PoetryReviews.ca

In Need of Song Collaborations - December 17, 2007 - 3 Comments

HAIL: Canadian Art Song

HAIL: Canadian Art Song by Doreen Taylor-Claxton and Valerie Dueck

Reviewed by Marie Powell

When I listen to CDs these days, it’s usually in the car. But when I flipped in this particular CD (also available online for MP3 or iPod users) it took maybe 10 seconds for me to realize: This is not my usual car music.

It’s subtitled “Canadian art song.” Really, what did I expect?

Art song by definition is lyric poetry set to music, intended for recital usually by a singer and pianist. Hail is one of several projects matching Canadian writers and composers, under the umbrella “In Need of Song.” Luckily, I decided to flip it out of the car player, take it inside and have a second listen, where I could read along with the liner notes.

In Hail, soprano Doreen Taylor-Claxton teams up with pianist Valerie Dueck.  Both are award winners with great skill and a long list of accomplishments. Taylor-Claxton has one of those enviable “spot-on” voices. She’s been winning awards since “an early age” (4) and now has her Master’s in Chamber Music from the University of Ottawa.

Taylor-Claxton performs in the Ottawa and Maritime regions, and of course with the CBC. You don’t need to know her awards and credentials to appreciate the quality of her voice, but it doesn’t hurt. Dueck, another award-winning musician who performs with the Ottawa Chamber Music Society and CBC, among other places, took postgraduate studies at the University of Vienna.

The poets and composers who teamed up to make Hail are no less impressive, and the liner notes are full of their awards and accomplishments. John G. Armstrong, an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa, teamed up with Seymour Mayne, who is called “the most prominent word sonneteer working in English” (7). 

A word sonnet, according to the notes, is a column of words in which one word replaces the 14 lines of a traditional sonnet. Spare, hard-hitting, as in the title column:

Hail
peppered
the
air
like
seed
as
you
were
lowered
below
the
frost
line.
(10)

James Wright, who is a composer, performer, choral director, teacher and musicologist, set the music for Steven Michael Berzensky’s “Quilled Sonnet.” A former Grain editor and award-winning Saskatchewan poet, Berzensky opens his poem with “A pure spontaneous thread of joy” and wings upward before alighting in the “least tangled thickets” (15).

Composer Colin Mack of Ottawa set the music for Toronto performance poet Sharon Singer. Each of her three poems — “Mist,” “Becalmed,” and “Destiny” — involves a separate voyage through “sparkling mystery” (18) to a new understanding.

Composer-pianist Frédéric Lacroix teamed up with Nova Scotia poet Effie MacIsaac Taylor, to set music for four poems that reflect the seasons from spring to winter. As the notes suggest, all four are “rich with descriptions of rural Nova Scotia” (19).

Finally, Hail ends with five Newfoundland folk songs adapted and arranged by Donald F. Cook: “Lukey’s Boat,” “The Banks of Newfoundland,” “The Maid on the Shore,” “The Green Bushes,” and “Jack was Every Inch a Sailor.” Clarinetist Pascale Lafrance adds another level of musical interest, and Cook throws a few surprises into the mix – such as a pinch of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” into “Lukey’s Boat.”

The music seems a bit somber at times to reflect the joy or the sensuous quality of the poetry. The recording is almost tinny — it was apparently recorded at St. Thomas the Apostle United Church — but the accomplishment here is well worth a second look. “Well-crafted music,” according to the liner notes (3). Variations on a theme, repetition, and some very sophisticated ins and outs that push boundaries into the realm of art. And some very interesting poetry presented in a new and unique way.

On the whole, the CD helps bring together two Canadian art forms that are too seldom celebrated alone, and hopefully will bring both to new audiences.

Marie Powell (Mendenhall) is an award-winning Regina-based journalist and writer, with published books, articles, fiction, and poetry.

Add a Comment

Name:

Email:

Remember my personal information.
Notify me of follow-up comments?

We don't know if you're a human. Confirm below:

2 + 3 = what? (4 character(s) required)

  • it’s really great that your website has so much interesting stuff to read. Come visit mine: flexa plus
    said TomD on May 02, 2016
    about The Crisp Day Closing on My Hand: The Poetry of M. Travis Lane edited by Jeanette Lynes
  • It’s a nice and very informative website and post too.You can benefited all others cosmetica industries as well. cosmetica groothandel …
    said acosmetica groothandel on January 02, 2016
    about Pendas Productions
  • Very very thanks for like this poetry.I am proud after looked on poetry.Ian LeTourneau’s reviewed poetry have given me many many …
    said cosmetica groothandel on December 30, 2015
    about The Crisp Day Closing on My Hand: The Poetry of M. Travis Lane edited by Jeanette Lynes
  • Wow it’s a hots poetry.So I lov,like this poetry.My need knowledge,which I have taken from The Mechanical Bird, Asa Boxer’s. cosmetica …
    said cosmetica groothandel on December 30, 2015
    about The Mechanical Bird by Asa Boxer
  • Wow what’s a nice poetry.I love like this poetry.I have read it and take some knowledge from Stone Sightings,Madeline Sonik. cosmetica …
    said cosmetica groothandel on December 30, 2015
    about Stone Sightings by Madeline Sonik
  • I am really happy After got this blog.g We seen abriel’s beach by the Neal McLeod. cosmetica groothandel
    said cosmetica groothandel on December 30, 2015
    about Gabriel’s Beach by Neal McLeod
  • I learn a lesson from you that ladies can do all the thing. cosmetica groothandel
    said acosmetica groothandel on December 28, 2015
    about Lady Godiva and Me by Liam Guilar
  • I love to hear always about MJ.In my life I wanted to be like MJ but I did not understand that …
    said Niamal Wakil on December 24, 2015
    about The Meaning of Michael Jackson
  • You made a most important point about poet.Without spectra poet has nothing.You may follow this link cosmetica grothandel for any cosmetic. …
    said Niamal Wakil on December 20, 2015
    about Nerve Language by Brian Henderson
  • After reading post I have read the poem of Gillian Sze.I feel the hit of this poet.It is really awesome that …
    said Niamal Wakil on December 17, 2015
    about Fish Bones by Gillian Sze