About the Concert
The Salon Series takes place on Thursday, February 8 at 7:30 p.m. at 60 Locust Avenue in Berkeley Heights. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for seniors, and free for Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts students. Tickets are available online, at the door or by calling 908-790-0700. For more information, read the advance article here.
Dear Youth, a set of 8 songs for soprano, flute, and piano, takes actual letters and diary entries of women during the Civil War era to create a story. Expect to hear Hagen's own adaptation of a famous Civil War song, The Bonnie Blue Flag, followed by snapshots of the war from the perspectives of five different women: a nurse, a gossip, two wives lonely and scared for their husbands, and finally an educated southern observer watching as the war finally draws to a close.
Says Musical Theater Arts Director and soprano Timothy Maureen Cole, “We knew that we wanted to do a collaboration for flute and voice, and it's much more appealing to tackle a larger work as opposed to a few separate pieces. It's all about telling a story. When I found Dear Youth it fit perfectly. It shows the perspectives of women from a historical period where we mostly hear from men. It's really about the complicated emotions these women were feeling at a tumultuous time in history.
About the Series
The Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts (WIPA) Salon Series, now in its third season, was the brainchild of WIPA’s Director of Education Andrew Nitkin, who wanted to present performances by faculty and local guest artists in a more accessible and laid-back environment than what is typically offered at a Classical music concert experience. Audience members sit in the Performing Arts School’s intimate black box theatre at café-style tables, on stage with the performers, and wine and cheese is served. Performers often interact with the audience and performances are limited to an hour without intermission. On February 8, the series continues with soprano Timothy Maureen Cole, flutist Kristen Wuest, and pianist Christine Ciuffreda presenting the song cycle Dear Youth by Daron Hagen, among Broadway and contemporary favorites.
The Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts’ mission is to provide the highest quality performing arts education to a wide range of students in a supportive and inclusive environment, where striving for personal excellence inspires and connects those we teach to the communities we serve.
Wharton is New Jersey’s largest independent non-profit community performing arts education center serving over 1,400 students through a range of classes and ensembles including the 14 ensembles of the New Jersey Youth Symphony which serve 500 students in grades 3 - 12. Beginning with Early Childhood music classes for infants and toddlers, WIPA offers private lessons, group classes and ensembles for all ages and all abilities.
About the Performers
Timothy Maureen Cole holds a Master of Music degree in Voice Performance and Pedagogy from Westminster Choir College and a Bachelor of Music degree in Voice Performance from Ithaca College, and has been teaching voice, music theater, and piano since 2007. She holds certification in Early Childhood Music Education from Kindermusik International, and is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. In addition to private and group instruction, Cole has collegiate teaching experience at Horry Georgetown Technical College and James Madison University. She has extensive performance experience in classical and musical theater repertoire. Recent productions include La Boheme (Mimi), Le Nozze Di Figaro (Countess), Wilde’s Wild West (Frenchie), Aics and Galatea (Damon), Elixir of Love (Adina), Cask of Amontillado, The Tell-Tale Heart, and Scarlatti’s La Giuditta (Giuditta). Favorite Music Theater performances include: Kiss Me Kate (Kate), Anything Goes (Reno), You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (Sally), Once Upon A Mattress, and My Favorite Year.
Kristen Wuest, a New Jersey Youth Symphony alumna who served as principal flute for two years, has been playing the flute since the age of nine. She performed with the New Jersey Youth Symphony in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in May 2003. Wuest attended master classes with world renowned Julius Baker, Jan Vinci, Jeffrey Khaner, Bart Feller, and Paul Edmund Davies. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Flute Performance from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University and a Master of Music in Flute Performance at The School of Music, Dance, and Theater at New Jersey City University where she studied under Katherine Fink. While at Rutgers University, Wuest studied under Kaoru Hinata and was a member of the Grammy-nominated Rutgers Wind Ensemble.
A native of South Korea, Christine Ciuffreda began her piano journey in 1993. She studied piano performance at the College of Charleston on the Tate International Piano Scholarship, followed by continuing education at the Juilliard School Evening Division. Ciuffreda’s performances have lead her to Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Steinway Hall, World Financial Center, Liechtenstein Palace, and the Mozarteum Große Saal. Ciuffreda is additionally pursuing a career in opera coaching and collaborative piano. She most recently performed Le Nozze Di Figaro and Die Zauberflöte in the Prague Summer Nights festival.
About the Piece
Learn more about the piece here.
Hagen is a confirmed Civil War buff, and after considering and rejecting the prospect of a cycle on a war poet like Whitman, decided to set excerpts of letters by American women of the era who were directly or tangentially involved. (Significantly, Hagen composed the piece at the Virginia Center for the Arts, a short distance from some of the largest battles of the Civil War.) In some ways it is an idealized family parlor piece of the time -- Cousin Ann joins in on the flute -- simple and polite. But the expert musical treatments of the texts give them a layered richness they could never have had originally, and the result is a work of generous humanity, comforting and wise.
The second and third and fifth and sixth songs are two deliberate pairs, each of a prelude and concert scena, linked by common authors; the fourth song is an intermezzo, the seventh a nocturne; and the eighth, a scene from the last days of the war, is an understated but powerful finale which redevelops the first song's material. That song is The Bonnie Blue Flag: it uses a patriotic text by the lyricist Annie Chambers Ketchum, who presumably roots for the Confederate side. Hagen himself has called its text a 'rabble-rousing recruitment song,' but his setting gives it a hazy Ivesian distance, not only in the stacked fourths and fifths of the piano's harmony but in the way Hagen makes a collection of discrete compositional elements sing with a single voice. The vocal part is straightforward enough to almost be a popular song of the time -- something true of most of the tunes in the cycle -- but contradicts the stated seven-four time signature by being clearly heard in four-four. The song's second half has a softer, gentler tone, but still lets the singer 'rally' up to a high B flat, the vocal apogee of the cycle. The result is a song which lays the groundwork for the whole set by undercutting the optimism of the text and preparing us for a more realistic treatment of the war.
I Stop Again and The Picture Graved Into My Heart are both on texts from letters of Hannah Ropes, a famous wartime nurse. The first is a calm and intimate duet for the soprano and flute, taken up entirely with scalar transformations of a four-note motif heard at the outset; the composer gives the last three words an optimum of harmonic tension. The motif's shape persists into the opening of The Picture's accompaniment, which turns out to be a quote from Oh, I'm a Good Old Rebel to the tune of Joe Bowers, a popular ballad from the 1860's: its strands in the flute and piano start out in strict canon but free up once the melodic shapes become established. The scene is that of a nurse's bedside record, and the decorous modesty of the song aptly reflects the speaker's tone. The tempo quickens and the harmonies take warmth in the central section, as the speaker's heart moves, almost imperceptive, from pure sympathy to an admixture of sensual response: it is a measure of Hagen's humane musical reaction, as is the quick recovery to a more correct mood of mourning at the end. The Trouble With Tom provides some needed comic relief, using a Bernsteinian mixed-meter scherzo mood to tell a queer tale of three people inconveniently in love with one an other. The piccolo makes chirpy gossip, dovetailing in and out with the voice.
The fifth song is an introduction for the sixth, both on fragments of a letter from one Ann Smith to her husband David, 'Aug. 16, 1864'; they form a more dramatically intense counterweight to the pair of Ropes settings heard earlier. The Lord Knows is marked 'Freely effusive,' but as Paul Kreider has pointed out, 'strict adherence to the rhythm is vital' for effective performance. It quickens on 'restless,' gets kittenish with a naughty B flat blue note on 'I wouldn't care,' jumbles its rhythms confusedly on the next sentence, then waits out a bar before having the singer responsibly recover her social voice ('At least I hope...'): Hagen has truly caught the life of the words. It continues directly into O, for Such a Dream, perhaps the most moving song of the cycle. The lonely wife seems to accompany herself at the keyboard, with the flute playing the role of her absent husband -- it has a folk-opera mood. The harmonic idiom at the start couldn't be more basic, but becomes enriched as the singer's thoughts grow more intimate, with the flute quickening its pulse to a state of rapture, an imagined consummation. We then pull back from the brink to 'the reality of absence,' and to a tragic reinterpretation of the opening music.
In Christmas Night poor Martha Ingram writes to her husband George. The vocal part's tendency to sound out of tune by constantly changing key is most effective, as it communicates not only the lonely desolation of the speaker but her poverty as well (the text is full of pathetic but evocative misspellings.) The slithery, quasi-serial flute part, always finding its way back to the pitch D, sounds like a strange animal circling the house. In the last song, we come full-circle: the orgiastic promise of the first song has turned to bitter gall. The flute motif from Christmas Night has transformed itself into a melodic expression of the piano arpeggios of the first song, and the piano's right-hand thirds come back, too. They try to ascend into a weary, chromatically inflected C minor, as the voice part quits its sorry task. Surely the static form and ghostly tread of Der Leiermann, the finale of Winterreise, haunts this little scene.
Dear Youth was commissioned by the trio Sonus (soprano Robin Bourguignon, flutist Billie Witte, and pianist Randall K. Sheets) and premiered by them on 10 March 1991 at the Dumbarton Methodist Church in Baltimore.
— Russell Platt, 1997