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Shay, Fisher, and Goodwin: When You’re Smiling

“When You’re Smiling” is a popular song written by Larry Shay, Mark Fisher and Joe Goodwin in 1928. Though it’s been performed by a long list of well known artists throughout the past 89 years, the version which as stuck with me and affected me the most personally has always been that of Dean Martin. The easily recognizable string orchestration and crooning voice, gives his arrangement a sense of ease, peace, and simplistic love. If you’re feeling down, stressed, or lonely, give this a listen and be transported to an easier time and place.


Victor Hely-Hutchinson: Old Mother Hubbard

“Classical” vocal music as a fun encore? Absolutely. Old Mother Hubbard, by Victor Hely-Hutchinson the the perfect encore, finale, or party piece. It’s exciting, shows off the flexibility of the voice, and is funny from the first phrase to the last! This piece, written in 1929 when the British composer was 28 years old, is an homage to the musical stylings of Handel, combined with the text of a nursery rhyme. I’ve known it for years and it never gets old. I hope that after hearing it you’ll agree. Here’s a fantastic performance, by the the world renowned countertenor, David Daniels. Enjoy!

Carlos Guastavino: Pampamapa

Carlos Guastavino, an Argentinian composer whose songs most often contain fluid melodies and a natural lyricism rooted in the folk traditions of his homeland. There is often a great deal of imagery in the texts that he chooses to set, and the style of his composition is derived from the “huella”. The huella is both a song and a dance style from the province of Buenos Aires, with one of its distinct characteristics being a vocal melody which starts on the upbeat. Listen for the aaccompaniment imitating the strumming of guitar strings and follow along with the translation of the beautiful poetic text of Hamlet Lima Quintana.

This is a recording of a live performance, with Steve Blier playing piano and me singing! Enjoy.

(If this recording does not appear in your email, please click the title of the post to listen on our website.)

Text by Hamlet Lima Quintana

Yo no soy de estos pagos
Pero es lo mismo
He robado la magia
De los caminos.

Esta cruz que me mata
Me da la vida
Una copla me sangra
Que canta herida.

No me pidas que deje
Mis pensamientos
No encontrarás la forma
De atar al viento.

Si mi nombre te duele
Échalo al agua
No quiero que tu boca
Se ponga amarga.

A la huella mi tierra
Tan trasnochada.
Yo te daré mis sueños,
Dame tu calma.


Map of the Pampa

I’m not of this region
But it’s the same,
I’ve stolen the magic
From those paths.

This cross that kills me
Gives me life,
A verse bleeds from me
That sings wounded.

Don’t ask me to leave
My thoughts,
You’ll not find a way
To stay the wind.

If my name causes you pain,
Throw it in the water,
I don’t want your mouth
To become bitter.

At your threshold my earth
Having watched all night.
I will give you my dreams,
Give me your calm.

William Bolcom: Song of Black Max

As I began to think of some of the songs that I love, my mind immediately gravitated to multiple pieces from the cabaret songs of William Bolcom. Within these volumes of songs, “Black Max” (as it is most commonly known), has always stuck out as a favorite. It during my time at The Juilliard School, in a coaching with Steve Blier, that Black Max truly came alive to me. Steve has a close relationship with William Bolcom and so has the inside scoop on many of his compositions. It was in that coaching that I learned that this story, written by Arnold Weinstein, was actually based on a true recollection of Willem de Kooning (de Kooning, along with other painters of the post-WWII era, became informally referred to as the de Kooning Boys). During his time in Amsterdam, de Kooning often heard stories of the illusive man, known on the streets as Black Max. Rarely did one encounter this mysterious figure, but the stories of his actions were well known by the town.

Weinstein is brilliant at painting a picture of the environment, time period, and characters in every story he tells. As you listen to this piece, you can’t help but be transported by the text. He puts you in a world that’s dark, red, foggy, gritty, and splattered with the remnants of Black Max’s influence.

William Bolcom: Song of Black Max (As told by the de Kooning Boys)

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