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Connie Converse: One By One

This week I’ll be sharing a new song each day that features NYFOS artists making music in their homes. 

We can hear each other pass, but we’re far apart

Right now for every artist who is inspired to create and reach out there is at least one who has lost all motivation or who has tried to sing and is unable to finish the song, overcome with emotion. All of us artists have experienced this at one time or another. 

Today’s song performance is (almost) one of those experiences. Julia Bullock and her husband Christian Reif were generous enough to share this song “One By One” music and lyrics by Connie Converse, arr. Jeremy Siskind. Understandably, Ms. Bullock admits to having emotional difficulty getting through this song. (Her caption says that in the previous takes she did not make it through.)

Though Connie Converse’s songs were some of, if not the earliest and most catalytic of the American singer-songwriter movement, her songs did not sell. She was so frustrated with the lack of commercial success of her songs that she moved away from New York and almost completely stopped writing new songs. So many of our colleagues are experiencing a similar writer’s block now. 

Ms. Bullock commissioned this arrangement of “One by One.” “I asked Jeremy to keep Schubert in mind when he wrote the arrangement,” the singer told me “because Converse’s poetry and melodies remind me of the simplest, surprising, and poignant lieder. (She was a marvel…)”   


“One By One” 
Connie Converse (b. 1924-disappeared 1974), arr. Jeremy Siskind (b.1986)
Performed by Julia Bullock and Cristian Reif.

It is only fitting that we hear another song, a Schubert song performed by today’s artists: “Wanderers Nachtlied” D.768 music by Franz Schubert, poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Julia and Christian’s performance here is devastatingly honest, generous, and at the same time poised and elegant.

At Warren Jones’ suggestion, he and I added this song to one of our recital programs. That program features all wanderer songs. “Wanderers Nachtlied” completed the old iteration of the Schubert group with much needed balance: the other songs were fatalistic, aggressive, and/or jovial. I hear this song as encouragement to the weary wanderer: “Just wait. Soon, you, too shall rest.” Many of us — artists, health care workers, grocery and delivery workers, teachers, students, etc. — are in a precarious, tiring, frightening situation. For some, this message: “you, too shall rest,” may be welcome, comforting, reassuring, and much needed. Thank you, Julia and Christian.


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