Whether or not you accept that the Stratford-upon-Avon Englishman named William Shakespeare was responsible for some particularly good work in the form of plays and sonnets around the turn of the 17th century, Melodia Women’s Choir is ready to make you a believer. In celebration of the 450th anniversary of the Bard’s birth, Melodia presents "The Poet’s Song," a spring concert that promises “great poetry set to great music.”
A world premiere composition from London-based composer Errollyn Wallen fits that particular billing. In Full Fathom Five, Wallen, who has composed for the Royal Opera House, BBC TV and the Paralympic Games, sets text from The Tempest within a haunting mix of piano, flute, clarinet, percussion and women’s voices. According to Melodia Artistic Director Cynthia Powell, the choir’s latest commissioned piece “is challenging stuff, admittedly. The melodies are richly chromatic and contain lots of dissonances, but there are parts which are very tonal.”
Also on the program are Emma Lou Diemer’s Three Shakespeare Madrigals and Herbert Howells’s Piping Down the Valleys Wild, which features poetry by William Blake. William Mathias’s Learsongs takes the nonsense poetry of Edward Lear as its foundation and poet Christina Rossetti wrote Echo, which is set by Canadian composer Eleanor Daley. All of this, plus some pop songs from the American songbook, should ensure that Powell is correct in predicting “it's going to be a smashing concert, with something for everyone.” For this concert, Melodia will be joined by pianist Taisiya Pushkar, flutist Nathalie Joachim, clarinetist Alucia Scalzo, saxophonist Debra Kreisberg, and percussionists Michelle Cozzi and Chihiro Shibayama.
Melodia Women's Choir performs "The Poet’s Song" on Saturday, May 3, 7:30 PM at Church of the Holy Apostles, 296 Ninth Avenue at West 28th Street, New York City, and Sunday, May 4, 4:00 PM at DiMenna Center for Classical Music, 450 West 37th Street, New York City. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and $15 for students and seniors. For more information, visit www.melodiawomenschoir.org.
And, in honor of Shakespeare 450, here are five things you never knew about the Bard:
- Shakespeare protected his resting place with a curse upon anyone who dared
to disturb his eternal rest.
"Good friend for Jesus' sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones."
- Shakespeare was not merely a playwright, but also an actor, who performed his own plays and well as those of others. In fact, his official profession was acting, not writing.
- The words of the great bard are the most quoted of any single writer in the English language!
- Though we celebrate Shakespeare's birthday on April 23, Shakespeare was born under the Julian calendar, which would make his birthday May 3 under our own Gregorian calendar.
- Melodia Women's Choir will perform the world premiere of Full Fathom Five, a composition by Errollyn Wallen, with words from Shakespeare's The Tempest. Don't miss more Shakespeare history in the making!
Matthew Schlecht is a writer and editor in New York City.