Soprano and Syracuse University faculty member Eileen Strempel releases new recording
Soprano and Syracuse University faculty member Eileen Strempel releases new recordingOctober 24, 2003Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
When soprano Eileen Strempel met Canadian pianist Sylvie Beaudette a few years ago at a festival at the State University of New York College at Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, it was a match made in musical heaven.
Strempel, assistant professor in the Department of Fine Arts in The College of Arts and Sciences and assistant to the dean in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, was immediately impressed with Beaudette’s intelligence, creativity and passion for her avocation. That meeting led to a collaboration that produced a March 2000 CD, “With All My Soul,” and performances around the United States and in Canada.
Now, the duo has teamed up with Libby Larsen, one of the most prolific and performed living composers, on their new CD, “love lies bleeding,” recently released by Centaur Records.
The works on the CD are as wide ranging as a musical scale. The journey begins with humorous “Cowboy Songs” with titles like “Bucking Bronco” and “Billy the Kid,” then moves into “Sonnets from the Portuguese,” a set of songs about mature love and a woman’s decision to uproot her life and enter into a partnership with another person.
The “Lute Songs” that follow set the stage and provide for a richer understanding of the final group of songs, “Try Me, Good King: Last Words of the Wives of Henry VIII.”
“Try Me” gives voices to legendary royal wives Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. The songs focus on the intimate crises of the heart that affected Henry’s first five wives. In preparation for the recording, Strempel did research on the women to help her develop the richness of the characters.
“The joy in all of these songs is in discovering all the layers of meaning and trying to bring them to life,” Strempel says of the process of recording the CD. “First you look at the lyrics to see what the poet is trying to say while understanding the context in which she is speaking. Learning the music then brings the additional presence of the composer to the table.”
“Next, you start to draw your own character and bring your own voice into the discussion, while attempting to foster a workable conversation among these different layers,” she says. “Finally, you and your pianist try to make this shared vision you both now have in your heads to life. It’s a really long process of dialogue and exploration.”
The “Try Me” group of songs especially underscored the advantage of working with a living composer, Strempel says. Midway through recording, Larsen rewrote the vocal lines to enhance the vulnerability and youth of Katherine Howard.
Strempel will perform selections from “A Woman’s Journey: Sonnets from the Portuguese” with the Syracuse University Orchestra, conducted by James Tapia, on Oct. 28 at 8 p.m. in Setnor Auditorium. The concert is co-sponsored by the Syracuse Symposium and the Setnor Tuesday Concert Series and is free and open to the public. Free visitor parking is available in the Irving Garage. Strempel will also perform a world premiere of Larsen’s “This Unbearable Stillness – Songs from the Balcony” in a Nov. 2 concert in celebration of the AIDS Quilt. That concert begins at 4 p.m. in Hendricks Chapel and is part of the chapel’s Malmgren Concert Series and the Syracuse Symposium.
The “love lies bleeding” project has received a great deal of support from the SU community, Strempel says. VPA Dean Carole Brzozowski awarded Strempel a faculty development grant to work on the project, and the CD cover art was designed by a firm owned by VPA alumnus Gianfranco Zaccai.
In the coming weeks, Strempel and Beaudette are scheduled to perform works from “love lies bleeding” in Sacramento, Calif.; at the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia; at the Mannes School of Music in New York City and at the State University of New York College at New Paltz.
“We try to bring music to life in the fullest, richest, most thoughtful and thought-provoking way possible,” Strempel says. I hope people enjoy the end result.”