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Song of the Day: October 23

Shea OwensThis week’s Song of the Day curator is baritone Shea Owens. An alumnus of NYFOS’s Emerging Artist program and NYFOS Next, Shea is returning to the NYFOS Mainstage next month in From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and FriendsBe sure to get your tickets today!  

from Shea Owens:

Let’s end the week on a high note—literally. Tenors get a lot of those. And in the operatic world it’s universally agreed that, of the men, tenors get the most glory and make the most money. But do they really get the best music too? That’s up for debate—and there’s a song that makes a convincing argument for baritones. “I’m Glad I’m Not a Tenor” was written by American composer Ben Moore in 2007. You’ll hear snippets of several famous baritone arias, but somehow, the famous tenor aria “Nessun dorma” keeps creeping in . . . Have a listen and see if you’re convinced.

(Since there is no professional recording of this song currently available, I’m posting a performance I did in early 2014.)

Song of the Day: October 22

Shea OwensThis week’s Song of the Day curator is baritone Shea Owens. An alumnus of NYFOS’s Emerging Artist program and NYFOS Next, Shea is returning to the NYFOS Mainstage next month in From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and FriendsBe sure to get your tickets today!  

from Shea Owens:

Lyricist and composer Gene Scheer wrote a song in 1998 titled “American Anthem.” It has become one of his most popular songs, and has been played at numerous important national events. In my opinion, it’s worthy to stand as a secondary anthem of our great nation. In an interview on NPR in 2004 (found here), Scheer describes a few of his reasons for writing the song, including the following: “America has represented, in large measure . . . the best aspirations of humanity. The sense of enduring freedom, collective responsibility, responsibility for each other . . . these are ideas that are at the core of American values.”

For the last few years, I have sensed a trend that American patriotism (love for and devotion to one’s country) is on the decline. It can be easy to forget our blessings and the goodness of our roots amidst the clamor of bitter politics, materialism, and pride. I personally appreciate reminders of our country’s history, and of the sacrifices made “by those who came before.”

A few choice lines from the song:

“Each quiet act of dignity is that which fortifies the soul of a nation that will never die.”

“Let me know in my heart, when my days are through—America, America, I gave my best to you.”

Song of the Day: October 21

Shea OwensThis week’s Song of the Day curator is baritone Shea Owens. An alumnus of NYFOS’s Emerging Artist program and NYFOS Next, Shea is returning to the NYFOS Mainstage next month in From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and FriendsBe sure to get your tickets today!  

from Shea Owens:

I walked out of an audition recently and my manager told me, “Shea, we need to get you some new audition attire.” Apparently I was wearing pants that were just a bit too loose to be considered fashionable. He labeled them “finance” pants, which are only one step away from “lawyer” pants, apparently. A few days later, as I was walking to the tailor to get my new pants hemmed and my jacket taken in, I thought of a piece by Marc Blitzstein that I performed in a recital once— “The New Suit” (better known as, “Zipperfly”). Grant me a suit with a form-fitting coat, and a six-button vest, and a zipperfly . . . The song suddenly carried new meaning for me. One could say it became more suitable . . .

Steven Blier recorded this piece with William Sharp for an album originally released in 1991 titled “Marc Blitzstein: Zipperfly & Other Songs.” (This was another album that I heard and bought immediately, by the way.) The recording is marvelous, and so fun.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGsBMx0s3QM

Song of the Day: October 20

Shea OwensThis week’s Song of the Day curator is baritone Shea Owens. An alumnus of NYFOS’s Emerging Artist program and NYFOS Next, Shea is returning to the NYFOS Mainstage next month in From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and FriendsBe sure to get your tickets today!  

from Shea Owens:

Have you ever heard a song and been so moved by it that you immediately bought a recording—and listened to it over and over again? That’s what I did the first time I heard “Music, when soft voices die” sung by Arleen Auger. This is an exquisite song by Roger Quilter, set to the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley.

In contrast to yesterday’s piece, this one is hopeful and optimistic. It reminds us that music, scents, memories, and love will carry on, even with the passing of those who are dear to us. Arleen Auger passed away from a brain tumor in 1993—but thanks to the miracles of recording and technology, her voice lives on for us to enjoy.

Song of the Day: October 19

Shea OwensThis week’s Song of the Day curator is baritone Shea Owens. An alumnus of NYFOS’s Emerging Artist program and NYFOS Next, Shea is returning to the NYFOS Mainstage next month in From Russia to Riverside Drive: Rachmaninoff and FriendsBe sure to get your tickets today!  

From Shea Owens:

While exploring British repertoire in graduate school, the songs of Gerald Finzi caught my attention. They are an intriguing combination of sweet, pastoral melodies with mournful, tragic poetry. Having lived through two World Wars and losing three brothers and a teacher to them, Finzi was no stranger to sadness. The solemnity he carried as a result of these tragedies shows in his compositions and in his preference for the poetry of Thomas Hardy. One song that touches me particularly is, “To Lizbie Browne.”

How often have we looked back with regret on a missed opportunity? As a young man, Thomas Hardy was in love with a girl named Elizabeth Sarah Bishop (“Lizbie Browne”). He longed to tell her about his feelings, but he never mustered up the courage to do it. He watched her mature and eventually marry, and foretold the sad day when someone would mention his own name, and she would reply, “And who was he?” John Greenleaf Whittier writes: “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’ (The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier (1878), 206). My hope is that we will never let an opportunity pass us by!

My favorite recording of “To Lizbie Browne” (by Stephen Varcoe and Martyn Hill) is not on YouTube, but this one by Roderick Williams and Iain Burnside is lovely too. I hope you enjoy this touching, wistful piece.

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