FirstFigSongbook

To Heliconian Hall last night for a short concert of songs by Danika Lorèn.  It was thoroughly enjoyable.  The songs were split up into sets of one or two and sung/accompanied by UoT grad students.  The standard of performance was pretty decent but it was very noticeable that when Danika and Stéphane Mayer inserted themselves into the proceedings everything got turned up a couple of notches.  As Danika said to me “not a student anymore” while hinting at a significant numerological event.

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The gang minus the composer

The texts for the songs were drawn exclusively from women poets.  The most substantial works were settings of poems from Edna St. Vincent Millay’s A Few Figs from Thistles and Lorna Crozier’s The Sex Lives of Vegetables where, pace the printed programme, Danika unexpectedly inserted a carrot.  There were also three new pieces for baritone in the Vegetables series; Matthew Tissi featuring as the only male voice of the evening.  Other poets represented were E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) and Angelina Weld Grimké.

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Her composership

It’s not easy to describe the style of the songs.  It’s clearly a text forward approach as one would expect from a singer with the text often treated playfully and (mock) dramatically.  The accompaniments are far from trivial.  They vary from fairly straightforward melodic pieces to a more abrasive, chromatic approach.  Eclectic certainly, modern for sure and not a trace of neo-Broadway.  I really want to hear all these songs (the soprano ones anyway) performed by Danika and Stéphane; preferably with a recording,  I feel sure they deserve a closer listen than one uick concert run through can provide.

Performing were sopranos Michaela O’Connor, Kayla Ruiz, Jennifer Wilson, Lindsay McIntyre, Loren Graziano and Morgan Reid with mezzo soprano Nicole Percifield.  Piano accompaniment was from Kevin Stolz, Charlie Carrier, Helen Becqué, Dakota Scott-Digout and Christine Bae.  As well as singers and pianist previously mentioned.

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