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Emily Dickinson in Song
Virginia Dupuy (mezzo soprano)
Shields-Collins Bray (piano) *
Tara Emerson (piano) #
William Jordan (piano) +
Recorded in Caruth Auditorium, Southern Methodist University, undated

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Richard HUNDLEY (b.1931)

Will There Really Be A Morning? *
Leo SMIT (1921-1999)

Papa above! #
They shut me up in Prose#
Jake HEGGIE (b.1961)

The Road To Bethlehem*
I would not paint a picture*
Lori LAITMAN (b.1955)

They Might Not Need Me*
If I*
Ernst BACON (1898-1990)

Itís all I have to bring#

If I can stop one heart from breaking#
Simon SARGON (b.1938)

I Died For Beauty*
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)

Why do they shut me out of Heaven? #
Celius DOUGHERTY (1902-1986)

New England Pastoral#
Libby LARSEN (b.1950)

In this short life*
Lee HOIBY (b.1926)

Wild Nights*
Russell SCHUTZ-WIDMAR (b.1944)

The Journey*

Have you got a Brook in Your Little Heart?#
Richard Pearson THOMAS (b.1957)

I never saw a Moor#
Peter ASKIM (b.1971)

To Make A Prairie*
John DUKE (1899-1984)

New feet within my garden go*
Dan WELCHER (b.1948)

Go Slow, My Soul*
Martha SULLIVAN (b.1964)

Good Morning Ė Midnight*
William JORDAN (b.1954)

The Bustle in a House+
Dear Cousins (letter) +
Gerald GINSBURG (b.1932)

Ample Make This Bed#

Virginia Dupuy has compiled this intriguing collection of settings of Emily Dickinsonís poetry in a recital that spans a century and embraces both the parlour and boogie-woogie. If you think Dickinsonís poetry hardly the medium for such outlandish musical transformation, maybe you should lend a jaundiced ear to this disc and prepare to have prejudices challenged. As the examination and reclamation of Dickinsonís status in American letters has grown so have settings of her poetry; a barely credible thousand musical settings have been written since 1992 Ė this in addition to the 1,600 odd that had been previously catalogued. The first such documented song was Etta Parkerís 1896 Have you got a Brook in Your Little Heart? So there was certainly interest pre-Copland even if his have remained the pre-eminent settings.

For all the strangeness, the otherworldly detached quality, many composers find the romantic trajectory of Dickinsonís poems the most susceptible lure. Richard Hundley certainly did in the first of the settings. But we also find the strange, elusive quality explored by so astute a musician as Coplandís friend Leo Smit whose They shut me up in Prose is precisely calibrated to explore the unsettling juxtapositions inherent in the poem. Of course someone like Lori Laitman feels no constraints of formal style; a tangy, tango vamp is the order of They Might Not Need Me Ė with an injection of lyricism as well. Ernest Bacon lays stark chords in Savior, the questioning of the poem taking on imploring insistence. Simon Sargon opens I Died for Beauty with a dramatic flourish but he carves out the sensitive heart with understanding.

I took to Libby Larsenís scampering and athletic In this short life in a big way and also to the powerful evocation of terror in Russell Schutz-Widmarís The Journey (naughtily programmed slap bang next to that parlour setting by Etta Parker). As I listened to Richard Pearson Thomasí I never saw a Moor Ė a lyrical and beautiful setting with a splendid melismatic ending Ė it struck me as a perfect piece for the American counter tenor David Daniels, one of whose recital programmes it would worthily grace. Superb song. By far the longest setting is that by Peter Askim; To Make a Prairie is exploratory yet concise, not such a paradox as it seems. Itís Martha Sullivan who digs out the boogie for Good Morning Ė Midnight (good fun Ė I doubt if Yeats could take it, much less Housman; Auden, maybe). Gerald Ginsburg explores another aspect in his hymnal setting of Ample Make This Bed and William Jordan daringly sets one of Dickinsonís letters in Dear Cousins, which works.

This disc thrives on the contrasts that Dickinsonís poetry provokes and the evocations of time and place. Stylistically these composers cleave, generally, to the mainstream-lyric, some Copland inspired certainly, others utilising other forms of musical Americana to make their point. The three pianists (including composer Jordan) are fine ambassadors. Dupuy herself has programmed the songs with obvious understanding. The acoustic is rather swimmy and unfocused and it hinders Dupuyís diction, which is not especially good. I confess I find her voice somewhat hard-edged and strained at the top but she sings musically.

Jonathan Woolf

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