Take Me To Your Lieder

Filed under: Events,Music; in the year 2013, on the 22nd day of April at 11:57 pm

McGonagall fans living in Holland1 may be interested in an event happening in Amsterdam this week:

Challenge Classics and music publisher Deuss Music would like to invite you to the release of the new album of Robert Zuidam: McGonagall-Lieder, on April 24th at the ‘Muziekgebouw aan het IJ’!

McGonagall-Lieder is a song cycle composed by Robert Zuidam with lyrics of the legendary William McGonagall. It is conducted by Oliver Knussen and performed by Katrien Baerts, Pianoduo Post&Mulder and Asko|Schönberg. The work highlights the theatrical sound that Zuidam is known for and has a unique composition of instruments: soprano, four celli, double bass, percussion and the special role for two piano’s.

The texts of this work are from William McGonagall, a poet from Dundee in Schotland who was a weaver with an unshakeable faith in his poetic genius. The Times Literary Supplement once wrote about this legendary writer: “A real genius, for he is the only memorable bad poet in our language”. Robert Zuidam ads: “Bad poetry can be an excellent source of inspiration for a composer. Dante, Virgil, Goethe all evoke reverence and awe, and reluctance to open all portholes in the battleship of the imagination. And not without reason: after all, good poetry is already music in itself, and fares well without support. When Oliver Knussen, composer, conductor, and connaisseur of Scottish paraphernalia, gave me The Complete McGonagall as a Christmas present in 1992, I immediately sensed the musical potential of this remarkable poetry.”

Robert Zuidam, studied composition at the Conservatory of Rotterdam. He was awarded the Koussevitzky Composition Prize for Fishbone, a work for wind instruments and piano, and a Leonard Bernstein Scholarship enabled him to return to Tanglewood as a student. In 2010, Zuidam taught and lectured at Harvard University as Erasmus Professor, and was awarded the Kees van Baaren-Prize in The Hague, for his opera Rage d’amours. The core of Zuidam’s compositional activities lies in the field of vocal music, particularly that of the music theatre.

McGonagall-Lieder will be released on April 24th in Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ during the world premiere of Robert Zuidam’s String Quartet (2013) performed by DoelenKwartet.

I must confess, I’d not heard of Robert Zuidam or his work before despite the McGonagall-Lieder having been completed back in 2001. Clearly a fan of the poet’s work, this excerpt from his website shows he’s little more hazy on the details of his life:

McGonagall recited his poetry at tea circles and soirées at the homes of the upper social strata, or after he had starred, with his wavy locks, on the stage of the Theatre Royal, Dundee, as Richard III, Othello, or Hamlet, amidst a crowd in the foyer surrounding him in adoration.

A version of the man’s career drawn solely from his own imagination, I fear – but then Mr Zuidam didn’t have this website available to him to tell him the truth!

Thanks to serial gem contributor Stephen Midgley for drawing this event to my attention.

Footnotes

  1. The Gem of the Day Statistics currently show one recipient in Belgium and none at all in Holland, so they probably won’t be overwhelmed with McGonagall fans on Wednesday! []

Exhibition Marks 200th Anniversary of McGonagall Disaster

Filed under: News; in the year 2013, on the 12th day of April at 12:01 pm

’Twas on the 1st of April, and in the year of Eighteen thirteen,
That the whaler “Oscar” was wrecked not far from Aberdeen;
’Twas all on a sudden the wind arose, and a terrific blast it blew,
And the “Oscar” was lost, and forty-two of a gallant crew.

So begins The Wreck of the Whaler Oscar, a typical McGonagall gem commemorating this maritime disaster. Now, Aberdeen Maritime Museum has opened a new exhibition to mark the 200th anniversary of the event .

The whaling industry was no stranger to casualties at sea, but this particular wreck happened so close inshore as to be visible to many of the unfortunate sailors’ friends and relatives. It had a huge impact locally and led to the construction of a local lighthouse.  And to a rotten poem, of course.