PHOTO CAPTION: Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (Vincent to her friends) toured America during the Depression reading her work at sold out stadiums including the Hollywood Bowl and on nationwide radio broadcasts. On Saturday, June 8th, ClaverackLanding is presenting the world premiere of Sheila Silver’s “Beauty Intolerable”, a songbook of 15 songs based on Millay’s poetry. The performance, with special guest Tyne Daly, will take place at 6:00pm at the First Presbyterian Church, 4th and Warren Streets, Hudson New York. Advance tickets can be purchased at www.ClaverackLanding.org.
Millay’s Life through Song
HUDSON – Composer Sheila Silver, a resident of Columbia County, has been writing music her entire life – most recently devoting herself to the voice and opera. Her work is critically acclaimed (she won the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in music in 2007 for her opera The Wooden Sword), and she has tackled a cross section of cultures (The White Rooster is accompanied by Tibetan singing bowls) and eras (The Thief of Love is based on a classic 18th century Bengali court tale).
For her most recent work, Beauty Intolerable, Silver needed only a short car ride and a library card. Silver’s Songbook of 15 Songs is based on the poetry of Columbia County’s own Edna St. Vincent Millay. “Her poetry is honest, romantic, whimsical and deeply American,” says Silver. “It suits me perfectly as a composer.”
On Saturday, June 8th, ClaverackLanding is presenting the world premiere of Sheila Silver’s Beauty Intolerable – A Songbook based on the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. The concert takes place beginning at 6 pm at the First Presbyterian Church in Hudson, New York. Poetry will be read by special guest, Tyne Daly. Tickets for this premiere, the final presentation of ClaverackLanding, are available at www.ClaverackLanding.org.
Millay was an extremely prolific poet who was dedicated to her art and spent much of her life touring in the United States, reading her work to large audiences. She appeared before a sold out crowd at the Hollywood Bowl and frequently read aloud on radio broadcasts. In 1923, she was a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and in 1927 was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera House to write a libretto for an opera composed by Deems Taylor.
Her appeal came, in part, because of her wit. A population schooled on The Odyssey found relief and joy in her simple rhymes and clear expressions.
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –
It gives a lovely light!
“First Fig” from A Few Figs from Thistles (1920)
Silver was one of those smitten. “I became passionate about the poetry of Millay just a few years ago,” she says. “I contemplated writing an opera about her, but eventually, because I was so thrilled and excited by her poetry, I decided to compose an entire Songbook based on her work.” She’s not the only one who feels strongly about the writing. Silver’s songbook was developed with the support of American Opera Projects, the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society, ClaverackLanding and Symphony Space. In addition to $30.00 General Admission tickets ($15 for students), the organization is also offering a $50.00 Reserved Seating and Artists Reception ticket, and a $150.00 ticket that includes the above along with a Private Tour of Millay’s Steepletop in nearby Austerlitz. The historic site has only been open to the public since 2010.
“I had private tours several times,” says Silver. “I’ve seen her extravagant and petite gowns, her private pictures, her bedroom where she entertained many a person, the private cabin in the woods where she diligently wrote for 4 hours a day and even her private library where she stayed up late reading. I feel like I know her well.”
Songs will be sung by three esteemed sopranos including Lauren Flanigan, an award recipient for her commitment to performing the works of living composers, Deanne Meek, a fellow at both the Tanglewood and Revinia Music Festivals, and Risa Renae Harman, Artist-in-Residence with the Bay View Music Festival in Michigan.
Poetry selected for the songbook will be recited by Tyne Daly, winner of six Emmy Awards and a Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical (Gypsy). Television viewers will probably remember her as Detective Mary Beth Lacey in the television series Cagney & Lacy and as Maxine Gray in Judging Amy.
“This is a celebration of Millay’s poetry through music,” concludes Silver. “She was a powerful and romantic figure – an idol in her day (before the days of TV).” Cited as a visionary herself, Silver seems to be the perfect composer to take on this project.
ClaverackLanding, closing down at the end of this season, is presenting this world premiere as its final presentation. Beauty Intolerable – A Songbook begins at 6 pm on Saturday, June 8th. The performance takes place at the First Presbyterian Church, corner of Warren and Fourth Streets, Hudson, NY. General admission tickets are $30.00, students are $15. Tickets with additional benefits are either $50.00 or $150.00. All can be purchased in advance at www.ClaverackLanding.org. For additional information, call 518.828.7513.
Concerts and education programs of ClaverackLanding: Great Music in Great Spaces, are supported in part by Herrington’s, Hudson River Bank & Trust Company foundation, T.Backer Fund, JSL Computer Services, and many generous individuals and business sponsors.