I have always been drawn to the bittersweet in art. I found in the poems of Langston Hughes an incredibly rich and diverse tapestry of emotion and ambivalence, and sought in my musical settings to capture their shifting moods and contrasting themes. The timely "Daybreak in Alabama" voices the poet's dream of racial harmony, while "Georgia Dusk" paints a haunting image of lynchings in the South of the 1950s. "Song for Billie Holiday" concerns the first incarceration of the great jazz singer, and "April Rain Song" evokes childlike wonderment at nature. – John Stone
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A native of New York City, John Stone studied composition with Max Lifchitz during his years at Vassar College where he graduated in 1992 with honors in philosophy and English literature. While at Vassar, he was commissioned to compose a score for a ballet exposition at the Bardavon Opera House, and later continued his collaboration with choreographers including Brian Brooks, Kun-Yang Lin, Elizabeth Higgins, and Rachel Cohen. He is Artistic Cofounder and Music Director of the modern dance group Ariane Anthony & Company. Jennifer Dunning writes, “As always, the music composed by John Stone, [Ms. Anthony’s] invaluable collaborator, provided just the right blend of evocative melody and nutty dissonances” (The New York Times, 2002). Since 2004, Mr. Stone has been Composer and Music Director for the Paper Bag Players with whom he performs 130 shows per year throughout the Northeast. Stone’s chamber works have toured nationally and internationally, with recent works commissioned by the viol consort Parthenia and the Queen's Chamber Band who performed his work at Merkin Concert Hall in 2007. He has received grants from Meet the Composer as well as the prestigious W.K. Rose Fellowship of Vassar College to complete a book on J.S. Bach’s last fugue.
Soprano Amy Bartram is a versatile professional singer based in NYC who has sung music ranging from ancient Greek chant to premieres by emerging composers, jazz, and more. She has performed lead roles in Baroque and contemporary operas, and her oratorio solo credits include works by Bach, Fauré, Handel, Mozart, and Vivaldi. She sings with the Clarion Music Society Choir, Musica Sacra, and Vox Vocal Ensemble. For several years she appeared in broadcast concerts with REBEL baroque orchestra at Trinity Church, Wall St. She can be heard as a soloist on the bestselling Naxos CD, Christmas at Trinity. A specialist in early music, Amy gives frequent recitals covering a wide range of styles and eras. With lutenist Ekko Jennings, Amy has performed more than fourteen programs of lute songs on several series in NYC. She is the founder and artistic director of Machicoti, a medieval ensemble, with which she also plays medieval lute. www.amybartram.com
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Excerpts from a review in the Culvert Chronicles
By Kenneth P. Neilson
June 5, 2009
‘Daybreak in Alabama’: A Triumph
"Daybreak in Alabama" envisions a world where all races live in peace and harmony. Amy Bartram sings Stone's setting with all the brightness of hope shining through.
Stone [...] is a great pianist, as well as composer. The works vary in tempo, but the style is John's own. It is a remarkable style, shifting effortlessly from light to somber depending on the theme. John performs exquisitely, with sure command of the correlation of music and poetry.
"Georgia Dusk," a dark memory of a lynching, evokes the coming night, "Veiling what the darkness hides." Ms. Bartram makes us feel the tragedy that took place in bright sunlight. Now as night descends, there is only the memory and the horrible evidence of the afternoon.
"April Rain Song" is a great audience pleaser. We respond eagerly to the line, "Let the rain kiss you." Stone and Bartram together make us exult the line, "And I love the rain."
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"Daybreak in Alabama: A Langston Hughes Song Cycle" was recorded and engineered at Sean Swinney Recording in New York City, and co-produced by Mark Gallay. The songs on this album were composed and recorded with permission by the Estate of Langston Hughes.