Instrumentation mezzosoprano and piano

Vocal Range G3 to A5

Timing ca. 25′

Composed 2017

Words by Emily Carr, adapted by Jeffrey Ryan

Commissioned by Canadian Art Song Project

World Premiere March 19, 2018, Walter Hall, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario. Krisztina Szabó, mezzosoprano; Steven Philcox, piano

Programme Notes

Oh, These Mountains!
A Glimpse of God
Rhythm and Space
Letters (Reams of Horrid Letters/Mr. Hatch Wrote/Compliments, Hanna Lund)
A Movement Floating Up
I’m Just Whizzy!
Uncovered

Many years ago, at a used bookshop in Cleveland, I discovered Hundreds and Thousands, the published journals of the iconic Canadian painter Emily Carr (1871-1945). Carr wrote about her struggles to be an artist, both creatively and practically: to develop her own voice, to adequately convey what she saw to the canvas, to discover the intersection of art and spirit, to deal with self-doubts and frustrations, to find an audience, to sell her paintings, to make ends meet. As I was just finishing my doctoral studies and about to embark on my freelance career, her words resonated deeply with me. The challenges she wrote about were much like the ones I was about to face, and indeed every artist faces.

For me an art song is a little opera scene, with character and back story, and, like the orchestra in an opera, the piano never merely accompanies. I knew immediately that Carr’s journal entries, personal yet universal, could bridge song and theatre in a kind of monodrama of an artist’s life—though it was not easy to condense the texts from a 300-page book! These resulting seven scenes provide a series of snapshots chronicling Carr’s parallel journeys of capturing the mountain to her canvas and conquering the mountain to artistic success and validation.

Miss Carr in Seven Scenes was commissioned by Canadian Art Song Project for mezzosoprano Krisztina Szabó and pianist Steven Philcox.

Reviews

I can’t help thinking that Ryan wanted us to hear and even see something like the repeated brush-strokes Carr would apply to her canvas. At other times we were encountering a canny monologue, the artist brilliantly brought to life by [mezzo Krisztina] Szabó. It could be tuneful, sometimes powerful, sometimes more like a stand-up comedy routine. The shifts of tone were wonderfully woven together…the contrasts were electrifying. (Leslie Barcza/Barczablog)

Miss Carr in Seven Scenes is a fine example of contemporary Canadian art song. It’s witty and complex and doesn’t fall into the banality that, sadly, marks a lot of contemporary American art song but it’s not mired in formalism either.… There must be a recording. This piece deserves the widest audience. (John Gilks/operaramblings.blog)

PDF perusal score (non-printable)

Miss Carr in Seven Scenes perusal

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