This week I’ll be sharing a new song each day that features NYFOS artists making music in their homes.
Are you going to play ‘Art Teacher’?
Today is a song written and performed by Rufus Wainwright. While Rufus isn’t a NYFOS artist, there are fewer than six degrees of separation between him and NYFOS.
In 2011 NYCO (New York City Opera) produced a concert with Mr. Wainwright, four NYFOS singers, and pianist Bill Jones. NYCO also shares three letters in its acronym with NYFOS and at that time a key member: Steven Blier. The four [youthful] singers – Corinne Winters, Liza Forrester, Joshua Jeremiah, and yours truly – performed Rufus’ song cycle All Days Are Nights. I thought I had heard a good variety of song cycles before, to me this was a new genre: is it an album? Is it a cycle? Is it a musical dream journal? Yes. The cycle is published by Schott. You can open it up and play it just as you would Schöne Müllerin, you can listen to it to inspire your long commute, you can listen to it with friends, or you can just listen.
Before we began the project, I certainly had heard the music of Rufus Wainwright before, but I wasn’t a connoisseur. Not like Corinne Winters. We were fortunate to rehearse all of the songs with their creator. I found that Mr. Wainwright talks to everyone equally. Whether you’re H.R.M. the Queen of England, or a lowly emerging freelance opera singer, he treats you with the same quirky attention and aloofness. While we were rehearsing for this concert, Rufus was recording his next album Out of the Game. He joked with us and the audience about having to use different vocabulary with the different sets of collaborators. “I would say ‘let’s take it from the da capo’ and the backup singers are like ‘say what?’”
Right, I said Ms. Winters is a connoisseur. When we got into the theater and Rufus was doing his sound check she asked him “Are you going to do ‘Art Teacher’?” He opened with it. This song has that signature contrary motion and thought provoking harmonic shifts. I asked Corinne – “a diehard singer songwriter fan since adolescence” – about what this song means to her:
“”The Art Teacher” hit home for me because I used to reminisce about past crushes or flings, especially ones that had an element of mystery and artistic intrigue, and wonder if they were the ones who got away. Of course, like the song, those relationships are usually nothing more than a daydream, and the person I ended up with in real life, while a singer himself, is grounded, practical, and an actual human. I think many of us can relate to the nostalgia of what could’ve been!”
In that concert Corinne sang “The Dream.” “The Dream” belongs to a genre with which most of us are familiar: the song you love to hear, but can’t sing yourself. Corinne can really sing that one, I really cannot and I’m grateful to know both of those things.