Chanticleer presents a program called Heart of a Soldier that they’ll sing in four locations around the Bay Area beginning Saturday. It brings together old and very new works about ‘the art of soldiering,’ including the experiences of both those who fight, and those who are left behind to worry, and often to grieve. Music director William Fred Scott says they’re including a recent work by Mason Bates called Drum-Taps that sets poems by Walt Whitman.
There’s more information about the performances at the Chanticleer website.
William Fred Scott says the Mason Bates piece was one of the works that the whole program was built around. It combines a few poems by Whitman, beginning with a drum beat accompanying the youthful excitement in going to war, before returning to the homefront as there’s news of a wounded child. “And here’s a letter from our son Pete,” Scott says, “And they’re dying to read the letter, and Mason in his most beautiful, sort of idyllic vein, describes this fall day in Ohio, the farm, the bees buzzing, the golds of the leaves on the trees, and then of course, he hits us with the letter.” It’s written in someone else’s handwriting, and informs the parents that their son has been injured, but they’re hoping he’ll recover. “The drum taps come back, and you realize it’s no longer the drum taps of excitement and manic enthusiasm, but it is the caisson that’s going to bring the casket home.” One of the other works prepared for this concert is an arrangement of the folk song Where Have All the Flowers Gone, for the group by alto Adam Ward. William Fred Scott says the distance that time has put between now and the Vietnam War is telling in the arrangement. “He takes as the most important phrase of that song, ‘When will they ever learn?’ And for those of us that were in the midst of it, there was more this kind of sadness of ‘Where are the guys, where have all the flowers gone?’ Adam, a generation or so later, looks at it as this complex worldwide cinematic movie about fighting and “When will they ever learn?”and then one lone voice finally at the end says that.” They’ll also sing a chorus from the opera Cold Mountain by Jennifer Higdon, as well as selections from early music, including William Byrd, and an obscure Italian composer who wrote a piece based on his own experiences in the Battle of Pavia, which he expresses musically.