Alyson Cambridge & Lydia Brown | From the Diary of Sally Hemings

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Classical: Art songs Classical: Vocal Music Moods: Type: Vocal
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From the Diary of Sally Hemings

by Alyson Cambridge & Lydia Brown

An exploration in song of the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Music: William Bolcom; Text: Sandra Seaton
Genre: Classical: Art songs
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: They say I was born old
1:44 album only
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2. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: Martha and Maria
1:22 album only
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3. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: White Waves
3:32 album only
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4. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: Paris, c'est la ville vivante
1:56 album only
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5. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: The master brings music to his sitting room
1:34 album only
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6. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: I was carrying a tray when he called me
1:43 album only
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7. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: They say I was born old... The rage, the anger
1:55 album only
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8. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: Come back to America
2:06 album only
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9. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: Back home at Monticello
0:47 album only
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10. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: Purple Hyacinth begins to bloom
2:04 album only
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11. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: My sister ghost
4:11 album only
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12. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: Peonies, a perfume box
1:36 album only
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13. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: Mister, our child is frail
2:47 album only
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14. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: A dark winter blue-black evening
1:21 album only
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15. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: Old shoe!
1:44 album only
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16. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: A wild man home from the woods
1:56 album only
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17. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: Papers! I've never seen so many
1:53 album only
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18. From the Diary of Sally Hemings: Night watch till early morn
8:53 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
There is, of course, no such thing as a real Sally Hemings diary, at least none that anyone has found; were there a real diary, Hemings would have had ample reason to destroy it herself to protect her children’s lives. The present “unofficial” diary—to use Sandra Seaton’s term—exists because I asked her to write one.

When Florence Quivar asked me for a cycle on Sally Hemings I was on the point of refusing; it is such a “now” sort of topic, I feared, and I had not seen any attempts to portray her that I’d liked—it is too attractive a subject for the wrong reasons. Then I thought of Sandra, who’d become a friend because of our common interest in the black Broadway musical of 1921, Shuffle Along, by Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle, Aubrey Lyles, and Flournoy Miller; she is a descendant of Miller and sought me out. The dedication of the cycle, in memory of Flournoy Miller, is in gratitude for his posthumously bringing Sandra’s work to my attention.

Seaton’s own plays deal penetratingly with the world of the African American middle class in a refreshingly nonstereotypical way, and I felt she would understand Sally better than anyone else I knew. When she sent me the first draft I saw she had found a Sally Hemings I could believe emotionally.

Sally’s world was by necessity an indoor, protected, rather quiet one, and the spareness of Sandra’s language for Sally, just what I’d hoped for, is answered by a stylistic sobriety in my own music. I opted for a harmonically plain language with a somewhat French atmosphere (evoking Hemings’s Paris sojourn), with African American melodic references well to the background. I did not want to fall into the expected cliché in so much work I’d seen on Sally; she was not a cardboard icon, standing for a group. In every way she was unique, an individual; otherwise how could she have fascinated someone like Jefferson for thirty-eight years. - William Bolcom

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