THU JULY 23, 7pm at SPACE
Soundings: Voices - String Songs


Meredith Monk (born 1942)

Fünf Ophelia-Lieder
Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
I. Wie erkenn ich dein Treulieb · How should I your true love know
II. Sein Leichenhemd weiss wie Schnee zu seh’n · White his shroud as the mountain snow
III. Auf morgen ist Sankt Valentins Tag · Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day
IV. Sie trugen ihn auf der Bahre bloss · They bore him barefaced on the bier
V. Und kommt er nicht mehr zurück? · And will he not come again?
Argenta Walther, mezzo-soprano

Lua Descolorida
Osvaldo Golijov (born 1960)
Kathryn Shuman, soprano

Excuse My Dust
Andrew Tholl (born 1980)
Argenta Walther, mezzo-soprano

Argenta Walther

Mezzo-soprano Argenta Walther performs a repertoire spanning from the Medieval period to the Contemporary. She has appeared as a soloist with PARTCH, Cantoris LA, wild Up, The Choir of Saint James, Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Santa Barbara Master Chorale and MicroFest, and is a founding member of Accordant Commons. Ms. Walther holds degrees from UC Santa Cruz and CalArts.

Kathryn Shuman

Kathryn Shuman is a versatile vocalist who specializes in classical and jazz styles. She has performed internationally in places including St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and various cathedrals, churches and festivals in Florence, Berlin, Wales, and Ireland. Kathryn is presently at CalArts pursuing an MFA in Voice Performance. She received her BFA at Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University of Long Beach in 2014. 

Program Notes

Stringsongs (2005)
by Meredith Monk (born 1942)

In Stringsongs, my first piece for string quartet, I explored using instruments to create unexpected textures and sounds in much the same way that I have worked with the voice over many years.  I was inspired by the profound musicianship and passionate commitment of the Kronos Quartet. During the rehearsal period, as I got to know the players, the music came to life in surprising ways, colored by the distinctive “voice“ of each musician.

—Meredith Monk


Nearly midway through Hamlet, Shakespeare's heavy and ghost-inhabited telling of adolescent inertia, Ophelia spouts out five separate song texts. She is herself midway between the sanity of hopeful romance and the insanity of confronting mortality unprepared, and these five songs bear the tradition of popular English ballads, sung all alone, with no accompaniment for support. As Ophelia faces a fatherless world, the melodies can be imagined to recall not the aristocratic tunes of her father's social circle, but folk songs her nurse sang to her as a child. Brahms, whose own situation in regards to a protective father was recorded as lacking, set these songs in a German translation for voice and piano for a production of Hamlet in Prague, and it is possible that they may have been sung unaccompanied. Here we present an arrangement for soprano and string quartet.


I.  How should I your true love know
How should I your true love know
From another one?
By his cockle hat and staff
And his sandal shoon.
He is dead and gone, lady
He is dead and gone 
At his head a grass-green turf
At his heels a stone 

White his shroud as the mountain snow
Larded all with sweet flowers,
Which bewept to the ground did not go
With true-love showers

II. Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day
Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day
All in the morning time,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donned his clothes,
And dupped the chamber door. 
Let in the maid that out a maid
Never departed more.

By Gis and by Saint Charity,
Alack, and fie, for shame!
Young men will do ’t, if they come to’t. 
By Cock, they are to blame.
Quoth she, “Before you tumbled me,
You promised me to wed.”
He answers,
“So would I ha' done, by yonder sun,
An thou hadst not come to my bed.”

III. They bore him barefaced on the bier 
They bore him barefaced on the bier, 
Hey, non nonny, nonny, hey, nonny, 
And in his grave rained many a tear. 

You must sing, a-down, a-down,
and you call him a-down-a

For bonny sweet Robin is all my joy 

V. And will he not come again? 
And wil he not come againe?
And wil he not come againe? 
No, no, he is dead,
Goe to thy death bed.
He never will come againe. 
His beard was as white as snow, 
All flaxen was his poll. 
He is gone, he is gone,
And we cast away moan, 
God a mercy on his soule. 


"A dead man in Spain is more dead there than anywhere else" said García Lorca, explaining that Spanish poets define rather than allude. Lúa Descolorida, a poem by Lorca's beloved Rosalía de Castro written in Gallego (the language of the Galicia region in Spain) defines despair in a way that is simultaneously tender and tragic. The musical setting is a constellation of clearly defined symbols that affirm contradictory things at the same time, becoming in the end a suspended question mark. The song is at once a slow motion ride in a cosmic horse, an homage to Couperin's melismas in his Lessons of Tenebrae, and velvet bells coming from three different churches. But the strongest inspiration for Lúa Descolorida was Dawn Upshaw's rainbow of a voice, and I wanted to give her music so quietly radiant that it would bring an echo of the single tear that Schubert brings without warning in his voicing of a C major chord. The original version of this song was commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition and premiered by Dawn Upshaw and Gilbert Kalish in April 1999.

—Osvaldo Golijov 

Lúa Descolorida (Moon, Colorless)
by Rosalía de Castro; English translation by Osvaldo Golijov

Lúa descolorida
como cor de ouro pálido,
vesme i eu non quixera
me vises de tan alto.
Ó espaso que recorres,
lévame, caladiña, nun teu raio.

Astro das almas orfas,
lúa descolorida,
eu ben sei que n'alumas
tristeza cal a miña.
Vai contalo ó teu dono,
e dille que me leve adonde habita.

Mais non lle contes nada,
descolorida lúa,
pois nin neste nin noutros
mundos teréis fertuna.
Se sabe onde a morte
ten a morada escura,
dille que corpo e alma xuntamente
me leve adonde non recorden nunca,
nin no mundo en que estóu nin nas alturas.

Moon, colorless
like the color of pale gold:
You see me here and I wouldn't like you
to see me from the heights above.
Take me, silently, in your ray
to the space of your journey.

Star of the orphan souls,
Moon, colorless:
I know that you don't illuminate
sadness as sad as mine.
Go and tell it to your master
and tell him to take me to his place.

But don't tell him anything,
Moon, colorless,
because my fate won't change
here or in other worlds.
If you know where Death
has her dark mansion,
Tell her to take my body and soul together
To a place where I won't be remembered,
Neither in this world, nor in the heights above.


Excuse My Dust is built upon a collection of quotes attributed to writer Dorothy Parker (in interviews, to friends, etc.). These quotes are all somewhat similar in emotional tone and were chosen to give an overall sense of feeling rather than to create a specific narrative. The phrase "Excuse My Dust," (which is inscribed on Parker's tombstone) functions as a refrain. The musical structure of the work is similar to the textual; the piece is made up of a series of short sections which are distinct from one another, yet still share similarities in terms of harmony, rhythm,  density, and emotion.

—Andrew Tholl