by Ace Gangoso
The year’s at the spring,
Well, the year is not at the spring. Leaves are falling, the air is turning colder, and the sun sets earlier with each passing day. All is most certainly not right with the world. Am I delusional to have chosen to post this song at this time? With our reality being as it is, I think it’s reasonable to allow our minds to escape to such a vision of springtime beauty and optimism once in a while. I like to think of this poem as the Spring 2020 we had hoped to have. Maybe we can sing this song into existence by 2021.
I wonder what Amy Beach’s experience was with the 1918 pandemic. I’m curious about a lot of her life, actually, especially since I knew very little about her until I studied Three Browning Songs for this concert. I was instantly fascinated with her and her music. I learned that by the age of 2, Beach was probably a more skilled musician than I was at age 12—perhaps even 22. She was a piano prodigy and made her solo debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at age 16. When I was that age, I remember being nervous to the point of feeling nauseous to step on stage for my high school’s musical.
I wonder what it was like to be so gifted that early in life, and to have to find your way as a young American woman at the turn of the 20th century. I wonder what it was like to be the first American woman to publish a symphony, and to hear it premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I wonder what it was like to be hailed a pioneer, and to be welcomed as “one of the boys” in the illustrious Boston Six.
When I consider the audacious life and career of Amy Beach…
When I reflect on the calamity of the past eight months…
When I stop to take notice of the steadfastness, creativity, and goodwill that has continues to emerge in spite of it all…
…a part of me starts to believe that anything is possible. I invite you to join me in getting lost in wonder and daring to dream. There is new life ahead. Happy spring!
By Ace Gangoso
Atreus, Cadmus, and Alcides aren’t household names these days, but one need not be well-versed in Greek mythology to understand the singing poet’s struggle in An die Leier. The song has a startling beginning with chords that crash and clash, painting a sonic picture of disaster and destruction. It is essentially the soundtrack to the year 2020.
The vocal line begins with a pompous war-cry, declaring honor and loyalty to these mighty heroes as if marching into an epic battle. However, the piano (representing the lyre) takes on a life of its own, modulating toward a more peaceful soundscape. And despite another effort to revert to the original bombastic tones, the sounds of love ultimately win. The transitions are almost comical, but reveal a certain truth: artists can falter, but art is pure.
As a musician, I have found it difficult at times to keep a hopeful and optimistic focus. What helps to pick me up and keep me going is witnessing the craftiness and ingenuity that continues to emerge despite our current circumstances. From online virtual performances to mini-concerts on balconies to murals and street paintings—creative life lives on and thrives. This week, in celebration of the women’s suffrage centennial, sculptor Meredith Bergmann unveiled statues of pioneers Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth in New York City’s Central Park.
These are all wonderful reminders that, even in the darkest of times, beauty and inspiration are all around. As makers and lovers of music, we have to keep the faith and support one another. Although our world is volatile and full of discord, art can lead us and change the tune.
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!