Friday, October 7, 2011

Fascination with Lady Day

This morning, while preparing my preview piece for the first BluePrint concert at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, I noticed that, while John Harbison’s song cycle North and South is based on six poems by Elizabeth Bishop, it is framed by a “Ballad for Billie.”  This is not the first time that Lady Day honored a piece of “serious” music with her presence.  Leonard Bernstein’s score for Jerome Robbins’ ballet “Fancy Free” was sort of a symphonic meditation on her recordings, one of which is heard on the jukebox when the curtain first rises.  The difference, however, is that the song is "Big Stuff," which Bernstein had composed for Billie Holiday prior to working on the ballet score, meaning it really was a "ballad for Billie!"  One can only wonder (or perhaps one never knows) how the Lady would have reacted to this latter-day impact on the modern classical repertoire.

No comments: