Voyage to Canada is an exploration of Canadian song repertoire with a focus on art song of the late 20th century. This recording includes works that represent Canada’s varied and vibrant musical aesthetic. From Elizabeth Raum’s languid seduction of a stranger in « T.S. » to John Beckwith’s reimagining of Margaret Laurence in Stacey, the intimate connection of text and music create an immediacy of character and an innate sense of place. This journey through some of Canada’s most effective song repertoire provides a practical and engaging addition to this country’s song archive.

An artist equally at home in concert, opera and music theatre repertoire, Caroline Schiller has participated in the creation and performance of opera and concert works with The Banff Centre, The Tanglewood Music Center, The Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, The Dartington International Institute, and The Indian River Festival. Of her concert and theatre work, highlights include the American premiere of Alexander Goehr’s Sing Ariel with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players and her performances in the role of Christine in the original Toronto cast of Phantom of the Opera. Recent releases include « Great Britain Triumphant! » a recording of 18th-century English cantatas with the baroque ensemble, Capella Savaria conducted by Mary Térey-Smith and released by Centaur. She is Associate Professor of Voice and director of Opera at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Recitalist, adjudicator and presenter, her doctoral thesis is an annotated bibliography entitled A Performer’s Guide to Works for Soprano Voice by Canadian Women Composers.

Track listing and prgram notes

1-3 Three Songs with Poems by Emily Dickinson (4:40)
Dace Aper?ne

Each of the three poems in this cycle has a distinct mood which I wished to explore and subtly heighten through music. In the first song, « It’s all I have to bring today, » I strove to convey restraint and simplicity, yet warmth of spirit, as well. A keen sense of drama and rubato are important to the interpretation of the second song, « Wild nights! Wild nights! » in which I wished to convey a tumultuous sense of abandon through the musical dialogue between the vocalist and pianist. The third song, « Heaven is what I cannot reach! » begins with a folk-like melody set to an accompaniment, which I wanted to resemble the playing of a hammered dulcimer. A feeling of intensity gradually builds throughout the song and culminates with a sense of elation at its conclusion.

4-9 Stacey (13:49)
John Beckwith

In the spring of 1997, Stephen Ralls of the Toronto concert organization The Aldeburgh Connection invited me to compose a work for soprano and piano to be performed at a concert in memory of Lois Marshall.

In Margaret Laurence’s 1969 novel The Fire Dwellers, the central character, Stacey McAindra, provided me with challenging potential for a kind of « sung monologue, » or one-character mini-opera. The novel, set in the 1960s, unfolds on several levels. Stacey is a middle-class wife and mother. In one scene, with her children not yet home from school, Stacey nips into the gin, puts on a Tommy Dorsey record (perhaps his signature tune, « I’m Getting Sentimental Over You »), and dances around the living-room recalling the mood of her high-school. She imagines conversations with God, in which she faces what her shortcomings might look like on Judgment Day. In another scene she mocks a Victorian hymn from her formative years, as she wonders if all that is left for her and her husband is to save their money so they can retire and visit Mexico. I pieced together, with permission from Margaret Laurence’s family, a number of these inner monologue/dialogue passages, which together show various essentials of this compelling character. Also in my mind a good deal during this project was Lois Marshall. I hoped perhaps the range of musical expression Stacey, as well as the honesty and earthiness of its heroine, would seem appropriate in the context of a concert in her memory.

10 TS from Men I Have Known (2:36)
Elizabeth Raum

Elizabeth Raum enjoys a reputation of being one of Canada’s most « accessible » composers, writing for varied mediums and in remarkably diverse styles. She has written extensively for voice including 4 operas, 17 solo vocal works and a number of large-scale choral works. Her compositional style is straightforward and text driven, reflecting an insightful and often humorous relationship with text.

The cycle from which TS is taken was written for a Valentine’s Day recital with the theme of romance. Mezzo soprano Calla Krause, asked Elizabeth Raum to write something on this topic so she wrote of the relationships womankind form with men from the first awakenings of adolescence to the spiritual bonds that mature love creates. The initials, though representing real life men, are but symbols or embodiments of these types of relationships. As is the case with many of Raum’s compositions, the style is tonal and programmatic. TS is obviously a good looking fellow with whom the singer is flirting, but in the end, she probably just shrugs.

11-17 Studies and Rambles of Wasagewanoqua (16:25)
John Greer

This song cycle is inspired by Anna Brownell Jameson’s memoirs of her travels in I836 entitled Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada. Anna, the wife of the first Attorney General appointed to Upper Canada decided to accompany her husband from England for the first year of his tenure in Canada. The book is brimming with her original and oftentimes humorous observations of Canadian life in the 1800s. Wasagewanoqua means « lady of the bright foam » in Ojibway, and was the name given to Anna Jameson by an Ojibway tribe during her arduous travels through Upper Canada (now known as Ontario). The cycle begins with « Voyage to Canada, » a text from Friedrich von Schiller’s « Die Größe der Welt. » This text reflects the fundamental spirit of adventure and discovery present throughout the cycle. We are repeatedly drawn into Anna’s world through her vivid descriptive writing and Greer’s imaginative and lush text setting. Phonetic transcriptions of folk songs and Ojibway melodies were scattered throughout Jameson’s book. Greer’s « Ojibway Quaince » is taken from Anna’s account of life with the Ojibway tribes and includes a transcription of a song found in the novel. « From Sault Ste. Marie en Bateau! » opens with Jameson’s recounting of her voyage into the northern regions of Upper Canada. The piece uses direct quotation of three Canadian voyageur songs, which may or may not be recognizable to the lover of Canadian folk song. In an attempt to be as true to the literary model as possible, each song in the cycle is designated as a study or ramble mirroring the structural division of Ms Jameson’s book. Songs that include direct quotation from the novel are referred to as rambles, while pieces that use ancillary texts, such as poems or song texts, are studies. Greer’s cycle ends with an envoi. « The Heart’s Laugh » is to be sung from the perspective of the performer herself. Its text offers closure to the cycle and perhaps a final directive from the composer to continue Anna’s journey.

18-20 Three Spanish Lyrics (7:01)
Imant Raminsh

Although Three Spanish Lyrics is varied in subject and poet, its three works are linked by Raminsh’s romantic and lyrical textual treatment. The first poem is the work of Spanish playwright Lope de Vega. A parallel can be drawn between Lope’s infamous private life and this passionate text. It implores the lover to leave silently at daybreak to avoid waking the nightingale. The second song is a setting of the well-known poem, « Caminante, son tus huellas » by Antonio Machado. In this poem, Machado tells us that we each make our path by walking it and once travelled, it cannot be revisited. Raminsh’s setting contrasts a lyrical vocal line with the consistent and repetitive rhythm of the traveller’s footsteps in the accompaniment. The poem, « Meciendo » is written by twentieth-century Chilean educator and poet Gabriela Mistral. This lullaby uses the rhythm of nature, the sea and wind, as a means of quieting a troubled child.

21-23 Les chansons du coeur (4:48)
Jean Coulthard

Les chansons du coeur was composed in 1979 at the request of soprano Ginette Duplessis (to whom the set is dedicated) on three texts by Québec poet Madeleine Guimont. The work was premiered in March 1984 by Duplessis and pianist Elaine Keillor at a concert of contemporary music presented by Ottawa’s Espace Musique at the University of Ottawa’s Odeon Theatre.

The songs, ‘J’ai fermé mon coeur,’ ‘Je tisserais un arc en ciel,’ and ‘Voix d’yeux,’ are poignant exemplars of several stylistic « threads » that run concurrently throughout Coulthard’s oeuvre — a lyrical impulse that the composer once likened to « sunlight glinting on the watered stone of small brook, » a rich palette of evocative harmonies, and a firm conviction in the emotional power of music. Following the impassioned longing of ‘J’ai fermé mon coeur,’ ‘Je tisserais un arc en ciel’ takes the listener into an enchanted world of atmospheric colours, while the lyrical intensity of ‘Voix d’yeux’ brings the set to a fitting close. As the composer once wrote, « human values remain the same and unless music is able to reach the heart in some way, it loses its compelling power to minister to human welfare. » In that sense, Les chansons du coeur could not be a more fitting tribute to Coulthard’s legacy.

-Glenn Colton

24-29 A Sarah Binks Songbook (15:42)
John Greer

A Sarah Binks Songbook is a song cycle inspired by the writings of Canadian author Paul Gerhardt Hiebert and the poetic works of his fictional character Sarah Binks, better known as The Sweet Songstress of Saskatchewan. Both the literary and musical work take a fun and quirky look at the oftentimes-harsh life of the Canadian prairies. Greer’s « Reflections while Translating Heine, » pays homage to Schumann’s « Du bist wie eine Blume, » quoting the original lied while using Sarah’s « almost perfect » translation of German poetry as its text. This work also provides further insight into her aspirations and misguided attempts at literary stardom. Greer offers a vibrant reflection of Hiebert’s colourful texts in works that include a tribute to a beloved cow, « Elegy to a Calf, » and an energetic hog call entitled « Hi Sooky, Ho Sooky. » The final « Square Dance » is a mix of square dance and ragtime figures. It includes the musical quotation of a Métis fiddle tune « Whiskey Before Breakfast » and references the square dance figure, « Bird in the Cage. »