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Song on the Times

 

Midwinter Meeting Liner Notes

Find more info and listen to Midwinter Meeting here!

1. Time is a Winding Up (trad. USA)

This is a classic old-time tune recorded by such old-time and bluegrass artists as Ginny Hawker and Carol Elizabeth Jones. Lynn and Will learned it from Aurelia Schrenker while on tour in Europe with Northern Harmony. In our arrangement, we added some more American Gospel style harmonies to create some cross-genre fusion.

2. Sweet William (Will Thomas Rowan)

This song was printed in 1909 in Heart Songs, a collection of submissions of people’s favorite songs. Will sang a Tim Erikson arrangement of it when he was a teenager, and though he liked the ballad, he wanted to give it more strident harmonies.

3. Mesechinko ljo grejlivka (Bulgaria, arr. Filip Kutev)

This song is a Bulgarian folk tune arranged by composer and conductor Filip Kutev (1903-1982). The text says “Oh, Moon, shining in the sky, do you shine upon my Village? Do you see the boys and girls sitting love next to love? And tell me, moon, who is sitting next to my love?”

4. Reche mama (Bulgaria, arr. Filip Kutev)

The text to this Bulgarian tune says “Mama wants to marry me off, but who will she marry me to? She wants to marry me to the farmer, but I don’t want that. The farmer is like a rooster, always jumping from haystack to haystack. Now she wants to marry me to the carpenter, but I don’t want that. The carpenter is like a mouse, always jumping from beam to beam. Now she wants to marry me to the bagpipe player, and I’m very happy. He will play, and I will dance, and we will get along very well.”

5. Izgreyala yasna zvezda (trad. Bulgaria)

This Bulgarian folk song is in the more traditional village style and features a drone voice.  The drone is a single note held throughout the whole song and is very common in Bulgarian music.  The melody splits away and comes back to it, creating striking harmony and dissonance.  Lynn and Will learned this song from the singing of Dessislava Stefanova, director of the London Bulgarian Choir.

6. Bayside Lament (Will and Lynn Rowan)

Lynn and Will wrote this song as a new take on the old ballad form of the lover left behind by the sailor.

7. South Pond (Will Thomas Rowan)

Will wrote this Shape Note style piece for Lynn.  It is named for the place in Marlboro, VT where they were married.

8. Un vi vantate o zitelli (trad. Corsica)

While Corsican music is traditionally sung in three parts, we have fallen in love with thispaghella that features a fourth part, the “angel voice.”  A paghella is a couplet song–three verses of two lines each that often have quippy or humorous meaning.  This song says, “You may brag, boys, but everyone gets subdued. The deer may be nimble, but he gets caught, and the hunters are always waiting day and night.”

9. A Violetta (trad. Corsica)

A Violetta is a setting of a long poem in which a young man begs his love, Violetta, to come with him to war.  She refuses, citing bad food and sleeping on the ground as her main objections, to which he assures her that she will sleep on a bed of roses.  We love the drama and grandeur of the song, and felt that it called for the addition of the “angel voice.”

10. Bentatik Natorr (trad. Basque)

Jeremy learned this song from the Kezka dancers of Eibar in Basque Country when he was studying sword dancing there in 2011.  It is a love song that says, “when I am near my love, my body melts like butter near a flame.”

11. Yes Very Well/V’la L’Bon Vent (trad. Quebec)

We couldn’t decide which of these two settings of a classic set of Quebecois words we would sing, so we did a medley of the two. The text speaks of a prince who goes duck hunting and shoots a white duck, but misses the black one. The feathers fly out on the wind where women collect them and make camp beds out of them.

12. Arkhalalo Namgalo (trad. Georgia)

This song is a condensed performance version of a type of Georgian work song called a Naduri, which were sung for hours on end during large-scale harvesting tasks. This particular one is from Kakheti in eastern Georgia, a region known for its highly ornamented soloistic style. The words are about sharpening a sickle and calling the boys to the field to harvest the grain.

13. Sabodisho (trad. Georgia)

In Georgia there is a tradition of singing songs to sick children in order to appease unhappy spirits. The spirits are addressed as “Batonebo,” an honorific, and flowers are strewn about the child’s room.

14. Shairebi (trad. Georgia)

Shairebi is Georgian for “verses” and refers to both a meter of poetry and a style of song in which two soloists trade humorous poetry back and forth. This particular one came from the Martve Boys’ choir and refer to candy, grandpa, and a donkey.

15. Sanctus (trad. Corsica)

We learned this somewhat atypical Corsican Sanctus from the group Barbara Furtuna who we met in the village of Olmeta di Tuda. This piece is more in the southern style of Corsican singing with the parts moving together following the lead voice. It also employs the modern innovation of the Contrabassu, a fourth voice between the bass and the melody.

16. Agnus Dei, Olmi Capella (trad. Corsica)

This Agnus dei is based on a fragment remembered by a singer in the village of Olmi Capella in northwestern Corsica. It was reconstructed into this well-known form by the group A Cumpagna.

17. Txorritua nurat hua (trad. Basque)

Jeremy also learned this song from the Kezka dancers of Eibar in Basque Country.  It says:

Where do you go little bird, with your two wings in the air?
To Spain, over the high mountain passes,
We will go together when the snow melts
St Joseph’s Hermitage is high in the Spanish desert
It is my home, my resting place
And I often look back upon it and sigh.
Sigh, little bird, and fly to the door of my beloved.
Tell her it is I who sent you.
Fly into her heart as she has flown into mine.

18. Waterbound (Dirk Powell)

We learned this song from the singing of Dirk Powell, and it came onto our radar in the summer of 2011, just before Vermont was hit by Hurricane Irene.  The song’s final line, “I’m waterbound and I can’t get home,” took on special meaning for us when Lynn and Will were stranded for several days at a friend’s house in Marlboro, VT, and it has quickly become one of our favorite arrangements.  Will accompanies the singing on the banjo.

19. Hop High (trad. USA)

Hop high is one of our favorite Appalachian tunes. The banjo part is inspired by the playing of Dirk Powell.

20. Poor Soldier (F.Proffitt)

Lauren, Lynn, and Will originally learned Poor Soldier from Val Mindel, who was a leader on their first Village Harmony session together in 2000.  Originally, it wasn’t part of our 2013 repertoire, but one night during our rehearsal week, Lynn started singing it while we washed our dinner dishes and the rest of us joined in with harmony parts.  While some of those harmonies would generously be described as “experimental,” it was immediately clear to us that we needed to find a place for Poor Soldier in our concert program.