Mirror Visions Celebrates
In Tight on Words and Music
By: Susan Hall - Jan 17, 2017
Mirror Visions Ensemble
Songs by Aaron Grad, John Glover, Daniel Temkin, Margaret Barrett, Tom Cipullo
Vira Slywotzky, soprano
Justine Aronson, soprano
Scott Murphree, tenor
Jesse Blumberg, baritone
Mischa Bouvier, baritone
Alan Darling, piano
Margaret Kampmeier, piano
The Sheen Center
New York, New York
January 16, 2017
Photos by J. Henry Fair and Jennifer Taylor
Mirror Visions Ensemble commemorated its 25th anniversary with a concert at The Sheen Center.
The driving vision of Mirror Visions is that each composer will interpret a poem, passage or letters in his or her own way. The composer is to find the true musical equivalent for the poem. The variety of the setting is of no less importance than that of the poem. The composer must value not only the words but their dramatic impact, which is revealed in the atmosphere of the composition. The group often contrast two composers' takes on the same poem.
Singers from Mirror Visions are skilled at singing a poem’s underlying significance and conveying all it says. What fascinates is that two composers can see and feel a poem in such different ways.
The concert presented world premieres from the four winners of the Ensemble’s inaugural Young Composer’s Competition—Margaret Barrett, John Glover, Aaron Grad and Daniel Temkin. All of them, and one of the deans of the art song, Tom Cipullo, were in attendance.
In addition to looking ahead to the next generation of art song composers, Mirror Visions looked back at one of its favorite commissions in the group's 25-year history: Cipullo's song cycle A Visit with Emily. Touching and full of quirks and wit, this beautiful cycle for soprano, tenor and baritone sets Dickinson's poetry and her correspondence with long-time mentor/lover(?) T.W. Higginson. Alan Darling, a gifted accompanist, dazzled at the piano.
The program began with Aaron Grad's setting of a Paul Laurence Dunbar text. Invitation to Love is also an invitation to the audience to sit rapt in special songs for the evening. Oddly, the hard "c" of the word "come" which starts the song and is harshly repeated throughout, seems like a call to listen, to pay attention.
How Sweet the Answer Echo makes followed, with music by Paul Hindemith and then Benjamin Britten. And so on through the program.
Particularly striking were the contrasts between Brahms and Charles Ives, who seemed to come from different worlds, and in fact did.
Daniel Temkin set texts by Amy Lowell and James Joyce. Soprano Vira Slywotzky called our attention to a ladder leaning against her window. Inviting? A baritone, very male, wants to tie back the branch of a tree which obscures his love. Thunder is heard in the background. The two songs that follow listen to rain, delightfully suggested in the singers' voices and also in the accompanying piano as Margaret Kampmeier delicately trilled the raindrops.
In the first half of the program, colored lights bathed the brick wall at the back of the stage, changing from red, to blue, to purple depending on the mood of a song. Margaret Barrett's powerful At a Window captured Carl Sandburg's words.
The Tom Cipullo song cycle A Visit with Emily, is a marvel of variety. Soprano Justine Aronson joined the other artists to portray Dickinson's lonely, loving, deeply felt words.
Swept up in the beauty of the voices and the music, the Mirror Visions' mission becomes integral to the listener's pleasure. The Ensemble's revelations are an important contribution to the art song.