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Liria Duo | Songs of Her Self

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Classical: Art songs Classical: Contemporary Moods: Type: Vocal
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Songs of Her Self

by Liria Duo

As the definitive premiere recording of Libby Larsen’s Donal Oge and ME (Brenda Ueland), accompanied by Songs from Letters, this album tells the stories of three strong-willed, notable women who lived and loved despite all odds.
Genre: Classical: Art songs
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Donal Oge
5:36 album only
2. Songs from Letters: 1. So Like Your Father's (1880)
1:29 album only
3. Songs from Letters: 2. He Never Misses (1880)
1:40 album only
4. Songs from Letters: 3. A Man Can Love Two Women (1880)
2:46 album only
5. Songs from Letters: 4. A Working Woman (1882-1893)
3:36 album only
6. Songs from Letters: 5. All I Have (1902)
3:41 album only
7. Me, Brenda Ueland: I. Why I Write This Book
2:57 album only
8. Me, Brenda Ueland: II. Childhood
6:03 album only
9. Me, Brenda Ueland: III. Adolescence
4:38 album only
10. Me, Brenda Ueland: IV. Greenwich Village
3:16 album only
11. Me, Brenda Ueland: V. Marriage Divorce
3:21 album only
12. Me, Brenda Ueland: VI. Work
4:19 album only
13. Me, Brenda Ueland: VII. Art (Life Is Love)
7:46 album only
14. Me, Brenda Ueland: VIII. The Present
4:23 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Soprano Emily Murdock and pianist Sara Parkinson began collaborating in 2007 during their graduate studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. They soon realized that they spoke a similar musical language and shared the same love for voice-piano collaboration—and so Liria Duo was formed. Since then, they have performed together across the United States, including at the national finals of the National Association of Teachers of Singing Artist Award recital competition. They also made the first recording of Libby Larsen’s song cycle “ME (Brenda Ueland)” for CU-Boulder’s Music Library as part of Sara’s final doctoral project. Ms. Larsen invited Emily and Sara to work on her music at her home in Minneapolis in December 2011, which led to their debut album Songs of Her Self. Liria Duo’s deep sense of shared musical values is palpable to audiences, who have been struck by their ensemble, commitment to the music, and communication of the story.

Songs of Her Self was recorded in October 2012 with Grammy-award winning engineer/producer Adam Abeshouse and Libby Larsen. Ms. Larsen considers it to be the definitive recording of “Donal Oge” and “ME (Brenda Ueland),” never before available to the public on a professional album until now. Her song cycle “Songs from Letters” rounds out the album. All three works feature texts by strong-willed, notable women who lived ‘against the grain’ when it came to the world around them. Larsen’s music and Liria Duo’s performance capture the environments in which each of these women lived and loved: 8th-century Ireland, the 19-century Wild West, and 1930s America. Liria Duo’s dedication to storytelling through music caused one listener to remark, “the dramatic involvement flows out the recording.”

Liria Duo’s name comes from the Albanian word for freedom. We want to bring this intimate and exhilarating art form to a broad audience and shed light on new works.

Donal Oge: 2011. The text for this song is from an anonymous Gaelic poem from the 8th-century. Lady August Gregory translated it into modern English in the 19th-century. Libby Larsen put the text to music in 2011, calling it the “ultimate break-up song.” It tells the story of a woman left behind—brokenhearted, but still defiant. Performing the song is emotionally exhausting and thrilling at the same time.

Songs from Letters: 1989. Calamity Jane allegedly gave birth to a daughter with Wild Bill Hickock, whom she named Janey. She gave Janey up to be raised by a friend back East, knowing that her tumultuous life in the West was no place to raise a child. She did, however, continue a relationship with her daughter through letters. Libby Larsen chose five letters, written between 1880 and 1902, for this song cycle. Calamity Jane describes Janey’s father to her, warns her about men and jealousy, brags about her accomplishments as a woman doing hard work in a harsh environment, and finally comes to terms with her own shortcomings and mortality. “Songs from Letters” has been recorded many times, but Liria Duo decided to include it on their album because of how well Calamity Jane’s story fits with the other women’s stories.

ME (Brenda Ueland): 1987. Brenda Ueland, a Minnesotan writer who lived from 1891 to 1985, was best known for her book If You Want to Write. Brenda was a staunch feminist – a forward thinker who flung off stereotypes and lived how she wanted to live. This song cycle is a daunting 40 minutes long – about the length of most opera roles. When Liria Duo discovered this beautiful musical story on the shelves of the library at CU-Boulder’s College of Music, they knew it deserved to be heard by everyone.

Composer's Notes for ME (Brenda Ueland):
When a song cycle drawn from Brenda Ueland’s 1938 autobiography ME was suggested to me by Bruce Carlson, director of the Schubert Club of St. Paul, I was challenged to draw conclusions about this perplexing woman and make musical sense of her life. Ueland lived most of her life near Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was a woman of fiery, if not disciplined, personality. Like her heroes -- Ibsen, Van Gogh, and Blake -- she had a passion for daily life and found a vitality and essence in the hours of a day. She was rhapsodic about walking, passionate about the sky, moon, and stars, and instilled a reverent sense of dignified passion and art in what some toss-pots and cynics might call “ordinary life.” Her biography is not particularly different from anyone else’s biography, consisting of those events which seem insignificant (a first memory, a first dance, a period of youthful rebellion, a walk with a beloved parent) but are really the most important things that happen to us in life. These are the experiences which form our substance. Ueland’s gist is to conform in us the true art into which we are all born, the art of living. In the eight songs comprising ME (Brenda Ueland), I have chosen episodes which capture Brenda’s passion, lyricism, optimism, and buccaneer spirit. “Memento vivere” was her motto -- “Remember to live.” I have tried to share her motto with you. -Libby Larsen

Liria Duo thanks their generous supporters, without whom this album would still be only a dream: Steven Aguiló-Arbues, John Parkinson, Duane & Willia Mueske, David & Sally Murdock, Erin Cox of ELC Photography, Susan Olenwine & Frank Palermo, Chris & Liz Laffoon, Richard & Caroline Van Pelt, the Lolis family, Julie Simson, Linda Campos & Adam Esbensen, Anita & Arthur Polner, Catherine Lasswell & John Cruickshank, Brandie Martin, Diana Anderson, Stanley & Elissa Guralnick, Donald Kohn, Judith Olson, Ralph & Dianne Herbert, Dona D. Vaughn, Debbie Kullby, B-J & Rob Toews, Kirby & Kevin Kana, Michael Herring, and many others, as well as our concert goers. This album is for you.



to write a review

Dr. James Stanard

Songs of Her Self
Songs of Her Self, features three works by Libby Larsen: Donal Oge, ME (Brenda Ueland), and Songs from Letters, all performed with fine-tuned musicality, precision and passion by Liria Duo– soprano Emily Murdock and Sara Parkinson.
The texts for these works were written by strong-willed, notable women who lived “against the grain” when it came to the world around them. The lives of these women spanned two continents and several centuries: 8th-Century Ireland, the 19th-Century Wild West, and 1930s America. Libby’s music captures the spirit and environment where each of these women lived and loved.
Larsen’s eclectic score utilizes widely varied musical styles including 21st century avant-garde lyricism, luxurious harmonies, as well as jazzy and playful motifs.
The three works call for highly accomplished performers. Murdock and Parkinson are up to the challenge. Murdock navigates the demanding vocal lines with charm and elegance over an expansive range of pitches, vocal styles and emotions seemingly without effort. Larson’s score provides fertile ground for Parkinson’s virtuosic skills and imagination, at times performing intricate, quicksilver figurations that that punctuate the melodic lines.
The fine ensemble work of Liria Duo might lead the listener to believe these two women are identical twins. It seems that musically they are.
This highly successful initial collaboration of Liria Duo gives anticipation to their next offering.

Dr. James Stanard, Professor of Music Emeritus – Humboldt State University and Current Director of the Glacier Chorale, Kalispell, Montana.


Libby Larsen's songs shine in this album
Comprised entirely of songs by American composer Libby Larsen, Liria Duo's debut album is beautiful. The performers have brought together three works that are thematically linked by the stories of strong women. This is the only place to hear Donal Oge and ME (Brenda Ueland). Liria Duo performs the songs with raw emotion that comes out through Murdock's vocal colors, Parkinson's articulation and colors on the piano, and a seamless ensemble between the two. They don't seem to be worried that this kind of performance isn't one you'd normally hear on someone's graduate recital...they serve the music entirely, and that makes it all the more interesting. I forgot that I was listening to someone sing - rather, I was lost in the story and Larsen's music. I think that is Liria Duo's point. Brava on a powerful performance.