Buckley / Gordon / Skylark - Clear Voices In The Dark


Format: CD
Rel. Date: 05/24/2024
UPC: 053479227805

Clear Voices In The Dark
Artist: Buckley / Gordon / Skylark
Format: CD

More Info:

"After a pilgrimage to Rocamadour I had the idea of composing a clandestine work which could be prepared in secret and then performed on the long-awaited day of liberation. With great enthusiasm I began Figure Humaine and completed it by the end of the summer. I composed the work for unaccompanied choir because I wanted this act of faith to be performed without instrumental aid, by sole means of the human voice." -Francis Poulenc"The day the Americans arrived, I triumphantly placed my cantata on the studio desk, beneath my flag, at the window."-Francis Poulenc"Francis, I never heard myself. Francis, I needed you to understand me."-Paul eluardI believe that great art is often the product of great difficulty and tribulation, in many cases for the artist themselves. I also think art borne out of a time of societal turmoil can be even more profound, and can shed light today on what it was like to live and endure through tragedies of the past.Figure Humaine is one of the ultimate artistic achievements from a time of turmoil. Composed by Francis Poulenc in 1943 in occupied France, it was composed in secret, inspired by the resistance poems of the surrealist poet Paul eluard (poems that were distributed under plain cover during the occupation). It is one of the most profound pieces in the a cappella choral repertoire, if also one of the most difficult. Scored for double choir in six parts each, it is a vocal gauntlet which requires unmatched concentration and musicianship from every singer involved to mount a successful performance. Given that the piece was written at a time when victory was by no means assured, I believe that the difficulty of the work was intentional; to be worthy of the expressive task of communicating eluard's wartime thoughts, I think Poulenc believed that a choir must possess outstanding commitment, dedication, and skill.Because of it's challenges, Figure Humaine is rarely performed. Soon after founding Skylark, I began to feel that this was a piece we simply had to share. But at only 20 minutes in length, I struggled to find the appropriate way to present it to allow people to truly engage with the work. While on a walk in 2014, I realized that we were approaching the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, as well as the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, occasions that presented a unique opportunity to share music of both time periods.I set out on a journey to find the appropriate Civil War-era songs to pair with the Poulenc movements. Figure Humaine sets forth an intense emotional progression, cycling between despair and optimism against a backdrop of gathering madness. It was critical to find pieces that would make sense musically and textually in the context of Poulenc's work.It was a fascinating journey. Through exploring my own musical heritage, I soon discovered that Alice Parker arranged Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye for the Robert Shaw Chorale in the late 1960s. Consultation with other Skylark's revealed several brilliant arrangements from Ron Jeffers, and a search through the Duke University Historical Sheet Music Archives uncovered several pieces that I never knew existed. The discovery that Abide with me (one of my favorite hymns) was written during 1861 was particularly poignant. Where no appropriate arrangement existed, I filled in myself with very simple editions. In all cases, the goal was to create as simple and honest an expression of the songs as possible. Against the foil of Poulenc's monumental achievement of the choral art, we aim to juxtapose the simple, the familiar, the universal.Through sharing this program, we hope to take you on an emotional and historical journey, a journey that we hope will illuminate the struggles of people who endured these two great wars, a journey that can shed light on nightmares of the past through the art that emerged from them, and most importantly, a journey that will affirm the incredible power of the human spirit to endure in times of tragedy.-Matthew Guard, Artistic Director