Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Something New!

Nearly three and a half years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Barbara Dana, wonderful actor and author. Our friendship began as we lost our mutual friend, Tim, and as we were both dealing with our deep sense of loss.
I soon learned that Barbara was writing a young adult book about Emily Dickinson, "A Voice of Her Own." Now published and for sale at Her author's journey included years of researching Emily, her life, her poetry and her very essence as a person.
At the time of our meeting Barbara was finishing her writing and close to submitting the manuscript to her publisher. What an act of love and admiration for one of our nation's most beloved poets.
Barbara's passion for Emily Dickinson was infectious. Once her book was published her dream was to create an Emily one-woman show with text taken from her book. I asked Barbara if she would be open to collaborating on this project by adding song settings of Emily’s poetry. She quickly responded, “Yes!” Thus began our journey of creating an Emily Dickinson show where music meets drama having two Emilys on stage with one being the real life Emily and the other the “eternal” Emily. How exciting!

As an added piece of information, Barbara has performed and will continue performing the “Belle of Amherst” by William Luce. It was a privilege to observe Barbara in her final rehearsals before her first performance of the Belle! She is amazing as Emily and I highly recommend you try to attend one of her performances!

I immediately went to work researching songs trying to find compositions that were attentive and sensitive to Emily’s succinct yet passionate poetry. There are thousands of songs with Emily Dickinson poetry yet many of them are not true to the poetry and seem too “Wagnerian” rather than of Emily’s inner soul. I struggled finding what I thought were effective songs. Barbara gave me a list of her favorite poems and I searched long and hard for song settings.

Eventually I came forward with over 50 songs that we would consider. In those songs were four or five by women composers, one of which is the first known setting of an Emily poem dating from 1896, then Arthur Farwell, Clarence Dickinson, Floy Little Bartlett and many others. We invited three composers to write songs for me and they came forward with lovely settings. Now, how to whittle 50 songs down to 20 and eventually 10-13 for the performance.

Barbara and I spent several afternoons considering the songs, their musical content and how the composer handled the poetry also if that particular poem would fit into the script and story line Barbara was writing. After several sessions we narrowed the songs down to 18 and still, we must cut a few more songs!

At Barbara’s suggestion we invited Kate Bushman to be our director and help us develop our idea into a well polished and intriguing show. One year ago we had our first meeting and our show, “I Told My Soul to Sing” is now in the creative process.
Stay Tuned!

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