No Song is Safe From Us

No Song Is Safe From Us - The NYFOS Blog
 |  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.




 |  nyfos

Wow, there are a lot of things on youtube when you search for Shakespeare! Lots of chaff and some interesting wheat, like this dreamy recording from 1977 of Three Shakespeare Songs (“Full Fathom Five”, “The Cloud-capp’d Towers”, and “Over Hill Over Dale”) by Ralph Vaughan Williams, sung by the vocal ensemble Swingle II.




 |  nyfos

Today’s Shakespeare song moves a bit further from his actual words, with an adaptation of this famous scene from Hamlet. Hector Berlioz sets Ernest-Wilfrid Legouvé’s text depicting the death of Ophelia, here performed by Anne Sofie von Otter with Cord Garben at the piano.




 |  nyfos

Of course, English-speakers were not the only ones inspired to set Shakespeare’s words. Composers around the world worked with his lyrics in their native tongues, and we’ll be featuring some ‘Lyrics by Shakespeare’ in Russian and French in our August concert. Today, however, let’s try German.