Last weekend, the Somerville women’s vocal quartet Anthology put on its spring performance at the Third Life Gallery in Union Square. The group organized a program that would not only appeal to children but would also involve music written by children.
The highlight of the evening was the culmination of an effort to have the writing of children set to music by local composers. Using texts created by boys and girls ranging from four to twelve years old, four composers tried to capture the essence of the small lyricists.
“Nature in Amber” with music written by Daniela DeMatos originated with an assignment in the Amber Room of the Cambridge Montessori School which Daniela’s daughter Rebeka attends. Students in the first through third grades wrote acrostic poems on nature. This style involves selecting a word descriptive of the topic and then writing the lines of the poem which must start with each letter in the word. Rebeka chose to write on Winter, ending with the line “Really really cold” because as she explained, “It is.” This was a six-part composition with the music trying to capture in sound the topic chosen by the student. Besides Rebeka, Marin Vigneras and Rowan McLear wrote on Snow and Rain, Sachiko Kirby portrayed the Arctic, Reed Parker described Space, Maoz Bizan chose Ununtrium, and Josephine Alesso told about Animals. Daniela has a master’s degree in piano performance from the Longy School of Music and intends to continue her study of composition there as well.
Kwaumane Brown, a recent graduate of the Longy School, had a project in mind when he asked his younger siblings to describe what the world would be like in the future. He videotaped the responses of Hasawn (age 12), Charles (10) and La’Diamond (4). While the prospective project fell through, the offer from Anthology meant he could adapt his previous effort to a new work. While Kwaumane admits that much of the text of the kids’ answers was heavily influenced by a popular movie of the time, his “Hasawn, Charles & La’Diamond” captures perfectly the spoken responses with the many “ums” and “ands” typical of the youthful speakers.
The inspiration for Ashi Day’s composition came from her classmate at Harvard’s graduate program in arts education whose daughter Penelope Hernández Ariza had kept a diary of her trips to the Field Museum while she lived in Chicago. Of personal interest to Penelope was the skeleton of the T-Rex dinosaur. Since the extinct creature just stayed there, was very nice and didn’t treat her small friends mean, the dinosaur became Penelope’s trusted friend. But as she got older, Penelope realized the truth, that the dinosaur was really dead. But “I was loved by just a pile of bones. Just bones. I looked at her dark round eyes. I still loved her. She was part of my childhood. I still loved her.”
Day also contributed to the program an orchestration of the Langston Hughes poem “Brand New Clothes,” telling from a child’s perspective that the reason the brand new clothes are still clean is because Mother got her way about not playing in the dirt.
The four-year-old Arienne Reichert, the daughter of Anthology’s soprano Vicky Reichert, wrote two short poems that the group’s Anney Gillotte set to music. “Bears” instructs bears who live in nice warm houses to always brush their teeth before going to bed so they don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to do it. Arienne’s “493 Hyenas” are all friends who go to bed and dream about themselves.
Anthology performed some of their old favorites which would appeal to children including some modern comical works, old standards such as “All the Pretty Little Horses,” and songs from Sesame Street. The audience was captivated by the works of the small songwriters and was appreciative of the light springtime fare.