“[The Songbook] is a love letter that will have the cognoscenti nodding in recognition of all that resonates, shimmers and knells in the Big Apple.” – Sherri Rase, Q On Stage
Released on January 12, 2012, the Five Borough Songbook World Premiere Recording marks 5BMF’s first-ever studio album. Produced by GPR Records, this special 2-disc set contains the Five Borough Songbook in its entirety – 20 unique and exciting new works by 20 composers, celebrating every corner of New York City.
WHAT IS A FIVE BOROUGH SONGBOOK?
Since 2007, Five Boroughs Music Festival has brought world class and affordable musical events to every corner of New York City, breaking away from the traditional concert venues of Manhattan and reaching new audiences in a variety of neighborhoods. While we present music of many genres, throughout all our programming we have remained devoted to the emergence of new works. As we searched for an adventurous centerpiece to mark our 5th Season, the combination of these musical and geographical missions led to our boldest project yet: the creation of a new Five Borough Songbook.
In early 2011, we commissioned twenty composers to write one new vocal work each, inspired by places, themes, and poetry from every corner of New York City. With texts chosen by the composers, the resulting Five Borough Songbook would serve as a celebration of the entirety of NYC, its literary history, and its most promising musical talent. What emerged was a collection of works of remarkable literary and musical diversity, and when the Songbook had its World Premiere in October 2011, we were thrilled to hear audience members raving about the great variety of musical styles represented, and how well they all fit together.
Despite its wide range of texts and lyrics, you will undoubtedly discover some common themes running throughout the Songbook. The representation of Walt Whitman was inevitable, but more than a few composers chose to reach back into the city’s past for inspiration. Two of our Staten Island songs, for example, are set in the 19th century: At Home in Staten Island (a poem by a visiting Englishman) and Days afield on Staten Island (excerpts from a naturalist’s writings). Fresh Kills, on the other hand, takes its name from this same Island’s not-so-celebrated landfill of more recent history. OuLiPo in the Bronx is actually the result of the composer’s complete overhaul of a 19th century poem, via an “Oulipian” literary technique of replacing all the nouns and adjectives with their close neighbors (+3, in this case) in the dictionary.
Several composers wrote or compiled their own lyrics for the Songbook, and a few songs are set to “found” texts. For instance, Breakfast in New York’s words were overheard by the composer in diners and coffee shops in all five boroughs, and the text of G is for Grimy combines original lyrics with internet postings about one particularly unreliable subway line. In fact, the many references to trains and transportation should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever visited New York City!
Just as every trip around NYC is a singular adventure, we hope your Five Borough Songbook journey will be full of new surprises each time you take the trip. Thanks for coming along for the ride, and stand clear of the closing doors…
Jesse Blumberg, Artistic Director Donna Breitzer, Executive Director
Five Boroughs Music Festival
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Javier Abreu, tenor
Mireille Asselin, soprano
Thomas Bagwell, pianist
Jesse Blumberg, baritone
Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano
Scott Dispensa, baritone
Jocelyn Dueck, pianist
Blythe Gaissert, mezzo-soprano
Martha Guth, soprano
Keith Jameson, tenor
David McFerrin, baritone
David Adam Moore, baritone
Harumi Rhodes, violinist
Alex Richardson, tenor
About the Composers and their Songs
Click on the photos to read about the Songbook composers and their songs.
Click on names to travel to the composers’ websites.
OuLiPo in the Bronx
Breakfast in New York
G is for Grimy: An Ode to the G Train
Looking West on a Humid Summer Evening
8:46 AM, Five Years Later
Ricky Ian Gordon
O City of Ships
On Leaving Brooklyn
Daron Aric Hagen
The New Yorkers
The City’s Love
Coney Island Avenue
City of Orgies, Walks, and Joys!
The Avenue (II)
F from Dumbo
Days afield on Staten Island
Richard Pearson Thomas
The Center of the Universe
At Home in Staten Island
Produced by GPR Records (Glen Roven, Peter Fitzgerald, Richard Cohen, Megan Henninger)
Co-produced by Five Boroughs Music Festival
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Megan Henninger and Peter Fitzgerald
Recorded at Sound Associates in October and November, 2011
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