“The Concert – a song cycle of poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay”
Video Release of “The Concert”:
Gabrielle Widman channels Edna St. Vincent Millay with a theatrical rendering of Kevin Bryant Lay’s composition “The Concert”. Gabrielle is expertly supported by Portland’s pianist treasure, Sequoia. The video is confidently filmed and deftly edited by Jon Meyer.
“The Concert” is named after the first poem of six Millay poems set for Soprano and piano. Millay loved Beethoven. It is 1920 in New York City. Much to the discomfort of her lover, Edna is already at the concert hall. She had no intention of him accompanying her and he is furious and undone, not knowing what to do with a woman like her. “You would get in between me and song.” She explains that music is more important than whatever image he has in his head about their relationship. “You and I have nothing to do with music. We may not make of music a filigree frame, within which you and I, tenderly glad we came, sit smiling, hand in hand.” She will go alone so that a “mind twice [her] own” will attend as she witnesses the bloodless battle of forces Beethoven set against one another in his Grosse Fugue Op 133 string quartet. Afterwards she must soothe the insecurities of her lover, assuring him she will return – though “a little taller than when [she] went”.
I took liberties with Beethoven while holding him in utmost respect. When someone steals from the best they are vulnerable to learning something. I also took liberties with Millay in this first song, giving captions (in parenthesis) to Edna’s lover on the other side of the phone. I pray Edna not roll over in her grave any more than Ludwig.
The second song/poem, “Departure“, is a departure from the glitz of New York to an earlier time when Edna grew up in Maine, raised by her indefatigable mother. As she works a needle and thread she imagines herself found dead. The third song “The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver” brings a boy’s gratitude for his mother’s love. Through magic she sacrificed her life to give him what she otherwise could not. I dedicate this arrangement to my mom. The fourth and fifth songs are more joyful. “Afternoon on a hill” is a dreamy yet playful rhapsody when she is alone in nature in the hills above her home. “God’s World” is the natural world, which so fills Edna with passion and love that she nearly bursts. She say’s “Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year” and begs “Let fall no burning leaf… prithee let no no bird call.” To wrap things up we have “Sonnet III“. Millay is one of the best sonnet writers America ever birthed, as her sonnets are present and lively, not merely decorative. When her lover comments, “What a big book for such a little head.” Edna explodes.
The live concert:
After the film and intermission, there will be 4 short pieces. We will be graced with the talent of Portland harpist Kate Petak. She will be joined by Gabrielle Widman for 3 pieces for harp and voice.
“Tempo Guisto for Lever Harp” is an arrangement of Carl Nielsen‘s 5th Symphony for lever harp. Why not the typical pedal harp? Nielsen’s writing is so subtle that you may not realize his music is in three keys at once, where each key is in a different register. This can’t be done with a pedal harp.
“Last Sonnet to Orpheus (Quiet Friend)” is for voice and harp, and is a setting of Rilke’s last poem in his book “Sonnets to Orpheus“. I use the translation by one of my mentors, Joanna Macy (and Anita Barrows) and I dedicate it to her.
“Our Singer Come From Afar” for voice and harp is a setting of a poem by Kim Stafford. You also have such singers in your neighborhood trees, no doubt.
“Earth Dweller” for voice and harp is a setting of a poem by William Stafford. The Earth speaks!
Hopefully the film will impress our audience to the point that they will want to hear more from Miss Widman and Sequoia. I’ve asked them to bring pieces of their own choice. Sequoia chose two works to share: the mesmerizing and deceptively simple sounding “Black Flowers” by Geoff Smith, and the peaceful/liquid/volatile “The Alcotts” by Charles E Ives. Gabrielle will offer an excerpt from one of her one-woman shows, “Our Sleeping Beauty“.
Then Sequoia is going to fire up the piano again with a boogie-woogie-ish jazz original “Your Fire Sings To You“. Gabrielle nails it! I wrote this song a few months before my house burned down. Go figure.
We’ll throw in some surprises, too. I hope you enjoy ‘The Concert’ and the concert!
May it somehow and at some point benefit all sentient beings, even just a little.
DOORS OPEN 6:30PM – (6:00PM if the weather is nasty)
PS – We would like to serve alcoholic drinks in between the video release and the live concert. We’re not able to legally sell it to you. HOWEVER, we may have some there to share with you though (hopefully in exchange for a donation). In this regard, note one great thing about The Hallowed Halls is they are cool with you bringing your own – yes BYOB!
PPS – Regarding covid-19: Vaccinations and masks will not be required but are certainly fine. We want you to feel safe.