Recital of American Art-Song

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TORCH, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities and Coventry University's InFORM Music Research Forum warmly invite you to a song recital.

The US and the UK share an intimate history of intersections with conflict, war and battle. Conversely, their histories also reflect a social and cultural commemoration - through word, music and deed - gestures that remains undeniably present in response to current global challenge and conflict. This song recital aims to capture and reflect the ways in which music and text can play a significant role in embodying the profoundly destructive, yet ultimately human reaction to these conflicts, providing a creative space for reflection and contemplation. 

Examples from five American song cycles reflect the breadth, scope and vision of the various human responses to grief, loss and commemoration. We open with a selection from Juliana Hall's The Holy Sonnets of John Donne (2014) - a cycle showcases texts that reflect religious themes of mortality, divine judgement, divine love and humble penance. This will be followed by two songs from Libby Larsen's Chanting to Paradise, featuring texts by Emily Dickinson. Songs by Kurt Weill (set to texts by Walt Whitman), and H.L Adams, further highlight aspects of solitude, intimacy, heroism and poignant testimony. The recital concludes with Ned Rorem's Aftermath (2001-2002), a song cycle commissioned by the 2002 Ravinia Festival in response to the atrocities of 9/11 in 2001. Perhaps Rorem's own words best describe the primary theme informing this concert programme - the healing power of music in times of turmoil, strife, loss and personal challenge:

In the wake of the September 11th 2001 shock, I asked what a thousand other composers must have asked: what is the point of music now? But it soon grew clear that music was the only point. Indeed, the future will judge us, as it always judges the past, by our art more than by our armies—by construction more than by destruction. The art, no matter its theme or language, by definition reflects the time: a waltz in a moment of tragedy, or a dirge during prosperity, may come into focus only a century later.

My need though, as I pondered this instantly and forever changed world—with the Twin Towers in ruins and the Middle East in sorrow—was to reflect the immediate through the choice of texts to be used for this project for Ravinia. A week earlier I might have opted for a whole different slant.

As a Quaker I was raised to believe that there is no alternative to peace. Perhaps it's wrong, perhaps right, but I am not ashamed of this belief. As with war, so with love. Seven decades of observation has shown that love has as many definitions as there are definers. Having lost a great love three years ago, my mood at the close of my life is one of quizzical melancholy. As to whether that mood seems reflected in these songs is not for me to say here in words. Music speaks for itself.

Ned Rorem, New York, Nantucket. Winter 2001-02

We look forward to welcoming you to this very special concert.

Dr. Nicole Panizza


Oxford Song Network presents a Recital of American Art-Song, presented by Chris Eaglin and Nicole Panizza.

All are welcome, entrance is free entry.