A Musical Interlude

I’m still anxiously awaiting the release of my sonnet project book, Risk a Verse: A Year in Daily Sonnets, which Burrito Books will be releasing soon, but am happily distracting myself with loads of music!

One particularly fun experience was performing a whole concert of new arrangements of Carole King’s music with SACRA/PROFANA, including a performance of my first-ever arrangement for choir. Back when we first started planning the first half of the concert, which was covers of Carole King songs that were written for other artists, I asked the conductor how outré he wanted to get with the arrangements.

“What did you have in mind?” he asked.

“Something arranged as a madrigal?

“Go for it!”

So I did! After glancing through the list of suggested tunes, I called dibs on “The Loco-Motion,” a song that Kylie Minogue made famous when I was a kid, though many other artists have covered it before and since. I knew I wanted to set the song in a fast three and feature layered lines, hemiola, and terraced dynamics, but having never having studied arranging, I did some digging for madrigals that sounded like what I wanted my Loco-Motion madrigal to sound like. I eventually settled on John Farmer’s “Fair Phyllis,” and cribbed enthusiastically. My friend Ken, who is an amazing arranger, pronounced the arrangement solid and helped me fix some of my n00b mistakes, like inadvertently crossing voices.

My biggest fear was that I would be the only person who thought it was hilarious. Fortunately, this proved not to be the case. After introducing the song as “a great hit of the 20th century re-envisioned as a great hit of the 17th century,” the audience guffawed throughout the piece at both performances, which was a delight and a relief.

Kenneth Herman, my favorite local music critic, had this to say in his review of the concert:

For sheer invention and wit, Libby Weber’s setting of “Locomotion” in the style of a Renaissance English madrigal easily won top honors. She broke up the text into cheery snippets layered with typical madrigalesque echo effects, allowing Sacra/Profana’s singers gleeful, if mildly indulgent, exaggeration.

I may have deafened my next-door neighbors with squee upon reading that. I was also delighted that several of Ken’s arrangements also got love, as did my friend Colin, who set my poem “Three Bridges and a Fence” for SACRA/PROFANA’s Summer Choral Intensive (hear it here).

Alas, there is no video of our Carole King performances, but if you’d like to see an extremely unofficial video of us rehearsing my silly piece, here you go.

In other news, the kick-off for Willan West 2018 went spiffingly the following weekend, and bless him, Kenneth Herman also had nice things to say about that, as well!

Like Valenzuela’s Bach Collegium San Diego choral ensembles, his Willan choir displayed unfailing sectional unity, crystalline pitch, and superb textual clarity… Especially in the Willan motets, Valenzuela favored the brightness of his sopranos, which added an appreciable emotional edge to this music.

*does happy bright soprano dance*

I have received some less-than-enthusiastic reviews for some past concerts, so getting two great reviews in as many weeks is pretty freaking awesome!

Now, if I can just keep my head in the game for this weekend’s Building Bridges Between Nations concerts, which features Benjamin Britten’s brilliant Sacred and Profane and two fiendishly difficult but hugely rewarding movements from Ernst Krenek’s Lamentatio Jeremiæ Prophetæ (with a bit of Victoria sandwiched in between), I will be so very happy!

Looking forward to having more good news to share in the coming days!



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