By Mark Leuning
Arguably above all other art forms, music, and song in particular, succeeds at understanding and bringing to life love’s emotional landscape, that universally felt, sometimes intangible, but always powerful part of the journey through the human experience. It is fitting that South Shore Conservatory’s voice department chose to present their faculty concert in February, the month celebrating the universality of love.
When we decided to program a concert devoted to this theme, the only challenge was in fact how effortlessly one can select repertoire with love as a central idea. As a result, selections in this concert explore love in its many forms.
French music almost unintentionally is featured at the forefront of this concert, and yet it manages to avoid cliché images of a perfect Parisian romance. Bizet’s Habanera from Carmen presents love’s fiery, dangerous and sensual side, while Jacques Brel’s Ne me quitte pas, a contemporary popular French song, is a pleading, passionate ballad, begging a loved one to stay.
Poulenc’s Les chemins de l’amour, which liltingly explores both the wreckage and the beauty of a love lost, sounds like a catchy cabaret number, whose poignancy and playfulness produce a vague feeling of intrinsic familiarity, and Hahn’s A Chloris sheds light on a hopeful and stately kind of love, exploring a regal, yet almost painfully promising courtship. These two beautiful French selections are my contribution to this concert, and as an ardent admirer of the French mélodie repertoire, these two pieces in particular speak profoundly to my heart.
But, this is not by any means a concert of only French love songs. Gorgeous from The Apple Tree takes on unabashed self-love, and Someone to Watch Over Me is an endearing and innocent wish for safety, shelter, companionship and constancy. Adelaide’s Lament from Guys and Dolls hysterically plays with infatuation as a physical ailment, and Love Offerings is an English translation of an Indian poem delving into love’s spiritual potential, and the power of this emotion to be a kind of offering, one that breaks down the barrier between life and death.
We selected a set of lute songs composed by John Blow and John Dowland to round out the concert with beautiful evocations of love presented by a musical collaboration outside the traditional voice and piano duo. As they listen to pieces representing centuries-old repertoire, audience members will be struck by how relatively little our comprehension of love as a raw emotion has changed throughout history.
With group and solo selections, and Widmung, a Liszt/Schumann solo piano piece, our Love Songs concert tackles this fundamental artistic theme in a fittingly multi-dimensional presentation. Through this array of stellar faculty performers, our February concert is a must-see winter and Valentine’s season musical celebration.
South Shore Conservatory presents Love Songs, the fourth of six Conservatory Concert Series (CCS) concerts, on Sunday, February 7, 4 pm at 64 St. George Street, Duxbury, and again on Sunday, February 14, 4 pm at One Conservatory Drive, Hingham. This Valentine’s Day performance is sponsored by Avis Goldstein for her beloved Hal.
Conservatory Concert Series is sponsored in part by Boston Private. The public is invited to attend all CCS performances free of charge. To learn more about Love Songs and other Conservatory performances, visit sscmusic.org or find us on Facebook.
Tenor Mark Leuning has been a member of South Shore Conservatory’s voice department since 2014.