“Poetry in a Song” — the title says it all. 11 classic poems set to 11 new classical style music. This describes upcoming concerts presented by the Composers Project, a unique educational program offered by InConcert Sierra to young musicians.
Designed and led by local composer Mark Vance, the Composers Project is a nine-month series of classes and private lessons covering all aspects of music production. Divided into two semesters, each semester is highlighted by concerts where student works are premiered by professional singers and musicians before a live audience.
Eleven students aged 13 to 19 bring varying levels of musical experience to the programme. For this concert they chose a poem, studied it and set it to music for their chosen voice and instrument. They wrote scores for singers and musicians, rehearsed with them, and heard their music come to life.
They chose poems that ranged from whimsical to powerful to poignant. Audiences will hear different musical styles and voices. Most of the songs have piano accompaniment, but there are two songs with harp accompaniment.
After studying poetry and the lives of poets, students demonstrate that even seemingly simple works can have depth and meaning. Thirteen-year-old Henry picks a poem by an obscure 18th-century Chinese author of his (Tao Chunyu’s “The Quarrel”), suggesting that it means “When we argue, everyone loses.”
Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalks End” is widely thought to be a poem for children, but 14-year-old Frederick shows that it speaks to all ages.
17-year-old Luca is “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman. Knowing that it was written in response to the death of Abraham Lincoln, he said, “It gave me a new perspective…the effort was successful, but the leader died.”
Students discussed the complex lives of several poets. Their teacher suggested that personal difficulties could spark creative impulses, and that writing poetry and music could be an outlet for their emotions. In contrast, 15-year-old Jackson commented that the writer he had chosen, Edgar Allan Guest, was an “average guy” who wrote uplifting poems (“They thought they couldn’t do it”). Said”).
Eighteen-year-old Kieran envisioned Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” as a story in the bard’s tradition, and felt the harp, instead of the lyre and lute, was a perfect fit for the story. He identified the poem’s theme as “everything is meaningless in the flow of time”. This is his fifth year, and even before classes started this year, he was excited to use the poem.
Sophia, 15, said she usually composes “happy music” but was drawn to Dante Rossetti’s “Autumn Song”. She described it as a “sad poem” that became more meaningful as she learned about the poet and his life.Sofia is an accomplished pianist and performs her own songs during concerts. I was thinking about it, but decided to experience playing by a professional.
KNOW & GO WHAT: Composers Project “Poetry in Song” When: Sunday, February 5, 2023, 2:00 PM Where: Peace Lutheran Church, 828 W. Main Street, Grass Valley Tickets: General $20, youth 18 and under is free. Available at www.inconcertsierra.org. or call 530-273-3990
Cheryl Morris is a member of the InConcert Sierra Education Committee and is passionate about youth music education.