Various Artists | Unfinished Life: Dreams, Friendships and Farewells (A Choral Tribute to the Artistry of Kate Wolf)

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Folk: Gentle Classical: Choral Music Moods: Type: Vocal
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Unfinished Life: Dreams, Friendships and Farewells (A Choral Tribute to the Artistry of Kate Wolf)

by Various Artists

Listen from the same mountainside (with vision-evoking sounds of nature) as Kate journeys to yesterday, imparts her final dream of love for us, and bestows upon us a new, folk-music-based, style of autobiographical American choral singing.
Genre: Folk: Gentle
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Unfinished Life / Across the Great Divide
Gloria Strasburg, Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble, California Backroad Singers, Don Coffin & Barbara Siesel
6:17 $0.99
2. Midnight on the Water
Gloria Strasburg, California Backroad Singers, Don Coffin, Gus Garelick & Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble
3:40 $0.99
3. The Lilac and the Apple / Transition to Telluride
Gloria Strasburg, California Backroad Singers & Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble
3:33 $0.99
4. Telluride
Gloria Strasburg, Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble, California Backroad Singers, Don Coffin & Barbara Siesel
1:37 $0.99
5. Conclusion to Telluride / Friend of Mine / The Redtail Hawk / Looking Back at You / Here in California
Gloria Strasburg, Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble, California Backroad Singers, Don Coffin & Barbara Siesel
3:15 $0.99
6. Some Kind of Love / Give Yourself to Love
Gloria Strasburg, Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble, California Backroad Singers, Don Coffin & Barbara Siesel
1:51 $0.99
7. Medicine Wheel
Gloria Strasburg, California Backroad Singers, Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble, Don Coffin & Barbara Siesel
2:01 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
A New Style in American-classical-choral tradition: story-telling, rooted in romantic autobiographical folk music.

Is there any other song writer/poet/singer/recording artist in our great tradition of American folk music whose legacy is as personal, self-revealing and meaningfully romantic as is Kate Wolf's legacy? Kate's largely-autobiographical storytelling is woven through visions, dreams, metaphor, fable and allegory, and is perhaps best memorialized in the following quotes from the CD booklet packaged within The Kate Wolf Anthology Weaver of Dreams, produced posthumously by her son, Max Wolf: In the booklet, writing about her final album, Poet's Heart, Larry Kelp wrote, "... it took a step beyond anything she had done before. . . these songs stood out as pure poetry..." and quoting Utah Phillips: " 'Kate had gone through a difficult and hard life, had horrendous experiences, and in her music she was courting that voice, talking about it without actually saying it...getting very close to it, close to what was really going on with her. And then she died.' "

Poet's Heart won the NAIRD Best Folk Album award of 1986. Her friend Wavy Gravy is also quoted in the booklet: ' "To me, she created her own genre of music. . . . She was to California folk music what Gary Snyder is to California poetry [and was] bitter sweet and spoke to the environment as well as to herself. She was an American Poet. She transcended category. Just listen to her work as it developed.' " And her long term collaborator, Nina Gerber, wrote, " She sang about her life, her men..." (The story of the musical relationship between Kate and Nina has, to date, yet to be sufficiently told.) Kelp: "She was going deeper into herself [in the albums, Safe at Anchor and Close to You], and if her personal life was rocky and unsettled, the resultant experience and feelings were translated into songs that ranged emotionally from a deep sense of loss to gleeful joy."

To me, Kate's "voice" not only inspires our insight into her life, but, in the process of recording our new album (please see below), Don Coffin told me, "Kate gave California its voice". Don, a co-founder of her first band, "Wildwood Flower", would know. He is another great artist whose life and music were – are – important in Kate's musical legacy.

Music critics speak of a composer's "voice" as being the unique, inimitable artistic expression of one individual, which, in time and into posterity, establishes the singular musical identity of that artist. To me, personally, Kate's "voice" "speaks" in three ways: her recorded songs, especially as selected for my choral setting in the album (CD), Unfinished Life, Dreams, Friendships and Farewells; her place in the world of American folk music; and her befriending me as a fellow musician.

It is that latter "voice" that continues to live with me in most meaningful ways. That experience is noted both in the Anthology... booklet and in the booklet included in this Unfinished Life, Dreams, Friendships and Farewells CD. Mr. Kelp writes, in the Anthology... booklet, "She even sang with the Petaluma Symphony and Chorus in a concert devoted to 'the wonderfulness of living in Petaluma'. Of course, it was a fund-raiser for the orchestra."

Indeed, it was a fundraiser, in 1980. Kate refused compensation for her performance. I was the music director of that orchestra. I will never forget the expression of her "voice" in that context: Musically, her singing was the highlight of that concert, receiving two ovations, but she also donated her time and talent. Thus, she "spoke" clearly, regarding her philosophy of support for fellow artists and for the arts in general. For that part of my story in working with Kate, please see "The Story of this Project" in the Unfinished Life... CD booklet. Her generosity sparked the creation of that album.

Our wonderful musical/production team is too large to include here. The booklet for this Unfinished Life... CD outlines their great contributors to this project.

Another expression of her lyrics and melodies, as sung uniquely in her albums, and as they spoke (speak) directly to me, is: "Can you hear the potential for classical- choral-music interpretation in my folk-music? Do you feel, in my music, experience that is common to all humanity (is "universal"); and can you hear that experience as choral music, specifically rooted in my folk music, in my unique 'voice' ? Can you hear my songs, woven together to interpret any aspects of my own personal story, with 'universal' inflection, in classically-oriented choral music contexts"?

This Unfinished Life... album is my response to those questions - as I imagined them - after I learned of her passing away, and after I was compelled to do something, given that five years had since passed. The music of this chorally-conceived musical memoir (inspired by Kate's own songs) – of this musical reverie – is offered as my answer to those imagined questions and as my interpretation of her place in the world of American folk music. I am sure you will hear the deep appreciation I have for Kate Wolf, throughout this music.

Kate's music – indeed, her voice – speaks in direct personal terms; but, also, it manifests in how it affects her audience. It taps a universality to which we can relate individually, through joy and sorrow, and all intermediate states of mind. We are free to appropriate – as we wish – her use of metaphor, allegory and fable; and we see her vision(s) – especially as depicted through her relationship to nature: her life in mountains, at rivers, with fauna and flora and even within the diversity of American cultural life – especially Native American life. I believe her musical identity is most universally received in her song Give Yourself to Love. For me, that song perfectly expresses her poetic-musical voice.

Composers frequently set the texts of poets. That is nothing new. For my experience in this project, Kate provides much more: poetic texts (her lyrics), beautiful melodies and harmonies, a permanent record of her feelings as well as her outlook on life. What other American poet also provides such intimate and self-revealing musical inspiration?

In this folk-music-based choral composition, I was compelled to share something from Kate's influence in my own life, not as my own personal story, but as my expression of heartfelt musical dedication, across the great divide that now separates her from all of us. As a whole, Unfinished Life, Dreams, Friendships and Farewells is a singularly continuous twenty-two-minute choral setting ("through-composed"); but, in sections, it can also be heard in seven separate tracks on this album – as seven individual pieces. Both the complete twenty-two minute composition (as a whole) or the track-by-track selections will hopefully communicate something of her story. We believe we experience a fresh - if not new - style of American choral music here: one that is informed by, combined with, enriched through and based upon a unique legacy of great American folk music. This is an aspect of the artistic legacy Kate Wolf.

Randall Keith Horton



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