This week we are celebrating Labor Day by sharing Jennifer Warnes’ performance of the song “It Goes Like It Goes,” written by David Shire and Norman Gimbel and sung by Warnes for the 1979 movie, Norma Rae. The song won the Academy Award for “Best Original Song” that year and, like the film, it is an ode to the hard work, hard lives and labor struggles of industrial workers. This makes it a good fit for Labor Day, which was created as a federal holiday in the late 19th century to honor industrial workers and the labor movement that fought to improve their working conditions and wages.
The Maine Music Society Chorale will begin rehearsals this week for a full season of performances in 2021-22. As we do so, we are ending this pandemic-inspired series. It seems appropriate to dedicate this song to all those hard-working essential workers who have made our lives possible for the past eighteen months.
Thank you, Jean, for keeping this series going while we were unable to perform live. It's been really interesting to see and hear the range of genres in which our MMS Chorale is interested. Hope to see everyone at our rehearsals and opening concert "A Season of Celebration" in December!!
This week we are bringing you a dance performance rather than a vocal performance, cellist Yo Yo Ma and street dancer Charles “Lil’ Buck” Riley performing their interpretation of “The Swan”, composed by Camille Saint-Saens. Chorale member David Blocher shared it, saying, “This is one of the most beautiful and amazing works of art I have experienced in years. It is breathtaking. It warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes.”
In addition to singing baritone in the Chorale, David Blocher is a past President of the Board of Directors and currently serves as Vice President and member of the Marketing Committee. David and his wife, Helen Warren, recently sold their farm in Litchfield and moved to a less demanding dwelling in Brunswick. David retired from the State of Maine Office of Information Services in 2008 and spends his time volunteering with the Androscoggin Home Healthcare & Hospice and Arts & Culture Lewiston-Auburn. He loves Opera, organ music, genealogy, walking in nature and mathematics.
We recently learned of the death of Don Everly, who sang with his late brother, Phil Everly, as The Everly Brothers. The Everly Brothers burst onto the pop music scene in 1957 with their hit song “Bye Bye Love.” Many other hits followed, and the duo’s style strongly influenced a generation of musicians to follow, including The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. The recording we are sharing here, of “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “Cathy’s Clown” sung during a 1960 live performance, demonstrates the close harmonies and the amazing blend of their near-identical voices for which the Everly Brothers were justly acclaimed.
This week, we return to early music with a medieval Gregorian chant, “Alleluia: Vidimus Stellam Eius” (translation: “Hallelujah, we have seen his star”), performed here by the Schola Cantorum Coloniensis.
In this week’s musical interlude, we share a performance of the French composer Gabriel Faure’s “Pavane in F Sharp Minor.” Faure’s musical career spanned the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, and he is sometimes described as linking the romanticism of 19th century classical music with the modernism of the early 20th century. It seems appropriate, then, that this performance features a solo by the (very young) American jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis.
As we near the end of one of the wettest Julys on record in Maine, it seems fitting to listen to the hymn “As Torrents in Summer.” The text is part of a longer project, “Tales of a Wayside Inn” by Maine poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and was first published in 1863. It was set to music by English composer Edward Elgar in 1896. A four-part choral arrangement is performed here by singers at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
When the pandemic suspended Maine Music Society activities in March 2020, we were beginning to work on music for a May 2020 “Gala Farewell” concert to honor John Corrie on the occasion of his retirement as Artistic Director of the Maine Music Society. One of the songs John was considering for the program was Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind,” a reference to John’s and his wife Becky’s plans to relocate to New York to be closer to family in retirement.
This past weekend, Maine Music Society Chorale members finally had an opportunity to gather, celebrate John’s contributions to the Maine Music Society, and say farewell. We did not, however, get to sing our “Gala Farewell” concert. So here, in honor of John Corrie, is Billy Joel singing “New York State of Mind.” Link: youtu.be/Ylxw-nG5VWI
The twentieth-century American composer Samuel Barber is best known for his 1936 composition “Adagio for Strings.” In 1967, he adapted that music for a choral setting of the “Agnus Dei,” arranged for soprano, alto, tenor and bass vocal parts. It is performed here by the Flemish Radio Choir. This is a bit longer than our usual selection, but well worth the extra few minutes.
What better way to celebrate America’s birthday than with one of America’s favorite patriotic songs, “America the Beautiful?” The lyrics were written in the 19th century by poet Katharine Lee Bates and set to music by Samuel Augustus Ward. The patriotic hymn is performed here by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
This weekend was Juneteenth, a day that celebrates the end of chattel slavery in the United States and that has just become an officially recognized holiday both federally and in Maine. We mark the occasion with American composer Valerie Coleman’s “Umoja.” Umoja is the Swahili word for “unity.” The composition is performed here by Coleman (on flute) and her woodwinds ensemble, Imani Winds.