Remembrances

download Remembrances - complete [ mp3 - 0 MB ]
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download Remembrances - 1. Finger on lip . . . [ mp3 - 0 MB ]
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download Remembrances - 2. Stranger a light, I pray . . . [ mp3 - 0 MB ]
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download Remembrances - 3. Here rests in peace . . . [ mp3 - 0 MB ]
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download Remembrances - 4. A Shepherd . . . [ mp3 - 0 MB ]
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download Remembrances - 5. Sleep sound . . . [ mp3 - 0 MB ]
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download Remembrances - 6. Here lies a strangely serious child . . . [ mp3 - 0 MB ]
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download Remembrances - 7. Here lies my husbands . . . & 8. Blessed Mary . . . [ mp3 - 0 MB ]
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download Remembrances - 9. Alas! Alack! . . . [ mp3 - 0 MB ]
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In the spring of 1954 and of 1955 (my last two years as an undergraduate at the Eastman School of Music) I composed the first of what I consider mature works (as opposed to what Louis Meninni, my composition teacher at the time, “baby pieces”). They were Introduction, Passcaglia, and Hymn, for organ, and a song cycle, Remembrances, for voice and piano.

I have no good recording of the first work. I wrote it in early 1954 for Margrethe Hokanson, who had been my piano and organ teacher my last two years at Meadville High School and the two years I spent at Allegheny College. She was a major influence in my musical career, as well as a strong supporter and dear friend for the rest of her life. She played the Hymn as part of the Allegheny College Baccalaureate Service at Stone Methodist Church in June 1954, the year I would have graduated from Allegheny if I hadn't transferred to Eastman. How I wish I had a recording of that performance!

When I was a student I liked to haunt used book stores. (I still find them interesting.) One of the very good ones in Rochester at that time had three (four?) floors and was across the street from the main public library. It’s no longer in existence. Sometime before I went home to Meadville for Christmas break in 1954 I bought at this store a very small book by Walter de la Mare called Ding Dong Bell. It consisted of several stories about people visiting cemeteries in England. These were just excuses for containing his verse epitaphs. During Christmas break I selected nine of these and wrote in pencil, above the words, small indications of what I thought should be the rhythms to use for setting these to music. When I returned to Eastman I wrote the nine songs (surprisingly enough the rhythms of the songs followed my pencil indications for the most part). Theodore Chanler had set a number of de la Mare’s epitaphs and they were popular with singers at Eastman at that time. He called his collections (I believe there were two), Epitaphs. I felt I should find a different name for mine. None of the texts he used were in my set, although many years later I found a separate song of his that was.

I composed Remembrances for a friend at Eastman, a contralto, Mary Barbara Williamson. She was about 4' 11" tall and weighed around 100 pounds. In spite of this small stature she had a big and deep voice. She also had a large range, from the F below middle C to high C above the treble staff—which she showed off at her Town Hall recital a few years later. After she graduated she sang for several years with the Robert Shaw Chorale as well as for several churches in New York City. After that she married, lived in upstate New York, and taught at a college.

The songs were sung at a student composers forum at Eastman that spring. (The pianist then was Richard Woitach, another friend of mine, who later became an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera. I sometimes heard him on the opera broadcasts.)

The recordings given here are from a recital of my works I presented in Ford Chapel, Allegheny College, on 18 July 1955, after I received my Bachelor of Music from Eastman. I thought I ought to show my parents what they had spent all that money for. Remembrances was the last work on the program. The pianist was another friend from Eastman, Helen V. Ininger, a fine pianist and organist, who taught at a state university in Louisiana for several years, and for many more at James Madison University in Virginia. She and Willie came from Rochester to do this performance.

Two other Eastman friends happened to be at Allegheny that summer preparing to go to Japan for a year as missionaries. During late June-early July I composed Little Suite, for piano duet, for them. They’ve performed it quite a few times since then. For many years they taught at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. Happily they are still with us; Helen and Willie died during the last few years, as have so many of my close friends from Eastman, including, more recently, Richard Woitach.

Remembrances and Little Suite for piano duet are my most-often performed pieces. (Surprisingly, Remembrances has been performed more often by sopranos, rather than contraltos or mezzo-sopranos.)

The recording from this recital was made on an early home tape recorder using its built-in microphone; the machine was sitting on a pew in the chapel. The recording is fifty years old and rather primitive compared to present standards. It was monophonic (in those days called, monaural). I’ve cleaned it up as best I can, but I couldn’t entirely get rid of the hum, and with the equipment I have I could do nothing about the slight waver. I’m just happy to have any record of this concert.

I fear the entire cycle as one file will take a longtime to download, especially if you don’t have a fast download connection; but I give the entire cycle as Remembrances (complete). I also give each song separately as Remembrances (individually). This way you’ll be able to download each song separately or pick only the ones you may wish to hear without having to go through the rest. Song 7 is supposed to go into song 8 without a pause—which explains the rather indefinite ending for 7—and I have combined them into one track.

Song 6, “Here lies a strangely serious child. . .”, has an instruction asking the performer to inform the audience that this one was composed “with apologies to Erik Satie”. I added this because in this song I borrowed the kind of music he composed for his Gymnopédies.

A further comment about Remembrances. When Willie and I were going over them shortly after they were composed I told her that at one spot it should sound like a thousand cellos. She wrote into her score: “gushy”. I was rather shocked. That wasn’t what I meant at all, but if it gave her the idea I guess it was okay.

Hearing these songs after all these years made me realize that they were some of my better pieces. I'm surprised they came so early in my career.

I hope that you will be able to understand the words. I can’t give them; they’re still under copyright. I secured the right to set the poems but not to publish them.

The nine songs are:

1. Finger on lip . . .
2. Stranger a light, I pray . . .
3. Here rests in peace . . .
4. A Shepherd . . .
5. Sleep sound . . .
6. Here lies a strangely serious child . . .
7. Here lies my husbands . . .
8. Blessed Mary . . .
9. Alas! Alack! . . .

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