Wood Song for solo oboe by Jenni Brandon Performed by Celeste Johnson At The Zalon

Wood Song for solo oboe by Jenni Brandon was performed by Celeste Johnson at the Zalon Arts virtual concert on Sunday, January 24, 2021 at 7:30 PM EDT (Philadelphia, USA: GMT-4).

The Zalon was born out of the Salon during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Salon, a renowned performance series modeled after the 19th Century European salons, was founded in September 1986 by composer Andrea Clearfield. The Salon was conceived with the idea of integrating different music genres as well as other arts. “One of the best-known music salons in the country” with “deep bench of topflight musicians” (The Philadelphia Inquirer), and winner of the “Best of Philly Award 2008” (Philadelphia Magazine), this Salon features high level performances of classical chamber music, opera, jazz, original contemporary compositions, electronic, folk, experimental, world music, spoken word, dance and multimedia works. Near the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Salon reflects the strong tradition of music in Philadelphia, builds audiences and fosters new art forms in an intimate and supportive atmosphere

The Zalon Arts Program for January 24, 2021 was as follows:

HuDost (Moksha Sommer, vocals/keys/harmonium and Jemal Wade Hines, guitars/vocals) performs new live music from their home in KY (near Nashville)

Benjamin P. Wenzelberg will play and sing Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s “Oh, what comes over the sea?” from Sorrow Songs and Mahler’s “Rheinlegendchen” from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, and perform his own composition “At One with Nature; Trees Dancing,” from his home in Tenafly, NJ

Maria Dell’Orefice, pianist, will perform movement I. Contemplation – Catch, of Dream/Play, A Fantasy in Three Movements by composer Adam Wernick from her home in Strafford, PA

Falu will perform Indian classical pieces, chanting plus harmonium, from her home in NY

Isaí Jess Muñoz, tenor and Oksana Glouchko, pianist will perform selections from their album, “Visca L’Amor: Catalan Art Songs of the XX and XXI Centuries,” from historic Bayard Sharp Hall at the University of Delaware.

Celeste Johnson will perform Wood Song for solo oboe by Jenni Brandon from her studio at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory.

Wood Song for solo oboe by Jenni Brandon

 Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

I heard a wood-thrush in the dusk

Twirl three notes and make a star –

My heart that walked with bitterness

Came back from very far.

Three shining notes were all he had,

And yet they made a starry call –

I caught life back against my breast

And kissed it, scars and all.

From the poetry book “Love Songs”, Interlude: Songs out of Sorrow (VI. Wood Song). The Macmillan Company, 1917.  Poem is in the public domain. This collection of poems won the 1918 Pulitzer Prize.

Among the many unique sounds made by this bird includes the “pit volley”.  This sound is represented in the work by five quick repeated notes in a row punctuating the moment as the wood-thrush does in the forest.  Variations on other unique sounds from the wood thrush’s repertoire are represented by both timbral and regular trills, fast rhythmic leaping lines, and, at times, the lyrical singing of a lone bird in the woods.  In remaining true to both the bird’s call as well as the poet’s description of it, the very opening of the work begins with a transcription of one of these birds’ songs “twirling three notes”. Throughout the work there is much freedom given to the oboist to explore creating the song of the wood thrush.  Listen for variations and interpretations on their unique song.

It was a joy to work on this piece with Dr. Lindabeth Binkley, who commissioned the work, and whose beautiful, lyrical playing allowed me to explore writing for the many colors of the oboe.  Her precision in rhythm and ability to play quickly and precisely also allowed me to explore faster rhythmic aspects of the bird’s song.  The result is a work that will hopefully remind us all to take time to walk outside and listen to the birds sing.

This work was commissioned by Dr. Lindabeth Binkley with a Faculty Research and Creative Endeavors Grant from Central Michigan University.  It appears on her CD FROM EARTH AND SKY: MUSIC OF JENNI BRANDON on the Blue Griffin Recording label.

Valentina Sounds, Italian born singer songwriter, will perform jazzy/pop original songs from her home in Philadelphia, PA

 Dave Hartl will perform solo piano versions of Frank Zappa’s “Little Umbrellas” and “Holiday in Berlin” from his home in Telford, PAWriter

 Sienna Craig will read some of her original poetry from her home in Hanover, NH to improvised piano by Andrea Clearfield from her home in Philadelphia, PA