Friday, September 4, 2020

Choral Food Theme, P.S.

Noone was expecting this: an avalanche of random food-related choral music posts*. Featured here are the lesser known (well, as far as I can tell) and less performed pieces that somehow caught my attention.  I acknowledge this is a frivolous subject for serious choral music [and let's face it, not my typical reader] ... but Covid.  So I'm writing about what I want to. 

We'll start with an odd one, called Cooking School, written by Glenn Meade and rescored for Chicago A Cappella.  It is unique, period - a piece devoted entirely to the craft of cooking - but very jazzy and a lot of fun, splitting into 8 parts at the end.  Next, listen to a song about Creole cooking, which gets the spotlight in Stephan Chatman's What's Cookin'?(SATB) (Text by Tara Wohlberg), from his set Due South.  A slow and sultry swung song, it speaks of every southern dish on the planet, savoring every dish as it is named.  For those seeking dishes from other cultures, check out Laylay Agulaylay, a Philippine folk song about the delicious foods served at a couple's wedding feast for all to enjoy.  

Several tributes have been made to the song-worthy spud, but Little Potato, (arranged by Carol Barnett, text by Malcolm Dalglish) is the most adorable.  He used to sing it to his first infant, and it grabs the heart while making you smile.   Even the lack of potatoes gets a song in the Irish Famine Lament (SA) set by David Mooney, a mournful lament over potato blight.   Also lamentably (I mourned), Garrison Keillor does not print his music (4:27 time mark): if he did, Hymn to Potatoes (arranged by Paul Brandvik) would be made available to all.

Corn isn't really a sexy vegetable**, but still has a major place in several cultures' culinary traditions.  Native American Zuni women often sang while grinding corn, which brings us to Excier Rodriquez's arrangementOckaya (SATB)***.  Also called a 'rain song', it features an ear of corn that notices the clouds nearing and invites a flood.  From Venezuela we have Canto de Pilon(SSA), a corn-grinding song set by Cristian Grases.  The singers convey grinding throughout the piece by using percussive sounds and motions.  Charles Davidson's choral setting (SATB) of Israeli folk song Shibolet Basadeh is a joyful celebration of a gorgeous crop of corn and its coming harvest.  Another work song about grinding grains is Wendy Stuart's setting of a Japanese folk song song, Toshima Mochi Tsuko Bushi.  It is a celebratory song, and may be sung as a work song while pounding rice into rice balls (aka mochi).  

Since it hasn't happened yet, let's focus on fish [a sentence I never expected to type, ever.]  I've found a fishing folk song from Cuba, then a cultural study of fishing on the east coast in North America, and lastly, more of a 'what are we doing here in a boat' song.  The Cuban folk song, A Pescar Camaron (SSATB or SSA) was set by Caldwell & Ivory, and is accompanied by a lively piano part and percussion.  It is a lighthearted representation of folksong, singing about their chosen trade, as well as incorporating Afro-cuban dance rhythms into the song. Next is Stephen Chatman's piece, Fishing (SSATBB), which is a more visceral and evocative depiction of the sensations of a sailor at sea.  The piece belongs to a series of four choral suites [Due East, with North, South and West] that examine the cultures and landscapes in the different regions of North America.  They're quite stunning.  For a contrasting depiction of North American fishing, check out Bob Applebaum's Recipe for Fishing (SATB) (first song of his set, Bah! Wilderness: Two Songs in Praise of the Indoors).  For some, clearly, tuna should be 'caught' at the grocery store.   

As a closer, I'll focus on the enjoyment of food (and food wordplay) found in May Swenson's delightful poem "Summer's Bounty".  It is a whimsical meandering through several different-yet-similarly-named foods (ending with 'puppies of hush'), and was used for Paul Carey's Summer Bounty (SATB) in Play With Your Food (Part 1) and Bob Applebaum's Summer's Bounty.   And finally, for a food-themed encore, I loved Chicago A Capella's genius choice of arranging Lyle Lovett's Church [No music, sadly}.  

The End****.

*Clearly, I need to start practicing more.  And I'm a geek when I come to research and music.

**Except for 3 seconds during the song "Sexy" from Mean Girls, the musical (skip to 2:13 and wait for the mention)

*** JWPepper has two listed spellings for this song (Okaya and Ockaya).  The internet seems to favor 'Ockaya'.   

****Except for these Honorable Mentions:

Jamaican market song, Honey, Pepper, Leaf-Green Limes (SATB), arranged by Alice Parker (text from "Jamaica Market" by Agnes Maxwell-Hall)

In Béla Bartók's Six Children's Choruses we find Brotbacken (SA), a whimsical tale of 14 animals doing different tasks of the bread-baking process.

Estonian composer Arvo Pärt's children's cantata, Our Garden (SSA), with text by Eno Raud.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020