Woodland Notes

Woodland Notes

By C.H. “Pop” Blanchard

I. Wild Geese
Fly! Wild Geese, ‐‐ fly!
Honking harbingers of Spring.
In V formation, fly!
An omen of new days, you bring remembrances of other Springs,
Refreshing faith in Nature’s things.
Throughout March winds, and fog, and storms,
Coruscant sun, cloud‐cluster storms
I spy you in the March gray sky –
The break of Spring is drawing nigh.
Fly! Big gray geese, fly!
Husky harbingers of Spring,
In VICTORY V, fly high!

II. A Ring on the Moon
There’s a ring on the moon.
A grey, faded ring,
And the winds of the night are warm.
There are clouds to the south,
A dark, billowed bank,
And the sunset warned of a storm.
There’s a lull in the breeze,
Ominous, still:
Then a weird and distant purr.
It sweeps though the pines,
With a breath that is cool,
And the tall tops begin to stir.
There’s a ring on the moon,
A grey, faded ring,
And the signs of the season spell rain ‐‐
And I listen and wait,
A bit lonesome, too,
For the rain on my roof once again.

III. Nature-wise
I cannot see the scented winds that blow
From all the wooded hills, and yet I feel
Their soft caresses. Instinctively, I know
The scenes of beauty where they stoop to steal
The fragrance brought to me.

IV. The Cabin Fireside
I’ve worked to build
A cabin in the pines –
A slid cabin
Of norways and of stone,
Substantial as the trees,
Comfortable and cozy.
Therein the wealth
Of friendship
Beside the evening fire,
As pine and oak
Blend their perfumes
Upon the andirons.
It is a place
To live the simple life,
Partake of dreams
And share the good
That comes from God
Through friends beside,
The cabin fireside.

Some notes from Vartan Aghababian, the composer of Woodland Notes about . . .

. . . my relation with the state of Michigan . . .

It was with great pleasure and honor that I received the commission
from Emily Marvosh and the Michigan Recital Project to compose vocal chamber
music for her and her colleagues.  Not only was this a commission from
a respected peer but it came with a mutual, special affinity for and
strong loyalty to our home state of Michigan.  I myself left Michigan
after my undergraduate education at the University of Michigan in Ann
Arbor, moved to Boston, to Los Angeles and two years later moved back
to Boston, hoping not to depart again.  I have lived in Boston close
to twenty-five years since moving there, a length of time equal to the
years I lived growing up in Michigan, and while New England is where I
choose to live and work, Michigan is still my home.  I visit family
every year for Christmas and Thanksgiving, for family events and while
on vacation.  I have been every summer of my life to the to the sunny
and sandy shores of Lake Michigan, staying in the historic village of
Elk Rapids (in the greater Traverse City area), to where much of my
mother’s family retired from life in Detroit and raised families.  I
have an inextinguishable love for Northern Michigan, for its beauty
and history and culture.

. . . the poetry of C.H. “Pop” Blanchard

Once I received the commission, I started my text search and was
surprisingly, immediately rewarded.  While assisting my mother in
cleaning out boxes of books in the basement of my parents’ home that
had come from the home of my father’s parents years back, I came
across a 48-page, 6×4 autographed paperback publication of “Woodland
Notes:  Nature Poems,” a collection of poetry by naturalist and
ornithologist, C.H. Blanchard, printed in 1945 in Detroit by the
Detroit Audubon Club.  The signature inside the book was in blue
fountain pen, just under the printed name of C.H. Blanchard and read ‘
“Pop” Blanchard’.  Before reading anything past the forward (written
by Tom Hadley, President of the Detroit Audubon Club from 1943-1945),
I knew instantly that I had stumbled across the source of my texts for
this commission.

The poems from Woodland Notes are all well-structured (the majority
of them are metered and rhymed), romanticized nature poems, steeped in
the eloquent imagery and lush description of a true nature-lover.  In
the 48 page collection, there are poems about hunting and fishing,
about birds and trees, about forests and streams, about the four
seasons, and they are all from the perspective of one man who clearly
loved and appreciated being connected to these and all aspects of the
natural world, a natural world that is able to be accessed at every
turn in my amazing home state of Michigan.

But these works are a clearly more than just from the pen of a
novice poet or casual naturalist; aside from the quality of the poetry
itself, there is evidence in many of the poems of carefully studied
and considered observations about birds and nature, with many
religious references that clearly connected the beauty and goodness of
nature to the beauty and goodness of God.

. . . about the music of Woodland Notes . . .

In creating the musical setting for these poems, I chose to remain
true to the sincerity, simplicity and honesty of the poet’s voice and
intent by using clear harmonies, discernable rhythms and meters.  The
ensemble of two female voices and two stringed instruments naturally
(pardon the pun) provides an intimate presentation for the poetry.  I
decided to use the second female voice (when the two are present in
the texture of the music) as a third instrument, participating in and
adding to the accompaniment of the singer whose vocal part declares
the text. This somewhat unorthodox treatment of the role of the
second singer where present is my “tipping of my hat” to the modernist
technique of redefining the role of any instrument in an ensemble.

It was my original intention to create a final song for the ensemble
as an actual duet for the soprano and alto to sing together.  This
intention has not been abandoned but only protractedly postponed.

In conclusion, I wish to thank the musicians of the Michigan Project
for their dedication to the creation and presentation of music
inspired by the beauty and bounty of Michigan.  It is my hope that
they and their audiences enjoy the music created to represent that
beauty and bounty.

Composer Vartan Aghababian (b. 1964, Detroit, Michigan) began piano studies at
the age of eight and soon after started composing. His grammar school years of music
study were infused with Orff Schulwerke and Dalcroze Eurhythmics; in the years that
followed, his private studies were augmented to include the recorder, the oboe and
English Horn, voice and dance. His experience includes performances in choirs,
orchestras, wind ensembles as well as many solo and chamber performances. He
studied with William Bolcom and Leslie Bassett during his undergraduate years (BM,
1987) at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI) and afterwards with James Hartway
at Wayne State University (Detroit, MI). After receiving a diploma in film scoring
(1992) from the Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA), he moved to Los Angeles
pursue a career as a film music editor with Warner Brothers Studios (Burbank, CA).
Following the two years in southern California, he returned to Boston to work as a
freelance composer, scoring short documentary films and composing on commission.
He completed his master’s degree in composition (MM, 2002) at the Longy School of
Music (Cambridge, MA) studying with Eric Sawyer. He completed his doctoral studies
in composition at Boston University (DMA, 2008) studying with Samuel Headrick. His
music has been performed across the United States, in Asia and Europe.
Currently, Dr. Aghababian is a member of the music theory and composition
faculties at Boston University (Boston, MA), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(Cambridge, MA), the South Shore Conservatory (Hingham, MA) and at the Winchester
Community Music School (Winchester, MA); he directs a chamber orchestra at the
Winchester Community Music School. He is a three year former member of the faculty
at the Boston University Academy (Boston, MA) and a twelve year former faculty
member at the Longy School of Music (Cambridge, MA). He was the Composer in
Residence for the vocal ensemble Recuerdo (Cambridge, MA) for seven years. He
teaches privately, lectures publicly and continues to compose on commission.

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