Was My Brother in the Battle? - Songs of War

Was My Brother in the Battle? - Songs of War

by Stephen Swanson

CD

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Overview

Was My Brother in the Battle? - Songs of War

Here's an album of war songs with a difference, or with a lot of differences. Take the two songs by middle twentieth century satirist Tom Lehrer. It's not absolutely unprecedented to hear someone else sing Lehrer's songs, but it's rare enough to make you sit up and take notice of what's going on in the rest of the program. And you find plenty of other original things. It's not just that baritone Stephen Swanson combines art songs, popular music, and songs of the American Civil War, which somehow don't fit either of those categories. The chronological spread of the album is innovative: it's worthwhile to have Civil War songs bump up against those about World War II and Vietnam. And, subject matter aside, the arrangements of popular songs by pianist David Gompper (who also contributes an original setting of an Abraham Lincoln letter) are fresh in themselves. Gompper lets each song be itself, respecting the melody and meter, but he adds accompaniments that vary according to the tone of the lyrics. Bob Dylan's polemical "Masters of War" ("You hide in your mansion/As young people's blood/Flows out of their bodies/And is buried in the mud") gets a stirring, percussive setting, while the more narrative "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda," by Australian folk singer Eric Bogle, is given more space to tell its story. Swanson also switches easily between sober treatments and theatrical attitudes, and along with familiar pieces like Charles Ives' "Tom Sails Away" he includes a few real rarities, like musical theater composer Sheldon Harnick's "Merry Little Minuet," which many would refuse to include under the war songs rubric. But of course it is a war song, of a sort, and Swanson's album approaches that classification in an absolutely original way. Highly recommended.

Product Details

Release Date: 10/14/2008
Label: Albany Records
UPC: 0034061105626
catalogNumber: 1056

Tracks

  1. The Battle Hymn of the Republic ("Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory," words by Julia Ward Howe; music attributed to Steffe)
  2. We Are Coming, Father Abraham for voice & piano
  3. In Flanders Fields, song for voice & piano, S. 277 (K. 6B56)
  4. He Is There!, song for voice & piano, S. 262 (K. 6B57)
  5. Tom Sails Away, song for voice & piano, S. 378 (K. 6B59)
  6. Voices of World War II, for voice & piano
  7. So long, mom (A song for World War III)
  8. The Ostrich
  9. The Wild West is Where I Want to Be, for voice & piano
  10. Merry Little Minuet, for voice & piano
  11. And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda
  12. Masters of War, song
  13. Jimmy Newman, song
  14. Was My Brother in the Battle? for voice & piano
  15. Mrs. Bixby's Sons, for voice & piano

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