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Janeanne Houston, soprano, Robert Jorgensen, piano | So Much Beauty

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Janeanne Houston with Robert Jorgensen

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So Much Beauty

by Janeanne Houston, soprano, Robert Jorgensen, piano

Richly textured contemporary songs in English by living composers for voice and piano, joined in two works by clarinet or oboe. For lovers of music that is wedded to poetry, this recording celebrates our connection to the natural world.
Genre: Classical: Contemporary
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Straightway Beauty on Me Waits
2:56 album only
2. Softly the Summer
2:30 album only
3. Come Ready and See Me
3:37 album only
4. Wider Than the Sky
1:59 album only
5. Good Morning Midnight
1:29 album only
6. If I
2:20 album only
7. You Are
2:37 album only
8. In the Almost Evening
14:35 album only
9. A Girl's Song to Her Mother
5:49 album only
10. Wings of the Grasses
3:34 album only
11. Rhapsody
6:26 album only
12. Before Winter
3:53 album only
13. The Uneasy Story
3:04 album only
14. Aware
2:29 album only
15. The Night
2:06 album only
16. When Heaven Cries
2:01 album only
17. Come Walk in the Garden With Me
3:43 album only
18. First Love
5:28 album only
19. Song, In Memoriam Jan DeGaetani, Renewal
4:14 album only


Album Notes
So Much Beauty is a collection of skillfully crafted contemporary songs, in styles as varied as the personalities of the composers, poets, and their inspirations. Many of the songs have not been previously recorded, and some were composed especially for this recording. The texts examine and celebrate our finely woven and inescapable connection to the natural world. They tell timeless stories of love, loss, listening, creating, and letting go. The cover painting depicts in exquisite detail the motion of seeds dispersing. Once an artist has completed a work, it is then tossed into the wind to land and prosper wherever it falls. Under lock and key, poems will go unread, paintings will be unseen, and songs will be unsung. But, when cast into the wind, the cycle of inspiration, imagination, birth, flowering, and death, will take root, regenerate, and inspire again and again and again. So many stories, so many songs, and so much beauty. - Janeanne Houston, 2003

NEW RELEASE, February 22, 2004

"A WELCOME PROJECT TO GIVE THESE SONGS BY LARGELY UNKNOWN COMPOSERS A WIDER HEARING. ...performs the songs with appropriately gentle delicacy. She is unfailingly responsive and dedicated, as is her pianist." - Lawrence A. Johnson, GRAMOPHONE, July 2004

"A sensitive interpreter...We get 19 tracks and 75 minutes of unknown contemporary music here, and there is not a clinker in the lot. How often does that happen? - AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Sept/Oct, 2004

"The radiant-voiced and very communicative soprano Janeanne Houston has assembled a remarkable collection of contemporary songs - many of them premieres - and recorded them here with pianist Robert Jorgensen. This repertoire offers huge variety, some breathtaking discoveries (including new pieces by Carol Sams, Dan Locklair and Lori Laitman), and - yes - so much beauty."
- Melinda Bargreen, SEATTLE TIMES, March 7, 2004

"Every now and then a piece of music enters your awareness in a way that is simply uplifting. It reminds you that there is goodness and beauty available in the world. This entire recording is that way. It's a disk called 'So Much Beauty', aptly named, and features soprano Janeanne Houston and pianist Robert Jorgensen. They are joined by clarinetist Craig Rine in performing a work by Charlotte native, Dan Locklair. The piece is called 'In the Almost Evening.' It's a gorgeous and highly creative setting with poetry by Canadian poet, Joy Kogawa. Both the poetry and the music are stunning and highly enjoyable.....a breath of fresh air." ----Jennifer Foster, WDAV FM, From the broadcast on February 21, 2004

"Ms. Houston has an excellent high soprano voice and her accomplished interpretations of this eclectic selection of songs has depth and variety.
The pianist, Robert Jorgensen, proves himself to be an excellent composer as well as performer in his song You Are, Vicky Edmonds' light-hearted exploration of a deep psychological message." - John Campbell, Art Song Update, May, 2004
See the full, and extensive review at

This is an exceptionally fine collection of modern art songs, and much of this music has never before been recorded. An impressive range of mood and color is represented, yet the program hangs together beautifully.... The program is also a seamless whole because every song is lovingly and capably rendered by Ms. Houston and her superlative accompanist, Robert Jorgensen, with uncommon musicality and grace. The bright, vibrant timbre of the soprano's voice and her impassioned expressivity are strongly reminiscent of Beverly Sills...Ms. Houston and Mr. Jorgensen are the kind of caring and skilled musicians to which any composer would gladly entrust their work. These impressive performances are presented in a package distinguished by scrupulous attention to detail. The lyrics of all the songs are here along with well written biographies of each respective composer. When available, there are also written explanations from the composers about the particular songs that are part of this recording. Such first-person perspective is especially welcome for the most haunting song on the disk, "Before Winter," which Carol Sams composed in 2003 at a time when she feared that her son might be seriously ill. (Those fears, thankfully, proved to be unfounded.) The song is powerfully moving on its own terms, but even more so when one considers the shadow of heartbreak under which it was written.
Another highlight of the collection is the set of two songs by Hilary Tann for voice and oboe. This proves to be an exquisite combination of timbres that one would think would be exploited far more often. The spare texture seems to draw especially assured and expressive singing from Ms. Houston (with no hint of intonation trouble), and with oboist Shannon Spicciati she achieves true magic. Similarly impressive is Dan Locklair's "In the Almost Evening" for soprano, clarinet, and piano, which he wrote in the early 1980s for clarinetist Esther Lamneck. As the work opens, he uses the soprano almost like a second wind instrument in beguiling interplay with the clarinet over gentle undulating patterns of the piano. Eventually the voice begins to deliver the poignant text of poet Joy Kogawa with its theme of loneliness, and one realizes how perfectly apt the clarinet is for this work. For the second poem, "Snake Dance," the piano steps aside to allow the soprano and clarinet to engage in a rhapsodic duet that feels at times like an extended cadenza. Eventually the piano returns, bearing with it the restless longing of the opening section as the work comes full circle.
Performance upon performance is rendered with a flawless sense of flow and style....Such praiseworthy singing is especially welcome when one is encountering rarities like Hundley's exquisite "Softly the Summer," a song written for Anna Moffo but the liner notes tell us sadly now out of print. This recording underscores the importance not only of performing brand new works, but also of uncovering neglected pieces and giving them new life. - Gregory Berg, THE JOURNAL OF SINGING, Nov./Dec., 2004

Thank you, thank you, thank you! for your beautiful singing of my three pieces on this recording. I will be publishing them this year and would like to dedicate them to you. They are so beautiful on the recording, as is everything else. You've done a bang-up job and you should be so proud! - Carol Sams, composer

I've just received the CD and, of course, I listened to it
immediately. It's *so* beautiful! The cover is lovely and the booklet is fine -- finely done. I love the way you've put it all together. And -- oh dear -- the performance is everything I could have wished. I have goosebumps
still. Shannon is playing so well. It's wonderful to hear an oboe right in tune and with such a beautiful tone.It's such a treat to have such a true and wonderful performance. I can't quite believe it. Ever since your first e-mail you've brought joy and good feelings into my life. Do you do this for everyone? I can only thank you from the bottom of my heart.
- Hilary Tann, composer

I just had to write immediately and tell you how very
delighted I am with your IN THE ALMOST EVENING. It is simply gorgeous! You float effortlessly where necessary and are dramatic when necessary. Your vibratois beautifully and musically adjusted as needed and your diction is excellent.
It's just so musical! The clarinet and piano form such a first-rate ensemble with you and the totality of it all is haunting. Of course, the splendid recording helps that! Congratulations and deepest thanks to you all and,
especially, to you! ... It is a beautiful and lyrical recording. You should feel very good about it!
- Dan Locklair, composer

I finished listening to the disc and it is lovely in all aspects -- music chosen, performances, design, sound, etc. You are a very expressive singer and your love for music and the world shines through.
I listened first to my songs (of course), and was very pleased. Thank you so much for including my music on this CD. With regards to the other songs, I particularly loved the Jorgensen; I think you have a special feel for Finzi; and the Sams and Burge cycles were especially beautiful (the "Ahs" in the Burge were a knockout).
Congratulations to you on a wonderful project. You should be very proud and I look forward to your next CD.

Lori Laitman, composer

Janeanne Houston, soprano
Ms. Houston is a versatile performer especially noted for her finely honed skills as a concert artist. She has interpreted, with warmth, drama, and facility, a large body of vocal literature spanning the Baroque, Classic and Romantic eras to the present. Ms. Houston has been a guest artist with many distinguished choral and orchestral organizations including Seattle Symphony, Oregon Symphony, Northwest Chamber Orchestra, Northwest Sinfonietta, Eugene Symphony and Opera, and has worked under the batons of many fine conductors including Gerard Schwarz, James DePreist, Sidney Harth, Dean Williamson, Charles Bontrager, Richard Sparks, and Miguel Harth-Bedoya, with whom she sang last season the Mater Gloriosa in the first Oregon performance of Mahler's Eighth Symphony. An active recitalist, she has been a featured artist on numerous concert series programs and music festivals, including a recent residency for the Messiah Festival of Music and Art in Kansas. Also at home on the opera stage, she sang the role of Mary with Jerome Hines in his Biblical opera I am the Way and has also shone in other operatic roles which include Blanche in Dialogues of the Carmelites and Micaela in Carmen. Her recordings include The Irish Songs of Sir Hamilton Harty, So Great a Joy 2001, and Living Mysteries 2002. So Much Beauty was released on February 9, 2004. Later his year her work will also be featured on a recording of chamber music by North Carolina composer Dan Locklair, for whom she has recorded several world premieres. The chamber music recording will be released on the Albany label. Her recordings have been broadcast on radio stations across the country, and were featured this year on the syndicated radio program With Heart and Voice. Ms. Houston was a finalist and a second place winner in the Northwest Regional Metropolitan Opera auditions, and last year a Crystal award winner in the Scammon vocal competition. Born in Kansas City, Ms. Houston spent her childhood years in Burma, India and the Philippine Islands. She received her education at Ottawa University and the University of Washington, and is presently a member of the faculty at Pacific Lutheran University.
Robert Jorgensen, piano
Mr. Jorgensen gave his first solo piano recital at the age of nine, with the confidence and exuberance that have become the hallmark of his playing.
He is coach /accompanist at the University of Puget Sound, and has spent eight recent summers in Austria on the staff of the Summer Academy in Lilienfeld, near Vienna, accompanying, playing solo and chamber works on harpsichord, organ and piano. He graduated with honors from California State University, Fresno, where he studied with Philip Lorenz, Claudio Arrau's long-time friend and associate, and with Ena Bronstein, also an Arrau student and concert artist. He subsequently earned the Licentiate Degree from the Royal School of Music in London. Mr. Jorgensen and flutist Klaus Liebetanz perform as Duo Cantico, and have made several recordings under the Eroica label. Noted for their skill in improvisation, their discography also includes one completely improvised collection. Mr. Jorgensen composed two songs for this recording.

Craig Rine, clarinet
Craig Rine is principal clarinet of Northwest Sinfonietta, principal clarinet for Tacoma Symphony, and appears frequently with Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Opera and the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra. Since relocating to the Pacific Northwest, Mr. Rine has mentored hundreds of young instrumentalists by conducting band in area schools and teaching clarinet. He is also a member of the faculty at Pacific Lutheran University, and of Camas Wind Quintet. Mr. Rine is a native of Washington, D.C.

Shannon Spicciati, oboe
A Northwest native, Ms. Spicciati is a graduate of Eastman School of Music. She is principal oboist for Northwest Sinfonietta, co-principal for Tacoma Symphony, and is frequently heard with the orchestras of Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Seattle Opera. She is a member of Camas Wind Quintet, and a member of the faculty at Pacific Lutheran University.

Joseph Pollard White, Conductor (Locklair work)
As conductor and violist, Joseph Pollard White has performed across the United States and in Europe. A native of New York, Mr. White is an alumnus of the Eastman School of Music, Indiana University School of Music, and received a Doctor of Musical Arts in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Washington. He has prepared and conducted numerous film scores, and is also a composer.

Albert Swanson, engineering and editing
Al Swanson has been the recording engineer for the Seattle Symphony since 1984. Specializing in audiophile acoustic recording, Mr. Swanson has more than 500 albums to his credit, including several Grammy nominated albums.

Richard Sparks, producer
Richard Sparks is the founding Artistic Director of Choral Arts, a 30-voice chamber choir based in Seattle and Tacoma. He has also been Artistic Director of Pro Coro Canada since the 1999-2000 season. He was Director of Choral Activities and conductor of the Choir of the West at Pacific Lutheran University from 1983-2001. Before coming to Pacific Lutheran University, Sparks taught at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts for three years and, prior to that, founded and was Artistic Director of Seattle Pro Musica for seven years. He was also Director of Choral Activities for the Seattle Symphony Orchestra for four years. During that time, he prepared the chorus for nine recordings on the Delos label under maestro Gerard Schwarz. Choral Arts has released several CDs under the Gothic label and Loft Recordings.



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