FOURTH COAST ENSEMBLE'S BLOG
Today Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in state in the nation’s capitol, the first woman to be so honored. She spent her career advocating for women’s rights and gender equality and leaves behind a legacy that has inspired countless citizens.
This past week I have reflected fondly on the times that I was fortunate to personally interact with Justice Ginsburg. A well-known lover of opera, she made regular pilgrimages to the Santa Fe Opera where I was lucky to perform over several summers. She was also involved in a number of panel discussions concerning opera as it relates to the law, and I count myself blessed to have taken part in one of those sessions. (There is nothing quite like performing a Gilbert & Sullivan song only to have its contents immediately dissected by a justice of the Supreme Court!) It is an experience I will always treasure.
This week’s Art Song Fix looks back on our American Woman concerts, which celebrated many of the civil rights advancements that Justice Ginsburg tirelessly worked for over a period of decades.
American composer Jennifer Higdon utilizes texts from the Civil War era in her song cycle Civil Words, among them an excerpt from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address. Lincoln speaks to a nation at war:
With malice toward none, with charity for all…let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.
The mood is somber, the piano part thick and plodding, the harmonies searching desperately for resolution. Higdon paints a vivid picture of the sixteenth president: a leader seeking to inspire hope and reconciliation in a country entrenched in battle. As the United States continues to experience civil unrest in the present day, Lincoln’s words seem as timely as ever. May we soon achieve a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
Rest well, RBG.
Lincoln’s Final was recorded in November of 2019 at St. Paul and the Redeemer in Hyde Park, and features pianist Maria Sumareva.
This week marked the official centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, so it seems only appropriate that we feature music from Lori Laitman’s song cycle Are Women People? on this edition of The Art Song Fix.
The text from the third movement, Take Pity, is excerpted from an 1894 speech delivered by Susan B. Anthony:
Now, women, if you haven’t any self-respect for yourselves, you should at least take pity on the men associated with you in your good works.
The singers perform a cappella without the support of piano accompaniment, perhaps a reflection of the lack of support early suffragettes may have felt for their cause.
Ironically the men sing the first notes of the song but thereafter echo the words uttered by the women, as if they immediately assume they have all of the answers but in reality only repeat the ideas of their female counterparts. The bass makes one final plea for pity at the end of the song, a humorous take on men finding a way to make women’s suffrage all about them.
You can hear the final movement of Are Women People? on our July 3 Art Song Fix, a setting of the text of the 19th Amendment itself.
Fourth Coast recorded the full song cycle in studio in January 2020, and we can’t wait to share the record with you upon its official release.
Hello, and welcome to the blog! We are Fourth Coast Ensemble, Chicago's classical vocal quartet. Join a different member of our ensemble each week for insights into our favorite art songs, links to archival and new recordings, and reflections on why we value and continue to come back to this musical medium. We proudly present, your weekly #artsongfix!