Sixteen songs for medium voice and guitar, op. 28; lyrics by Frank C. Wallace, wise and amusing poems about early American life on the prairie by Wallace's grandfather
Lyrics: poetry by Frank C. Wallace (the composer's grandfather)
Duration: 21 minutes; 32 pages
Skill level: Mostly moderate difficulty,
Instrumentation: baritone (medium voice) and guitar
Vocal range: G2 - F#4
A poetic reminiscence by Wallace's grandfather on his father and childhood on the wild plains of Texas in the 1890's, Father Said: is an important contribution both to American folk history and to the literature for voice and classical guitar by a leading composer in the medium. It is a collaboration spanning three centuries: a powerful combination of the pioneer wisdom and wit of Wallace's great-grandfather, pioneer Joel Sylvanus Wallace (b. c.1845), as remembered in both the elegant poetry of grandfather Frank C. Wallace (b. Chico, Texas, 1888) and the compelling composition of the grandson (Frank A Wallace, b. Houston, 1952).
An extraordinary image of early American life and its connection to nature, the cycle is dedicated to Wallace's father, Earl Wallace (b. 1917, Waco), who only met great-grandfather Joel once or twice as a child, remembering an old man with a long white beard once knocking on the door in Waco, Texas. The stars / May fall, but look again and you will see / The fixed stars shining on as if to shame / Our fears. So the saga begins with the setting of the great outdoors that pervades the piece. It continues; We threaded tangled trails that wound the brakes / And creeks in sleaves of endless turns and twists. / When one is lost, the right turn seems the wrong.
Father Said: has a marvelous structure, as set out by the poet, in which short triptychs of wise sayings come between longer stories of childhood scenes. Father, Mother, Brother and Aunt Tabitha all inhabit the 21 minutes of song in which Father muses, Shall I / Fret at the summer sun when it distills / The nectars in the lush Elberta peach / For me? and ponders The spears / Of pungent odor from the wild horse-mint / Have wounded me with poisoned tips until / I drowse. His stout independence proclaims in Ingenuity, He found no shade, but made his own, / So shade and shine he had together; / He turned his back to break the sun, / Or face it, so to change his weather.
The musical settings range from jazzy to whimsical to poignant. In this delightfully through-composed series of vignettes, baritone/composer Wallace has succeeded in creating melodies that have the grace of 19th century song, the perfect vessel for the humor and pathos of his grandfather's 20th century verse.