I am pleased to announce the release of Stories, performed by the Byrd Ensemble, directed and produced by Markdavin Obenza. The album is available on CD or as digital downloads from iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.
Stories tell us a lot about ourselves. We learn about others through the stories they tell. Others learn about us through our stories. Stories change how we view the world, how we feel, even how our own Story will unfold. This CD is full of stories. Stories of love, of hurt, of beauty, of whimsy, of joy, of loss, of anticipation; stories of the human and of the divine. Some are my story, some may be yours. May all of these Stories open your heart to the wonders of creation and our fellow story-tellers.
Each of these songs was inspired by poetry—the structure of each piece hinges on how its Story unfolds, with the melodies and harmonies reinforcing the underlying emotion. For example, from its very inception, that is, from the very first time I read Oscar Wilde’s Requiescat, the deep emotions I felt presented themselves as a scene from an opera: the tenor soloist baring his soul’s torment over the loss of his beloved at her graveside, backed by a chorus of his friends, family, and townsfolk. The next four pieces, songs from the choral cycle India’s Love Lyrics, are stories from India that all share a common harmonic language that reflects my interpretation of Adela Florence Nicolson’s stories of her adopted home and her unique perspective of that land. They are full of word painting: the subtle vocal textures of Wistful Wind, the overt melodic depictions of the flat, wide horizons of The Plains, to the ending half-cadence of a life cut short of Famine Song. Even Hine ma tov tells a story through its very short lyric from Psalm 133—look what happens when we allow the divine to bind us to each other—the music turns this into a story. Stories closes with God’s ultimate Story—the salvation and redemption of the human, expressed via a setting of the mass, Missa Brevis.
Not only are many, varied stories being told, but they are also being told in very different ways: Requiescat is essentially a tenor aria; The songs that make up Indian Love Lyrics are based upon a unique harmonic language; An End is a four-movement motet steeped in counterpoint; and Hine ma tov and Let Us Be Merry are both practically drinking songs. Missa Brevis is a particularly interesting example of storytelling through different compositional approaches. Mirroring how the Bible contains stories from many different eras, the mass progresses through time, starting with the Renaissance polyphony of the opening Kyrie, through the Amen’s ecstatic fugue based on classical counterpoint but with a more primitive fourths- and fifths-based harmony, to the lush, chromatic harmonies that form the structure of the touching Agnus Dei. The Credo tells this Story in miniature—starting with chant and organum, and evolving as the Story of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are recanted.
I hope you find Stories memorable. I encourage you to find out more about them by exploring this website—there are even more Stories to be found here, including instrumental ones. If you are interested in having me compose a story for your ensemble, please contact me—I’d love to discuss ideas! (Christopher Lee Fraley, January 2017, Seattle)
1 | Requiescat (F. 145) [4:08] details
6 | I Shall Not Care (F. 139) [3:36] details
7 | Aus alten Märchen (F. 162) [2:14] details
An End (F. 156) details
8 | i. Love, strong as Death, is dead [2:40]
9 | ii. He was born in Spring [3:32]
10 | iii. On the last warm summer day [3:23]
11 | iv. Epilogue [1:36]
STORIES OF GOD
12 | Hine ma tov (F. 163c) [3:42] details
13 | Let Us Be Merry (F. 160) [3:53] details
14 | Brightest and Best (F. 169) [3:38] details
15 | Let all mortal flesh keep silence (F. 165) [3:47] details
Missa Brevis (F. 155) details
16 | i. Kyrie [3:20]
17 | ii. Gloria [5:03]
18 | iii. Amen [2:07]
19 | iv. Credo [3:18]
20 | v. Sanctus [2:40]
21 | vi. Agnus Dei [3:05]