No Song is Safe From Us

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

“The Art of Pleasure”—my Wolf Trap concert for this year—includes a section of guilty pleasures. This was at once the most fun and the most difficult group to program. How far were we willing to go? It’s not so easy to assign louche material for a group of people you don’t know. As always, I took a flying leap (the M.O. for my entire career, it seems). The first song would definitely be Tom Lehrer’s 1959 classic “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.”




 |  Steven Blier

In the interest of empowering the cast of my Wolf Trap show “The Art of Pleasure,” I asked them to make suggestions of songs and subjects. “What pleasures beyond the obvious ones (food and sex) do you want to sing about, and what songs bring those pleasures to life for you?” I wondered what kinds of answers I’d get. At this point I knew only one of my cast members personally, and no one wants to look stupid or weird—especially not young professionals dealing with a music director they’ve never met.




 |  Steven Blier

The final group of songs in Act I of “The Art of Pleasure” is simply called “Romance,” and that gave me an opportunity to program the steamy duet “Schön wie die blaue Sommernacht” from Lehár’s Giuditta.

When it comes to high-calorie, high-fat romance, there’s no one quite like Viennese operetta icon Franz Lehár. His stage-works create a world of unmarried blonde women, tenors whose lasciviousness skirts the overtly creepy, and a passel of supporting players who are usually less wealthy and less Viennese.




 |  Steven Blier

I am at Wolf Trap this week working on a program called “The Art of Pleasure.” Why? Well, for the past eighteen months, I have been assaulted every morning by news of cruelty, greed, shortsightedness, and mendacity unlike anything I can remember. I know others also sense that the world is caving in—how is this being allowed to happen? So I thought: we need to take a moment to meditate on things that give pleasure. It will give us strength.




 |  Joseph Li

The first time I listened to Keith Jarrett’s album The Melody at Night, With You marked probably the most significant point in my development, not just as a jazz musician, pianist, or even artist, but as a human being. I don’t think it made me “better” at any of those things, but I know without a doubt the experience turned my world upside-down. The album stands on top of my list of “desert island” items for a multitude of reasons, some too personal to share without you buying me a whiskey (or two) first.




 |  Joseph Li

Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers is a bit of a misnomer for this first song on the album, which should probably fall under the heading of “Paul Foster and the Soul Stirrers.” It’s not that Sam Cooke doesn’t bring his trademark irreplaceable quality to the song, it’s just that Paul Foster’s unvarnished sound wrenches your soul into glorious hope in a way no one could except for Paul Foster.




 |  Joseph Li

‘Son’ can be translated as either “sleep” or “dream” in Russian – in this poem by Feodor Sologub, the former seems not only evident but sensually and powerfully personified. I have included this song, not just because it happens to be one of my favorites, but also because we’ll be featuring it among many things on The Art of Pleasure, Steve’s collaboration with me and four Wolf Trap singers happening at the Barns at Wolf Trap on May 31 and June 1.




 |  Joseph Li

I share the notion with many of you that time is money, but the 11-minute price tag on this song seems like nothing if you’re willing to sit with him as he musically figures out how to breathe again. The space, sparseness, and tender hesitation of every note he plays in the beginning unravel the knots of my heart every time, and in doing so, remind me of why I do what I do.