"...one of my deepest creative passions is writing songs", Renée Favand-See
We are thrilled to be premiering local composer, Renée Favand-See’s jaw-dropping piece, “Lighting the Leaves” at our upcoming concert this Sunday. (For more information visit our website). We were drawn to the challenge of the piece and after learning that Renée’s husband, Corin See, wrote the poetry for it, we think the metaphor and how it fits in our show is perfect kismet.
Renée was kind enough to write a few words for our blog about the piece:
As a composer, it’s pretty great for me to have a resident poet in the house–my husband, Corin! One of my deepest creative passions is writing songs. I love to discover the music in a poem–its phrases, its rhythm, its melody, its tension and energy–and respond to that music with some lines of my own. Corin is up for nearly anything, so I can ask him for a particular type of poem or even specific themes. “Hey, I need a poem about Brooklyn, about ghost towns, some words on Bull Run, a purposely ambiguous haiku….” In the case of Lighting the leaves, I put in an order for a poem about the solstice. Corin decided to experiment with pantoum form (a 19th C. French appropriation of 15th C. Malayan poetic form). In this structure there is the experience of continual refrain and evolution as lines two and four of the first stanza become one and three in the next–that pattern repeats until the opening lines return in the final stanza. What a perfect form for a poem about the cycles of the sun.
His pantoum inspired me to use canon for its musical setting. In canon too, each repetition occurs in a new context–as each voice enters, the harmony further develops or perhaps even takes on new shades of meaning. The central image of the sun gradually rising in the sky also suggested a long ascending arch to the melody shape. As I was composing this piece, I related the slow progress of the sun (towards the long, golden days of midsummer) to my somewhat steady daily practice (of singing and composing) that may (over years of work) lead to flow and ease. After a steady building of the texture through canonic entrances in the opening phrase, at the word “gliding” the melody breaks free from the earlier melodic material and starts soaring into fresh harmonic colors while continuing an overall ascent. At the “solstice” or height of my piece, the canonic entrances return but at closer rhythmic intervals in stretto fashion for a build in intensity and lushness.
I initially wrote this piece with a choral sound in mind, but I was thrilled when The Julians expressed an interest in performing the premiere. One voice on a part enhances the feeling of intimate sharing of a story. Also, Kristen, Liz, Maria and Vakare possess a rich palette of vocal colors as well as amazing ability to (seemingly effortlessly) spin out the long lines in this piece. Collaborating with The Julians on this project has been an absolute pleasure. They bring beautiful voices, heart and intelligence to their music-making in equal generous measure.
The J’s are delighted to be co-collaborators with Renée and look forward to sharing her music on Sunday.
We hope to see YOU there!
Check out Renée’s website and read more about this accomplished, amazing woman composer.