CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: July 11, 2000
NOTE TO EDITORS: The recital by tenor Matt Castle, originally
scheduled for June 24, was cancelled due to illness, then rescheduled for
July 20 with the same program. Here is a copy of the original news release
with the correct date and location.
Tenor Matthew Castle will present 'An Evening of American
Art Songs' July 20
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- "An Evening of American Art Songs
by Living Composers" will be presented by Matthew Castle, a tenor and
the coach-accompanist for the University of Iowa Opera Theater, and pianist
Lee Nguyen, an undergraduate student in pre-medicine and piano performance
at the UI, at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 20 in Harper Hall of the UI Voxman Music
Their performance will be free and open to the public.
Castle is a multi-talented musician with significant accomplishments
as a composer, singer, pianist and teacher. For his song program, he chose
music by two composers with whom he has studied -- Stanworth Beckler at the
University of the Pacific and Jan Bach at the University of Northern Illinois.
He was introduced to the music of Henry Campbell, the third composer on the
program, by another of his teachers.
Becklers songs will form bookends for the program,
which will open with his "Songs of Experience," on texts by William
Blake, and close with "Seven Songs from E.E. Cummings." Both sets
of songs were composed in 1954 and dedicated to Jon Pearce, whom Beckler describes
as "a buddy in school -- a great guy and a fantastic tenor."
Between the Beckler settings, Castle and Nguyen will perform
Campbells "Grassroots Ballad" and Bachs "Three
Sonnets on Woman."
Not only did Pearce inspire Beckler to write two sets
of songs, he also suggested how they should be written. For the Cummings songs,
"he suggested I write the vocal line first, without thought for the details
of the accompaniment," Beckler said. He did most of this first stage
of writing while riding the bus back and forth to work each day. Later, when
he went back to fill in the piano part, Beckler found that they came to him
easily, springing naturally from the mood, texture and pace of the vocal lines.
William Blakes "Songs of Experience" come
from the combined volume, Songs of Innocence and Experience," which,
according to the title page, aims to "Shew the Two Contrary States of
the Human Soul." Blakes poetry, which draws heavily on Christian
symbolism, is noted for its portrayal of the complexity and ambiguity of human
Castle feels that the songs are particularly successful
at evoking this ambiguity. "Becklers musical settings capture the
emotional acuity of the texts while maintaining the delicacy of the speakers
point of view -- part cold observer, part unwitting agent of the foibles and
dangers of human life, part frightened participant
in the evils of the world, regretful and yearning.
"Blakes old-fashioned, dense poetic language
and Becklers chromatic musical language combine to create vibrant miniatures,
as complex intellectually as they are emotionally and spiritually."
Beckler selected the texts for the "Seven Songs from
E.E. Cummings" from various collections of poetry published 1923-26.
Castle said, "These seven songs capture the sly wit, eerie colorfulness,
passionate earnestness and, most of all, the rhythmic throb of Cummings
Campbell, who lives in Bozeman, Mont., wrote his "Grassroots
Ballad" in 1965, based on "Little Blonde Esther" by Montana
poet Jason Bolles. The poem uses the points of view of various characters
to tell the story of a preachers daughter who returns home late from
a social dance. Her father turns her out and she wanders through the countryside
until she is rescued by a ranger. Later, the two prepare to marry, and they
summon the young womans father to perform the ceremony.
Campbells setting of the dramatic poem uses various
musical means to portray the perspectives and voices of the various characters:
changes of vocal register, tempo, texture and harmony.
Jan Bach wrote the "Three Sonnets on Woman"
in 1973 for the Harvey Gaul Competition, which called for a piece for tenor
voice and harpsichord. Searching for poetry suitable to that combination,
he chose three poems by the early 19th-century English poet John Keats.
Bach acknowledges that the sentiment of Keats poetry
makes it a "time piece, something that existed a century ago," since
the woman addressed in the songs is "a very 19th-century character --
a helpless little creature." For Castle, this suggests that even though
the poetry is set in a serious manner, "for modern listeners, the piece
must have a tongue-in-cheek quality."
Castle is a visiting professor at the UI School of Music,
serving as coach-accompanist for the UI Opera Theater. His singing roles in
opera and musical comedy have included Henrik Egerman in "A Little Night
Music," Nemorino in "The Elixir Of Love," Edvard Grieg in "Song
Of Norway," Archibald Craven in "The Secret Garden," Marco
Palmieri in "The Gondoliers" and Rooster in "Annie," as
well as dozens of cabaret and dinner theater appearances.
As an accompanist, Castle has played in hundreds of recitals
and theatrical productions. He also has extensive experience as a musical
director, with credits in professional, university, community and school theaters.
His compositions represent many genres, ranging from chamber music to musical
theater and opera. He holds a bachelors degree from the University of
the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., and a masters degree from Northern
One of the most active accompanists in the UI School of
Music, Nguyen will graduate in July and will study piano accompanying on a
full scholarship to the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee in the fall.
A native of Charles City, he is the last of seven children to graduate from
the UI. He has accompanied many student recitals at the UI, performed with
the UI Symphony Band, served as rehearsal accompanist for opera and musical
theater productions, and accompanied UI guest artists. He has also studied
piano at the Interlochen (Mich.) Arts Academy.
For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~uiowacr
on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/.