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American Songs
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American Songs
Patrice Michaels, soprano
Elizabeth Buccheri, piano
Cedille Records CDR 90000 091

My idea for this disc is to share some of the best and most varied current literature for voice and piano. The composers represented here include well-recognized and less familiar names, all of whom are living. They take their inspiration from poems and prose both ancient and modern, exotic and mundane. They rework time-honored musical forms and develop new ones. Their compositional methods range from simple to virtuosic.

Several works are strongly jazz-inflected, one is raga-inflected, one is a tango, another features a blues pattern. Neo-classicism, post-romanticism, and tone row construction are included among the compositional methods. The program is balanced between stand-alone songs and small groups, the centerpiece being the cycle Dove Sta Amore by John Musto. Subject matter ranges from sober to fanciful. Two-thirds of these pieces have never been recorded, and one (“Light Feet”) was written for me.

Although American poetry comprises the majority of the texts, four languages and several accents are represented. Most of these composers obviously share my enthusiasm for other cultures and my belief that writing and singing in one’s own tongue sets the standard for expressivity in other languages. The songs transmit this international perspective, while retaining qualities that are undeniably contemporary and American.

I fell in love with American song early in my musical life. The clever lyricism of Cole Porter and the edgy wit of Stephen Sondheim laid the foundation for my explorations into art music. I’m thrilled to have found composers who share my devotion to jazz -- one of the many unexpected gifts I’ve received throughout my years of preoccupation with concert programming. Another is the collaborative artistry and friendship of Elizabeth Buccheri.

Bettie and I met soon after I arrived in Chicago, yet another hopeful soprano. She never failed to inspire me with her stylish and supportive pianism and ferocious musicianship. Throughout our rehearsals, live performances, and the recording of this disc, I’ve endeavored to emulate her work ethic in between giggles at her infectious Southern humor.

Interesting that works written years before my birth are still considered new music. Surprising that marvelous pieces, some now decades old, have had to wait this long to be recorded. Exciting to know how much wonderful song is being created.

I hope this sampling will leave you inspired by the breadth and depth of contemporary American song.

Patrice Michaels
Click here to download the CD booklet.

Click the Cedille Player at the upper left to hear excerpts from the tracks highlighted in red below. These have been carefully chosen as representative of the recording program.

PROGRAM (73:36)

Lee Hoiby (b. 1926)
1 An Immorality (1952) (1:01)
2 What If (1986) (2:02)
3 The Message (1977) (3:12)*
4 The Shepherd (1987) (1:55)
5 In the Wand of the Wind (1952) (1:09)

Laurie Altman (b. 1947)
6 O del mio dolce ardor - A Reimagining (revised 2001) (4:21)*

Leslie Adams (b. 1933)
7 Branch By Branch (1961) (1:53)
8 Homesick Blues (1988) (3:00)
9 The Wider View (1988) (4:10)

Lita Grier (b. 1937)
10 Who Has Seen the Wind (1999) (1:42)*

Libby Larsen (b. 1950)
11 Perineo (1992) (5:10)

Richard Pearson Thomas (b. 1957)
12 Amarilli, mia bella (1997) (4:57)*
with Matthew Duvall, percussion

Robert Carl (b. 1954)
13 Beginning My Studies (1998) (4:15)*

John Musto (b. 1954)
Dove Sta Amore (1991) (16:05)*
14 Maybe (1:58)
15 Sea Chest (1:45)
16 The Hangman at Home (2:56)
17 How Many Little Children Sleep (3:37)
18 Dove sta amore... (5:29)

Eric Ewazen (b. 1954)
Three Lyrics of Edna St. Vincent Millay (1991) (7:48)*
19 Gods World (3:14)
20 Wraith (3:03)
21 Afternoon on a Hill (1:22)

Dan Tucker (b. 1925)
Mots d heures: gousses, rames (1983) (3:15)*
Four Songs In Fraudulent French from Mother Goose
22 Un petit d un petit (0:47)
23 Chacun Gille (0:41)
24 Lit-elle messe moffette (0:31)
25 Eau la quille ne colle (1:11)

Robert Bowker (b. 1945)
26 Bingo (1997) (2:35)*

John Harmon (b. 1935)
27 Light Feet (2002) (3:34)*

*World Premiere Recording

Producer: James Ginsburg / Engineer: Bill Maylone / Design: Pete Goldlust & Melanie Germond
Cover Art: David Lesh / Recorded: July 27 & 29, 2004, and May 23 & 25, 2005 at WFMT Chicago