way. Mr. Coward we knowWrote a song or two to showSex was here to stay.Richard Rodgers it’s trueTook a more romantic viewOf this sly biological urge.But it really was ColeWho contrived to make the wholeThing merge. My respect for Cole Porter has only increased […]




 |  Steven Blier

It was crucial to include Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) in Manning the Canon. He was not only one of the twentieth century’s most significant musicians, but also one of the first out-gay composers in history. He lived with his longtime partner, the tenor Peter Pears, for whom he wrote most of his songs and many of […]




 |  Steven Blier

I am delving this week into the playlist of Manning the Canon: Songs of Gay Life. Much of the program focuses on scenes from contemporary life, but I also wanted to give some airplay to gay composers from the past. Many of them had to keep their same-sex affairs on the down-low, due to their […]




 |  Steven Blier

Having just finished the NYFOS season in New York with our Lorca program, tossed off a Gershwin concert for our gala a couple of weeks later, and presided over my twentieth-fifth anniversary concert at Wolf Trap with music ranging from German Lieder to Cuban rumba, I am now in the throes of preparing a revival of Manning the Canon: Songs of Gay Life.




 |  Steven Blier

Everyone involved with classical song eventually falls under the spell of Federico García Lorca (1898-1936), simply because so many composers have set his poetry to music. His writing is a fascinating combination of opposites: elusive and open, austere and emotional, somber and bursting with color. The more I read about this great Spanish artist the more astonishing I find him.




 |  Steven Blier

Federico Lorca struggled with his sexuality for much of his short life. No wonder. It was the inevitable fate of a passionate, uninhibited, demonstrative gay man living in a repressive, homophobic culture. While he had deep emotional attachments to a number of women, his heart was susceptible only to other men.




 |  Steven Blier

In 1956, two great Catalan composers, Federico Mompou and Xavier Montsalvatge, collaborated on a project for Barcelona’s Liceu Theater. They wanted to make a ballet adaptation of a Lorca play, The Love of Don Peremplín and Belisa in the Garden. Though not considered one of Lorca’s theatrical masterpieces, it enjoyed some success in its day. Don Peremplín went on […]




 |  Steven Blier

I faced a quandary when I was programming the April 24 Lorca concert. Though I try to avoid presenting songs I’ve done in recent concerts, I couldn’t find many suitable examples of cante jondo—the “deep song” of Andalusia that Lorca venerated. He disdained the word “flamenco,” which he called the “tourist version” of cante jondo. But for an American listener the two terms are roughly equivalent, especially in this day and age. Recordings of cante jondo are of course in plentiful supply. What’s almost impossible is finding songs in this style appropriate for the recital stage and classically trained singers.




 |  Steven Blier

In every NYFOS program I like to have a specialty number, something completely on-topic but completely unexpected. I despaired of having such a song for the April 24th Lorca concert until Michael Barrett said, “Oh, you should contact my cousin Jonathan Mayhew. He’s a big Lorca guy—he’s already written one book about him and is now working on another about songs written to Lorca’s poems.” A flurry of emails followed, along with a slew of suggestions for our concert.




 |  Steven Blier

As I prepare for the April 24 concert, I have become increasingly immersed in the life and poetry of Federico García Lorca. The more I know about this great Spanish writer the more astonishing I find him. His neatly bound volumes of poetry and his famous stage works don’t give a true picture of his chaotic creativity, his unique mix of sophistication and naivety, his long-frustrated sensuality, and his complex heart.