|Man! I Feel Like a Woman||
Shania Twain and Mutt Lange,
|Kiss the Girl||
Music: Alan Menken; Lyrics: Howard Ashman;
|Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend||
Music: Jule Styne; Words: Leo Robin;
|O! Mio Babbino Caro||
Giacomo Puccini (libretto: Giovacchino Forzano);
|Chicago Bound Blues||
Lovie Austin, arr. Jonathan Miller
|Ain’t No Sunshine||
Bill Withers, arr. Tristan Pilcher
|She’s Always a Woman||
Billy Joel, arr. Philip Lawson
Music: Richard Rodgers, Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II;
Frank Churchill, arr. Betsy Grizzell
|Waltz for Debby||
Music: Bill Evans, Lyrics: Gene Lees;
|Three Little Maids from School||
Music: Arthur Sullivan (libretto: W.S. Gilbert);
|Mama Who Bore Me (Part I and Reprise)||
Music: Duncan Sheik, Lyrics: Steven Slater;
|Una Matica de Ruda||
Trad. Sephardic, arr. Jonathan Miller
|Mother I Will Have a Husband||
John Lennon and Paul McCartney, arr. Bill Ives
|Calling My Children Home||
Lawson/Waller/Yates, arr. Emmylou Harris/Jonathan Miller
|Time Does Not Bring Relief, You All Have Lied||
Music: Stacy Garrop, Poem: Edna St. Vincent Millay
|We Cannot Retrace Our Steps||
Music: Virgil Thomson (libretto: Gertrude Stein);
|encore: No Mirrors in my Nana's House||Ysaye M. Barnwell|
You are invited to stay for a brief Q&A sessions with Barbara Robertson and Betsy Grizzell following the concert.
FROM THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
It is exciting to me that Betsy Grizzell, a longtime singer in our ensemble, has now twice stepped up to the plate to develop a concert program for Chicago a cappella. Her first venture was a joint programming effort with me – The Birds and the Bees – which we presented exactly two years ago. Emboldened by that success, Betsy asked to “fly solo” for All About the Women, a concept that she and Kathryn Kamp first suggested, and I was impressed enough with the proposal that I agreed.
Betsy is a bold and adventuresome colleague, with decades of experience as a professional singer and music educator. She has a keen ear for and knowledge of pop and show tunes as well as broad and deep exposure to great choral repertoire. Betsy has scoured the globe for great music, and when some of the songs she wanted were not in a cappella form, she either found help or did it herself! While I am pleased that she’s put a few of my own arrangements on this program, I’m even more pleased that she is stretching our repertoire to cover songs from productions as different as Spring Awakening and The Mother of Us All.
Betsy’s program has great energy, spunk, fun, seriousness, and passion. Barbara Robertson’s gifts as an actress are enhancing the production in another way: Barbara is integral to the flow of the entire program, making it an unusually dramatic experience as well as a musical one. I am deeply grateful to both of these talented women for building on our 19 years of musical excellence to create a stage presentation of power and beauty.
* * * * * * *
I have someone else to thank. With this set of concerts, Patrick Sinozich is leading his final show on our subscription series as our Music Director. After he music-directs our Gala in May, he is moving on to other adventures. Patrick’s legacy after five years is a Chicago a cappella that is musically stronger and fresher than ever, that welcomes new voices without a hitch, that always remembers the imperative to communicate, and that embodies the true meaning of a professional vocal ensemble—classy, hard-working, and dedicated to results of exquisite musicianship and musicality. Next season’s programs, to be directed by me and an international cast of Guest Music Directors, will build on the strength of Patrick’s superb work. To Patrick I express my deepest thanks, admiration, and best wishes.
Thank you for being here, for bringing anyone whom you brought, and for supporting the unique experience of live a cappella singing. Enjoy the show.
Founder and Artistic Director
Some years ago, veteran Chicago a cappella soprano Kathryn Kamp and I spent a couple of weeks brainstorming Chicago a cappella programs. Some of them were pretty sketchy, and some were full of detail. All About the Women was one of Kathryn’s ideas, including a long list of repertoire. Unfortunately, when a gap in CAC programming appeared, Kathryn was busy with multiple other projects (singing, stage directing…you have no idea how talented this chick is!). I received her blessing to propose, and subsequently proceed with, the project. She had lots of wonderful suggestions along the way, including contacting Barbara Robertson (the Jeff Award-winning Chicago actress) to present the non-musical portions of the program.
I decided early on that the second half would be about a woman's life, and that it would be chronological. That meant a more serious ending than we usually have, but the songs which presented themselves were perfect, if not perky. I knew that Barbara would be able to weave a story that would give us the ending I craved. Indeed, she even made the suggestion for the final piece. After struggling to find a recording, I finally found it on an LP in my own collection! Thank goodness I still have a working turntable.
The first half was a bit more of a struggle. This was to be the Fun Half; the Raucous Half; the Any-Song-I-Like Half. The struggle was: too many choices! After much wringing of hands, multiple passes with a stopwatch, and a moment of ruthless, hatchet-like editing, the first half was finalized. It is shamelessly fun.
Songs for both halves presented themselves fairly quickly. Arrangements...not so much! As a fledgling Chicago a cappella programmer (this is my second go, the first being our 2010 The Birds and The Bees program), I find it difficult and frustrating to hear a piece and not be able to find the arrangement. There are so many wonderful things to be found on YouTube and other sites (I have included some links below, for you YouTube fans), but it is often difficult if not impossible to find the actual printed music. I did track down several young arrangers, and am pleased to feature their work. It has also been an enormous thrill to see my children get into the act. Christopher put the bulk of Three Little Maids into Finale (a music notation program that is far from intuitive), and Rose took on Mama Who Bore Me, even as a Finale novice. Oh, the musical tools which are now available to the brave, daring arranger!
I had thought of using all women composers, or at least only women poets. But how can we have a show called, "All About the Women" if we don't consider the man's point of view? The show is for women, about women, in praise of women, making fun of women... Yes, men needed to be featured as well. I hope our audience members of both genders enjoy the show.
Man! I Feel Like a Woman
Shania Twain, Mutt Lange; arr. James Yarbrough and Betsy Grizzell
Unlike Helen Reddy’s defiant I Am Woman anthem of the ‘70s (“I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman”), Shania’s sassy anthem boasts the “prerogative to have a little fun.” Shania, a country singer who faced criticism in Nashville for baring her belly-button, defied the establishment and became a huge star. She fell in love with and married her producer, caught him cheating, divorced, married the cheatress’ ex-husband, lost her voice, and used it all as inspiration for her song writing.
Man! I Feel Like a Woman is on the 1997 Come on Over album, which became a best-selling country music album with over 40 million copies sold. The song won a Grammy in 2000 for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Shania’s other accomplishments include: five Grammys, three Academy of Country Music Awards, six American Music Awards, and 22 BMI Songwriting Awards.
Kiss the Girl
Music by Alan Menken, words by Howard Ashman; arr. Alexander Engler
Disney’s 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid yielded two Oscar-nominated songs. Under The Sea, a fantastic production number, would ultimately win the Academy Award for Best Song. In Kiss the Girl, Sebastian the Crab encourages Prince Eric to kiss the Little Mermaid, Ariel. In doing so, he will turn her into a human, thus fulfilling her wish to live “where the people are,” and saving her from the evil witch-octopus, Ursula.
My children, born in 1991 and 1992, nearly wore out our VHS version of The Little Mermaid. We recently watched it at the family cabin, with six now-twenty-something cousins alternately singing along and contributing cynical comments.
We sing a version by one of the many young arrangers who are writing for their college a cappella choir. Alex Engler will graduate from Darmouth College this spring.
Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend
Music by Jule Styne, words by Leo Robin; arr. Jarmela Speta, ed. Betsy Grizzell
Carol Channing debuted this song in the 1949 Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Much later, she reprised her performance as a duet with another huge star, Miss Piggy. The song appears twice in the 1953 film version of the same show, most famously by Marilyn Monroe and in a completely different version (and outfit!) by Jane Russell. Other worthy versions include: Christina Aguilera in Burlesque, Beyonce for Emporio Armani, and Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge.
The Sweet Adelines, a female barbershop organization, provides us with our arrangement by local musician and director Jarmela Speta. Singing the lead is Kathryn, whose family has a proud barbershop history.
O! Mio Babbino Caro
Giacomo Puccini, libretto by Giovacchino Forzano; arr. Sean Altman, ed. Patrick Sinozich
Puccini wrote his comedic one-act opera, Gianni Schicchi, in 1918. Amidst a feuding family plotting to alter a dying man’s will, newcomer Schicchi has a plan of his own. His daughter, Lauretta, sings one of the shortest and most beautiful arias in opera, providing a brief moment of sanity. She begs her father to let her marry her love, Rinuccio. Schicchi manipulates everything for the best outcome.
O! Mio Babbino Caro is in the repertoire of every worthy soprano, and in the dreams of most mezzo sopranos and altos, both worthy and not. We first performed this GrooveBarber’s version on our 2008 Romanticism and Rock and Roll concert.
Chicago Bound Blues
Lovie Austin, arr. Jonathan Miller
Lovie Austin was a pianist, and a female in the male-dominated music scene in post-World War I Chicago. She was a composer for the Theatre Owners Bookers Association, a black vaudeville circuit, and was the music director at the Monogram Theater on south State Street.
Jonathan’s wonderful arrangement is a faithful transcription of the 1923 Bessie Smith recording, complete with piano and clarinet solos. Despite the subject matter, I find it surprisingly perky. Jonathan writes: “The lyrics tell of a woman in the Deep South who wants to go to Chicago but is not on the train; her man went north without her, leaving her to die ‘down home’ from the blues.”
Ain’t No Sunshine
Bill Withers, arr. Tristan Pilcher
In September of 1971, I was a freshman at Hinsdale Central High School. This hit song is burned into my brain, especially the “I know, I know, I know…” section. The song was from the Just As I Am album, and won a Grammy in 1972 for Best R&B Song. The album was produced by Booker T. Jones of Booker T and the MGs. My brother, Pat, a knowledgeable blues aficionado (and mean bass player), provided me with some background on Booker T and friends: “All these guys were available individually or as a unit if you showed up at the studio, wanted to record, but were short a player or two. In the grand American tradition of business owners doing everything as cheaply as possible, these guys would often wear many hats. They would play if you needed, they’d arrange if you wanted that, they’d do a little production, writing, engineering… They’d run down and get you a chicken dinner if you were hungry, and more than likely sweep out the studio when you left.”
Our arrangement comes from Tristan Pilcher, just one of the many young arrangers out there who are trying to ride the wave of college a cappella popularity. Tristan graduated in 2011 from University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
She’s Always a Woman
Billy Joel, arr. Philip Lawson
Billy Joel is a six-time Grammy winner, having been nominated 23 times. He is a member of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His 1977 album, The Stranger, is responsible for two of those Grammys (Record of the Year, and Song of the Year for Just the Way You Are).
She’s Always a Woman (from The Stranger) highlights a woman’s quirks and faults. I love that included in that list is: “she’s nobody’s fool.” Joel’s classical piano chops are evident in this song’s accompaniment, with its Bach Prelude-esque rolling arpeggios.
Our arranger is the fantastic Philip Lawson, formerly of the King’s Singers. He is responsible for over 50 of the King’s Singers arrangements, and arranged 10 of the 15 tunes on their Grammy Award-winning album, Simple Gifts. His arrangements are always challenging, and are at once an accurate depiction of the original and creatively unique. In this arrangement he cruelly spreads the arpeggios over four voice parts.
Music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II; arr. Patrick Sinozich
Patrick Sinozich crafted this arrangement for our 2010 Gala. It features songs from The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, Cinderella, South Pacific, and Flower Drum Song. Patrick’s arrangements are clever, sometimes brutal to sing, and always fun! Are you insulted by the term, “dame?” Not me. I think of someone strong, sexy, and confident, like Mae West, but without the big hat and the buxom bod.
As a high school choral director (my first post-college job, and what I thought would be my career), I staged three of these shows. I left the grueling world of high school music for singing, and teaching toddlers.
Frank Churchill, arr. Betsy Grizzell
In 1941, Disney released the animated film, Dumbo. In it, a baby circus elephant, Jumbo Jr., is born with enormous ears. His mother loves him unconditionally, of course. But the others in the circus menagerie are not so kind. They dub him “Dumbo”, and tease him cruelly. His mother defends her baby boy to the point of her being captured and separated from her son. She is chained in a circus train car, but can reach her trunk out to comfort and rock her little guy. The scene always makes me weepy. A mother with her child who is different from the other kids, but she loves him just the same… Ah, go ahead. Lock me up, too.
Dumbo won the 1941 Academy Award for Original Music Score, and Baby Mine was nominated for Best Song. During the scene, Baby Mine is sung by the voice of Betty Noyes, with a beautiful, soothing, womanly voice. No pop princess here.
Waltz for Debby
Music by Bill Evans, lyrics by Gene Lees; arr. Peder Karlsson
Waltz for Debby was first composed as a piano trio and appeared on Evans’ 1956 New Jazz Conceptions album, and later on the 1961 live album, Waltz for Debby. It has been covered by many, including Tony Bennett (accompanied by Evans), Oscar Peterson, and The Real Group.
Waltz for Debby was programmed on our first vocal jazz concert, 2002’s Stormy Weather. Peder Karlsson of the Real Group provides the arrangement, using a lilting waltz alternated with a light jazz swing to express so effectively a love for a little girl. Sigh. My baby girl is away at her first year of college…
For the record: Peder Karlsson’s arrangement of “Waltz for Debby” appears on our CD Eclectric.
Three Little Maids From School
Music by Arthur Sullivan, libretto by W.S. Gilbert; arr. Betsy and Chris Grizzell
Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera, The Mikado, opened in 1885. It is set in Japan, and deals with betrothal and avoidance of betrothal. One of the reluctantly betrothed, Yum-Yum, joins with her sisters, Peep-Bo and Pitti-Sing, to sing this famous trio.
My son, Christopher, seeing that I was overwhelmed with arranging for this program, volunteered to help. I had no idea that he knew how to use Finale, the not-so-user-friendly notation program. He saved me hours of work, and provided lots of sensible suggestions.
Mama Who Bore Me (Part I and Reprise)
Music by Duncan Sheik, lyrics by Steven Sater; arr. Rose and Betsy Grizzell
This is the opening number from the 2007 Broadway show Spring Awakening, an adaptation of the 1892 German play of the same title, dealing with teenagers who are discovering their sexuality. In 2007, Spring Awakening received eleven Tony Award nominations, winning eight. In the opening number, local girls lament their lack of knowledge on the facts of life. Spring Awakening deals with erotic dreams, self-stimulation, physical intimacy, incest, suicide, teenage pregnancy, and abortion.
My daughter, Rose, insisted upon arranging Mama Who Bore Me and its Reprise. She is a freshman at Carthage College in Kenosha, majoring in Theatre. I’m happy to report that she still studies harp as well.
Una Matica de Ruda
Traditional Sephardic, arr. Jonathan Miller
“Sephardic” refers to the descendants of Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsula before their expulsion in the late 1400s. Many of their surviving songs and customs exhibit a Spanish flair, including the use of the Ladino dialect. Una Matica de Ruda, as arranged by Jonathan, has a sensuous, earthy feel. I envision a group of travelers, sitting around the embers of a fire, listening to one of their favorite tales. The listeners provide a background of droned chords, clicks, snaps, and grunted commentary. I invited my stand-mate, Susan, to portray the part of the defiant daughter against my lecturing mother.
Mother I Will Have a Husband
This English madrigalist (c. 1590-1625) is not the only one who seems to have known what young women wanted: a husband. Is that really what young women wanted? Or is that just what was expected of them? Similar to Una Matica de Ruda, this young girl wants a husband, “good or bad.”
The common madrigal technique of voice exchange is used from the beginning in the two soprano voices. And in the contrasting middle section, offset soprano entrances highlight the lighthearted, defiant text: “To the town therefore will I gad.”
John Lennon and Paul McCartney, arr. Bill Ives
This appears on the 1968 album, The Beatles, aka The White Album. Beatles history is full of rumor, myth, and hearsay. Supposedly Paul actually wrote the song and John hated it. Reportedly, “ob-la-di ob-la-da, bra” is a saying used by a Jamaican acquaintance of Paul’s and means “life goes on, brother.” Apparently, Paul messed up the words during the recording session, but kept the botched take.
Arranger Bill Ives (of the King’s Singers) uses a marimba accompaniment. Hours of rehearsal were spent mastering the technique.
Calling My Children Home
Doyle Lawson/Charles Waller/Robert Yates, arr. Emmylou Harris and Jonathan Miller
My mother, when looking back at her track record in raising six children, often says, “I gave it my all.” I sang this number at a family Musical Evening soon after my father passed. Mom cried. Now, just months after my sister’s passing, it takes on a new meaning.
I would like to dedicate this program to my mother. She indeed gave it her all, and still does. One foot in front of the other, Ma.
Chicago a cappella first sang this in 1999 on the concert Go Down, Moses. Jonathan arranged it before Finale, Sibelius, or any other computer notation programs existed, using the 3 Ps: paper, pen, and photocopy. Brian Streem finally put it into Finale this year, with his usual attention to detail.
Time Does Not Bring Relief, You All Have Lied
Music by Stacy Garrop, poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay
The Grant Park Chorus sang Garrop’s Sonnets of Desire, Longing, and Whimsy for its 2011 a cappella programs. I had been hoping to find one of Stacy’s pieces for my All About the Women program, and Grant Park’s first read-through of this setting left me breathless. I ultimately was not able to be part of the performance; my dear sister, Mary, lost her horrible battle with cancer just days before the first performance. Talk about a strong woman! But that’s another story…
This number was immediately written into my program. It made me think of my mother who, upon losing my father, commented that she couldn’t listen to music anymore because either he would have liked it, or it reminded her of something in their past. Later it occurred to me that this poem is not about death necessarily, but about the end of a relationship. For me, though, it marks that most final of ends.
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) was a Pulitzer Prize winning poet. Her works include over 200 sonnets, along with several books of poetry, and an opera libretto.
We Cannot Retrace Our Steps
Music by Virgil Thomson, libretto by Gertrude Stein; arr. Betsy Grizzell
Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein collaborated on a number of works, including three of her poems, and two operas. The opera The Mother of Us All was their last work together, and was Stein’s last completed work. It premiered in May of 1947, ten months after Stein’s death. We Cannot Retrace Our Steps ends the opera, and is sung by a statue of Susan B. Anthony. She looks back on the struggles and lessons of her long life.
Barbara suggested this song. When I first listened to it, I thought we couldn’t possibly end our program with such a slow, dramatic piece. But I was drawn to it over and over, despite not quite loving the text. Later I read that Thomson had said, “My theory was that if a text is set correctly for the sound of it, the meaning will take care of itself.” I decided to give in to the longing I felt for the piece.
I admit it. I usually don’t get Gertrude Stein. But the text hits home at this stage of my life. One looks back and wonders, “Did I do the right thing? Is this all there is? What’s next? Have I done my best?” I believe that, as long as the answer to the last question is “Yes,” there can only be pride.
—Notes by Betsy Grizzell