The Richard Hundley Master Class

      At about 3:20 on Sunday, April 7, the master of ceremonies was giving an extended introduction when Mr. Hundley interrupted him: "Pardon me, but I was actually Zinka Milanov's studio pianist for thirteen years instead of the ten listed on the website." Mr. Hundley, dressed in a black double-breasted suit with a bright yellow and red tie presided over the rest of the program with childlike aplomb.

      Though there was a printed program with text, Mr. Hundley asked that his song Waterbirds be done first. In each case, he asked that the singer read the poem. Taken from his cantata of ten songs for chorus The Sea is Swimming Tonight, became a solo song when tenor Paul Sperry requested it be set for him. This song of tenderness and nostaglia, performed by Deborah Harris, contained interesting variations for voice and piano. Ms. Harris did a lovely job of floating the closing notes. Charles Woodward, pianist complied with the composer's request to extend the legato ending even though it was not written in the music, and thus it was for the entire program.

      Later in the program Deborah Harris, soprano, sang Sweet Suffolk Owl, another of Mr. Hundley's most popular pieces. "Modern but not dissonant with blocks of sound in the piano," it was brought to life by the effervescent singer with a sweet sound. I especially liked the musicality of the oft-repeated owl sounds "Te whit, te whoo!" However, the composer asked for a more bird-like "hootie" sound. Mrs. Harris is a graduate of James Madison University.

Come Ready and See Me
No matter how late
Come before the years run out...
For no one can wait forever
Under the bluest sky
I can't wait forever
For the years are running out.

James Purdy, 1968

      Sung by a poised Marilyn Kellam in a beautiful mezzo-soprano voice, this song moved my heart and I was won over to Mr. Hundley's music. Charles Woodward played beautifully as instructed. Dr. Kellam sings in the Virginia Opera chorus and is an active recitalist on the Eastern Shore.

      Two whimsical songs were sung by vocal students of Dr. Tod Fitzpatrick of Christopher Newport University. A sophomore, baritone Joe Guardiano sang Epitaph on a Wife. Acording to the composer, this charming, comedic song is to be done in a stately way. He suggested folding the hands as in prayer at the end. The text: "Here lies my wife, Semanthia Proctor, she had a cold and wouldn't doctor. She couldn't stay she had to go - Praise God from whom all blessings flow." The singer caught the fun of this song with his fine voice.

      Anthony Colosimo, a freshman at CNU, sang Bartholomew Green. Described as a bon-bon of a song, Mr. Hundley was so pleased with the performance that his only request was that it be repeated immediately and was disappointed that Mr. Colosimo was not singing anything else.

      On a text by e.e. cummings, Seashore Girls is a profound story of very young children losing themselves in a day at the seashore. Rita Addico Cohen sang this and Will There Really be a Morning. Ms. Cohen's voice has taken on a richer patina since the birth of her second child and her voice had an added depth and beauty. Tweaking details of the accompaniment and singing of the words is Mr. Hundley's conception of what is to be done at a master class. Ms. Cohen has a masters degree from the Manhattan School of Music and and has performed professionally in both musical theatre and opera.

      Two other songs were on the program. Pamela DeMeyere sang Sweet River. The composer's comment was "charming! You did that beautifully and the rhythm was just right." Patricia Rublein sang I Do, another bon-bon the composer dubbed a musical valentine, commissioned by Paul Sperry, who has recorded the song. Ms. Rublein sang this simple little song in a lovely voice. Ms. DeMeyere and Ms. Rublein are board members of the Virginia Art Song Society which sponsored the master class, and both perform locally.

      Mr. Hundley has written some tuneful American songs which should be better known. His emphasis on respect for the singer and how words should be set were a main theme of his presentation. Perhaps he will do a piece for us on this subject for a future newsletter.

Hundley Discography Revisited

      The composer suggests that it takes six months of singing a song before it is worked into the voice so it can be done properly in public. Later he mentioned that a six-week grant to do a recording of his songs brings a flat refusal from him. He is interested in having enough time for high artistic achievement rather than just a hastily put-together recording. This seemed a bit short-sighted to this listener, given the scarcity of recordings of his music.

      As our readers will recall, I could find only one song of his on CD. Immediately after that article was out we got feedback from our art song community readership. Dr. Tod Fitzpatrick of CNU and Darryl Taylor of the African American Art Song Alliance both recommended tenor Paul Sperry's CD Romantic American Songs (Albany ALB 043). It includes eleven songs, six of which were sung at the April 7th master class. Also included are works by Thomson,Chanler, Bowles (4) and Farwell.

      From Dr. Joanne Simms of ODU and Lisa Edwards-Burrs, a fine vocalist from Richmond, we learned of a CD titled Where the Music Comes From (American Songs), sung by Cynthia Haymon with Warren Jones, piano (Argo). It includes Strings in the Earth and Air and Come Ready and See Me. Unfortunately this CD is currently out of print. You could look for a used copy or hope for a re-issue.

      Also mentioned by Dr. Simms is baritone William Sharp and William Blier's CD (New World NWR 80369). Only Sweet Suffolk Owl is on this CD but there are a number of Paul Bowles' songs plus Thomson, Lee Hoiby, John Musto and Eric Klein songs.

      Tod Fitzpatrick also recommends American Song Recital, Laura Wagner, soprano with Fred Weldy at the piano on Channel Classics (CCS 5293). The songs: Come Ready and See Me, Sweet Suffolk Owl and Waterbirds. Also included are songs by Bernstein, Urquhart, Laitman, Bowles, Corigliano, Duke and Gershwin.

      Come Ready and See Me from Fredericka von Stade's 1992 CD Salute to America was used on WHRO to announce the Hundley Masterclass. It is no longer available.

      When this "went to press" available CD's are currently listed on the H&B Recordings Direct site. Thanks to you all.

      So Much Beauty a CD by Janeanne Houston, soprano and Robert Jorgensen, piano opens with three selections by Richard Hundley. Click here for the review.

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