On Saturday night, we presented a program called “Songs for All Seasons” here – tenor Glenn Siebert, mezzo Janine Hawley and pianist Allison Gagnon performed. The concert included Britten’s Winter Words, Wolf’s Mörike Lieder, Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été and the premiere of An Autumn Evening by Jeremy Phillips.
Jeremy is a freshman comp student here. I’ve reported before on the initiative I’ve begun of having students write pieces for faculty recitals. Jeremy found and set a text by Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables series. It was his first effort in the realm of art song, and it was a great step forward for him. I’m eager to see what where he goes with what he learned in the process.

If you missed it, take heart: the same program will be repeated this Thursday evening at Greensboro College.

The concert also included the premiere of The Best Season II, a piece I wrote last summer. In July, I found myself in a very distressed state of mind, trying to balance a few too many life challenges. At what seemed the darkest moment, I came across this brief, 11th-century poem attributed to Hui-k’ai. I set it to tranquil music twice; ­ the second version was premiered Saturday. Upon completing the work, I felt a tremendous release and sense of comfort — ­ and my life suddenly took a turn for the better.

 

I’ve posted the text before, but here it is again:

Ten thousand flowers in spring,
the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer,
snow in winter.

If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

And here’s the funny part, or the sad part, depending on your preference. There was a traffic accident that held us up, so I was late for the concert – and my piece was first on the program. I ran in just as they were singing the last line, whipped off my jacket and ran up the side of the hall for a quick bow. First time I’ve missed a premiere because I got to the concert late.

The place was pretty full, and there weren’t any seats readily available, so we spent the rest of the first half standing in the back. At intermission, we managed to find a couple of seats. Unfortunately, as I sat down, my pants pocket caught on the armrest and my pants tore down the side seam, exposing some of my underwear and even (scandal!) a bit of leg.

Making a gracious exit at the conclusion involved some creative use of walls and furniture, some one-armed hugs (for people who, unlike me, had actually heard my piece), a winter coat draped over my left arm, and a little bit of luck.

Amusing as that was, there was a nicer discovery that evening – I had forgotten how wonderful the vocal writing in Les nuit d’été is. At one point in my student days, I must have listened to that piece a hundred times in a row – I think Berlioz’s approach to text and phrasing had a substantial impact on me. What a pleasure, thirty years later, to realize I had learned my lessons from such a fine source.

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