Marc Blitzstein: Stay In My Arms

Written by Andrew Garland


In category: Song of the Day

Published April 17, 2020

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

The world’s gone crazy

This was Song of the Day just five months ago, but this performance of the song was released just a little more than five days ago.

A song can mean something so different to different listeners. And then the same song, later in life can mean something very different to the same person. 

Theo Hoffman and Steven Blier’s performance here is actually the first time I heard this song.

At first listen I heard this as a deep and tender, but simple love song. Then I learned the origin story of the song. If you do not want to know the origin story of “Stay in My Arms,” do not read the next paragraph and do not read Alex Mansoori’s blog entry on this same song.

“Stay in My Arms”
Words and music by Marc Blitzstein (1905-1964)

Of course you want to know the origin story. Marc Blitzstein was gay but had a loving (if understandably complicated) marriage to novelist Eva Goldbeck. She suffered from breast cancer and anorexia and died just a few years after they were married. Blitzstein wrote this as a plea for her to get better – to stay with him. It is said that in his grief he poured himself into the work on what became his masterpiece, The Cradle Will Rock.

There are countless songs that say “the world outside is coming to an end as we know it – let us just love each other:” “Dover Beach,” (music by Samuel Barber, poetry by Matthew Arnold “Ah love, let us be true / To one another…”) or “Lean Away” (music and lyrics by Gene Scheer “Some things can’t be known, like the love I feel for you, how it makes me feel home”) to name a few. Today’s song says that and so much more in a heartbreaking dichotomy of major jazz harmonies and – now that we know the story – desperate, pleading lyrics. 

I have heard the phrase “Blier Magic” used independently by at least a dozen different artists. It of course means something slightly different to different people, but the reference always includes a certain pulling off the page of something that was never there and yet was always there. It’s not just arranging, transposing, improvising, reharmonizing – and boy can he do those things. “Blier Magic” is playing to the moment, playing to the crowd, playing with the singer. Here the singer isn’t in the room, but maestro sees him and hears him. Steven compliments Theo on following his “rather….personal rubato.” Theo of course has great flexibility and with that comes personal, compelling storytelling which is what NYFOS is all about. (Theo’s polished tone and technique don’t hurt, either.)  These two people could not have done this seemingly impossible collaboration had they not known and worked with each other for years.

Thank you, Theo and Steve for bringing all that you do to the song and for bringing the song to us.

Closing thoughts for the week:

We recognize that there are so many of us who just can’t sing now. We’ve all lost our voices at one time or another. We are grieving our live art form and everyone processes grief in a different way.

Let us also remember that there is no substitute for a live performance. We appreciate the generosity of these artists taking the time to sing to us when we can’t go to concerts. Let us remember the magic of live performance, remember the times when the performers did something they had never done before and would never do again, just for you. If you want that back when we can meet again, support your artists and artistic organizations.

Thanks to technology and those who know how to use it we had collaboration with two intimate musical partners who are thousands of miles apart. Special thanks to Jonathan Estabrooks who possess both the artistic skills of a trained and beautiful singer and a videographer who can make that happen.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Thank you.

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Andrew Garland has performed recitals at Carnegie Hall, the Ravinia festival, Vocal Arts DC, Marilyn Horne Foundation, The Bard Festival, The Cleveland Art Song Festival, Camerata Pacifica, Andre-Turp Society Montreal, Voce at Pace, Huntsville Chamber Music Guild, Fanfare in Hammond, LA, Cincinnati Matinee Musicale, Cincinnati Song Initiative, Tuesday Morning Music Club, American Pianist Awards, The Phillips Collection, Vocal Arts DC, and venues in Italy, Croatia, Greece and Turkey.  He has performed in concert with the Atlanta Symphony, Boston Baroque, Handel and Haydn,  National Philharmonic, Albany Symphony, Washington Master Chorale at the Kennedy Center, National Chorale at Lincoln Center, and the Takács, Dover, Amernet, and Deadalus String Quartets. He has performed leading opera roles at Seattle Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Cincinnati Opera, Minnesota Opera, and many others. Garland is a member of the voice faculty at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His discography includes recordings on Telarc, Naxos, Azica, and Roven records. He is a proud member of the NYFOS Artists Council and has performed in 8 different NYFOS programs.


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