Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Aurora University Choral Festival Blogpost #3 Alley Cat Love Song

At the October 21st festival concert at Aurora University in Aurora, IL a number of fine ensembles will be singing selections from my choral output over the last fifteen years. I am currently blogging about each piece that is on the program, giving readers some insight into how and why I produced these pieces. Today's post is about Alley Cat Love Song, a bluesy, jazzy setting for SSA/piano of former US poet laureate Dana Gioia's clever poem.

Dana Gioia

Alley Cat Love Song--See score and listen

Published by Santa Barbara Music Press Cat. # 737


Come into the garden, Fred,

For the neighborhood tabby is gone.
Come into the garden, Fred.
I have nothing but my flea collar on,
And the scent of catnip has gone to my head .
I'll wait by the screen door till dawn.

The fireflies court in the sweetgum tree.
The nightjar calls from the pine,
And she seems to say in her rhapsody,
"Oh, mustard-brown Fred, be mine!"

The full moon lights my whiskers afire,
And the fur goes erect on my spine.

I hear the frogs in the muddy lake
Croaking from shore to shore.
They've one swift season to soothe their ache.
In autumn they sing no more.

So ignore me now, and you'll hear my meow
As I scratch all night at the door.

Windsong Chorus channelling their inner kittyness:

This piece was commissioned by Jim Yarbrough, the director at that time (now retired, and will be in attendance October 21st) of the fine Naperville North High School choral program, and one my earliest supporters. Since Jim has a jazz background (and he also was bass section leader under the legendary Margaret Hillis at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus!) I decided to write him something jazzy and bluesy. I found this wonderfully sly text by Dana Gioia and set about having some fun with it.
Musically the piece goes back and forth between a lyrical, “night music” quasi- Debussy stereotypical impressionist feel (hopefully pianists will smile a bit when they notice an actual Debussy piano prelude quote in the piano intro) and the jazz/blues sections. The ending plays around with different ways of saying the boy cat’s name, “Fred”, including purring/rolling the r sound. I even had an excuse to include one of my favorite Ravel chords in this piece (a pretty pungent V chord with a flat 9 and a sharp 11). It’s a chord Ravel uses in pieces like the Piano Concerto and his other jazz influenced music.

Here's Debussy Voiles, which I "borrowed" (sampled? stole? parodied?) at the beginning. When pianists first sit down at the piano with the score to Alley Cat Love Song this is a fun surprise for them. They can't help but grin at the unexpected quote from a piece they all know!

Performing Alley Cat Love Song on October 21st will be the women's ensemble from Aurora University directed by Dr. Lisa Fredenburgh:

Under the leadership of Lisa Fredenburgh, the Aurora University Chorale and Chamber Choir perform both on campus and away serving the AU community and communities throughout the Midwest.  She has held previous conducting posts at University of Central Missouri, Meredith College in Raleigh, NC and with the Opera Company of North Carolina and Capitol Opera Raleigh. She holds a DMA and two MM degrees from the University of Arizona where she studied under Maurice Skones, Thomas Hilbish, Jerry McCoy and Kenneth Jennings. Her BA in music education was earned at Luther College, under Weston Noble.  

Dr. Lisa Fredenburgh
Fredenburgh often serves as guest conductor, lecturer and clinician locally, nationally and abroad.  She has conducted All-State Choirs in Tennessee, Georgia, New York, Arkansas, and North Carolina.  She has conducted and taught master classes in the Dominican Republic, Panama and in Bolivia.  She is a frequent presenter at national-, regional- and state-level professional organizations in the fields of Women’s Choral Music, and the Music of Latin America.  She currently serves as Central Division Chair for the Women’s Choir Repertoire & Standards Committee for the American Choral Directors Association and was formerly a member of the steering committee for the 50th Anniversary National Convention in 2009.  

Read more: http://www.aurora.edu/academics/undergraduate/music/lisa-fredenburgh.html#.VhPZZ_lViko#ixzz3nnWkUsCv

Hey, if you've read all this way--here's your reward. The epic hit from last century (1961), The Alleycat by Bent Fabric (love that name!).

Check out the old school image here- an old 45 RPM vinyl record!

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