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Peter Warlock: Sleep

This song trips so many of my triggers, with a vocal line that sounds like it could have been written by John Dowland, and an accompaniment that has some of the delicate twists, turns, and bizarre musical punctuation of Poulenc.

Dominick Argento: Let us live, my Clodia, and Let Us Love

This is an absolutely gorgeous, albeit slightly tortured, love song from Argento’s choral cycle I Hate and I Love, based on poetry of Catullus.

Meredith Monk: Hocket

Meredith Monk is amazing, and the amount of concentration and virtuosity it must take for two singers to maintain the delicate balancing act of this piece seems super-human. High-wire act though it is, I find this song endlessly playful and fascinating.

“Hocket” from Facing North by Meredith Monk

Adam Guettel: Daybreak

The recent successful rescue of the soccer team from a cave in Thailand brought to mind the unsuccessful rescue attempt of Floyd Collins from a cave in the hills of Kentucky, and the gorgeous harmonies contained within Adam Guettel’s musical about him, his family, and the media circus that surrounded them. In this song, Floyd is trapped in Sand Cave, his foot painfully lodged in place by a stone. He is visited by his brother, Homer, who keeps vigil with him through the night.

Françis Poulenc: Montparnasse

My preferences change a lot, so only two things have earned from me the immutable stamp of “absolute favorite” over the years. My absolute favorite color: green. My absolute favorite art song: Poulenc’s “Montparnasse.”

Green is obvious, it’s the best color. But can we take a moment to chat about, and to adore this song? I fell in love with it several years ago when Steve programmed and played it on Manning the Canon, and Scott Murphree sang it so beautifully. Fun fact: it took Poulenc four years to write the song, because it came to him in bits and bobs, and in various unrelated keys. And yet this bittersweet meditation on Apollinaire’s youth and folly seems so fresh and so right, as if it was simply plucked from the ether, fully formed.

Blier’s Blog: November 16, 2011

in maryland on tourWe had a beautiful show last night in Maryland. As always, I want to steal that Gildenhorn Hall at University of Maryland; it’s a perfect place to do song and New York unfortunately doesn’t have anything like it. We had a very good house and they seemed utterly fascinated with the program. Pretty good laughers: superlative listeners.

I have such powerful feelings about Manning the Canon and the four guys in the cast. I’ve known each of them for a while now and I feel as if I’ve watched them step into in their adulthood before my very eyes. We all know each other’s strengths and passions, we are gently aware of each other’s fears and vulnerabilities. I really love those guys with all my heart.

My favorite moment—among many—was the big laugh we got in “You’re the Top” on “You’re Camembert!” I took a little stretch in the tempo so Jesse could really lean into Scott’s armpit and ostentatiously demonstrate his ecstasy to the audience. As I mentioned…I invented that bit of ‘ography. (I am good with an armpit.)

I always wonder if Manning the Canon will work its magic on straight people. Wonder no longer, Steve: it did last night. There were a few enclaves of gay guys (and a few gay women) in the audience but we were not preaching to the choir in Maryland. At the end of the show, two elderly ladies made a beeline for me. “We just wanted to say… that…. was…. AMAZING. I’ve never seen your group before….and that was….one of the most AMAZING evenings of song I ever heard.” Two more satisfied customers, and not the ones I was expecting.

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