Choral Music for Bedtime
About a year and a half ago, I posted a little something about my son’s taste in orchestral music. He was about to turn three then, and now he’s four and a half. Since that time, my ability to play music for him has been limited for various boring technical and life reasons.
A few weeks ago, I got a new mobile phone that functions as a music player (not an iPhone, but I love it anyway). I’m still in the wide-eyed amusement phase over the fact that I can copy music files to it from my computer via Bluetooth, so just for the heck of it I copied a few favorite pieces over to see how that worked.
The first thing I had copied to my phone was a recording of Kodály’s brilliant little choral gem Esti Dal (“Evening Song”, pronounced ESHtee dawl), which I’ve been intimate with for over 20 years. In fact, it’s known to Philo too, as I’ve been singing it to him at bedtime for a long time now. So, one night I thought it would be interesting for Philo to hear the song in its true choral form. He was absolutely captivated, and I was encouraged to load some more choral music onto my phone for him.
Esti Dal is a very short and simple piece that offers its lovely melody three times. The first and third statements are given by the sopranos, accompanied by sustained humming from the lower parts. The middle statement blossoms with majestic counterpoint, and during this part Philo moves his hands expressively, much as a conductor does, and visibly moved by the slight ritard at the end of the verse. I, of course, am thrilled.
Here’s what that middle section sounds like:
Other choral music on my phone for Philo includes “Trois Beaux Oiseaux du Paradis” from Ravel’s Trois Chansons, which has to be some of the most beautiful music on the planet. Philo doesn’t say much about this one, but he listens to it very quietly and I can tell he is fascinated. I was lucky enough to learn this piece in my choral singing days, and it’s been a favorite ever since. In case you don’t know it, have a listen. You’ll plotz.
Another piece I’m lucky enough to have performed is Hindemith’s luminous Six Chansons, which is disappointingly not as well known as it should be. These songs offer lyricism and beauty not typically associated with old Paul, whom I feel is widely misunderstood. I gravitated to his music when I discovered it as a college freshman transitioning from Sondheim wannabe to, well, whatever I am now, and I’m still very fond particularly of his vocal music. Here’s a bit of the first of the Six Chansons.
Finally, and inevitably, there’s Bartók. Philo has been treated to several excerpts from Bartók’s Twenty-seven Choruses for women’s or children’s voices. I blogged about this piece around two years ago. It almost hurts to have to choose one of the 27 pieces, but here’s Ne Menj El (Don’t Go Away).