We had a fun recital in the Randolph Room on March 23, in which I performed with my colleague Paul Undreiner, the music director of Ramsey Presbyterian Church. We did three song cycles – Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad, which I have sung a few times before, Schumann’s Dichterliebe, and Paul’s own, newly composed cycle, Five Bartow Songs. We were graced with the presence of Charles Bartow, the poet who provided texts for Paul’s songs. He sat in the front row with his wife, Paula.
There are some things that one wishes to have said during a concert that is relevant to the music, but was not able due to time constraints. Having briefly introduced each piece, I doubt I was able to convey how significant these works of art were before singing them. For instance, I would have liked to explain how A Shropshire Lad was born out of a time in England when overt homosexuality was heavily forbidden, the poems being published a year after Oscar Wilde’s famous trial for his openly gay lifestyle. There is so much under the surface in these songs that can be interpreted in a homoerotic light – certainly composers realized them as such in their later compositions. Also I would have loved for Charles himself to discuss some of the themes in his own poetry – including the inevitable decline in health that comes with approaching old age (with his reference to “ocular cataracts” in one very poignant song). These issues are so important to us in our church. I wonder if there were many in the audience on Sunday who picked up on some of these subtleties.
At the very least, I am pleased to say that our church has a reputation for displaying excellent musical performances. I am not just saying that to pat my own back. Think on the high artistic quality of Paul Undreiner’s compositions, and in how many different ways they have come to us – in worship services, at lunchtime recitals, and at this most recent mid-afternoon concert. Think about our general offerings to the community – the Lunchtime Recital Series, the Rainbow Children’s Choir, our special ties to early music, and our diverse worship music. These are the elements that contribute to our good reputation. We are well-positioned in New Brunswick to have a musical mission.
I wish to thank everyone who came to spend a Sunday afternoon with me and Paul. There were a good 40-50 people in the audience. We enjoyed your company, and we guarantee that there will be many such future recitals and concerts with which we can share music and art together.