Alight is the newest CD by Lois Bliss Herbine
with composer/ pianist Amanda Harberg and composer Daniel Dorff
For a limited time you can listen to the track for free via the Soundcloud link below.
If you are a voting member of NARAS, I respectfully invite you to consider Amanda Harberg’s Prayer for a Grammy classical “best performance” nomination.
Released August, 2018
available on CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes.
and for listening on Spotify and Apple Music
Alight features the premiere recordings of Amanda Harberg’s Prayer for flute and piano, and Daniel Dorff's Tweet! for solo piccolo. It finishes with my signature encore, Massenet’s Meditation from Thais for piccolo and piano.
My video story behind the recording
THE RESTORATIVE POWER OF PRAYER
I recently experienced a phenomenon with my mom like nothing I’ve seen before. I had just finished creating the raw files for Alight, my recording project with the composer Amanda Harberg at the piano, and had them with me in my phone when I went to visit my mom in her memory care facility. She is 96 and has been at this level of care for four years as she is nearing the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. Although she is still mobile and can feed herself with physical cuing, she does not have the ability to communicate or understand even basic verbal cues.
We have been active in the Music and Memory project that I helped get accredited in her community, and I know that music opens up another level of cognizance and strengthens her ability to listen, understand and respond, but it is all within what is now becoming for me a more predictable range.
I shared the recording I made of Prayer (which incidentally was composed by Amanda for her loved one who was in the hospital) and it took much of the four minutes getting mom to understand that I wanted her to listen; she thought that I was trying to get her to see something. At the end she said, “that was nice!” so I knew she was listening.
I told her that she was the first person to hear my recording and she held her head up in pride and said “well”.
In the past year this might be the extent of having a good listening day, and I would be very happy.
As I jotted down on my phone what transpired, mom asks what I’m doing! I told her I’m writing the things down that she said and then she asks “what did I say?!”
I said that we were having this great conversation because we were just listening to my music. When I put Prayer back on I mimed me playing the flute and I knew she grasped that. I then pulled out some photos and showed her my girls and told her my daughter is marrying and showed her the photo of her fiancé. Mom lit up, and I knew she understood me. She said, "how old is he?" And made a nice reply about him that made sense.
So as we walked along the hall together I am thinking about what just happened and how my music got through to my mother and I begin to tear up. Mom said, “what’s wrong?”. That’s when I lost it, crying and laughing, at the same time, saying “nothing’s wrong, I’m just really happy.”
Booklet Notes on Alight
Program notes to Prayer – Amanda Harberg
My music is often an emotional reaction to personal experience. I composed Prayer shortly after finding out that a close family member was seriously ill. The piece is a prayer for hope and healing through the powerful language of music.
Prayer opens with the flutist rising gently out of simple arpeggios. The melody flows seamlessly from beginning to end, with one long rising and falling line, punctuated periodically by expressive responses in the piano. The work arcs twice, with imploring gestures in the high registers, and then gradually descends into a place of peace.
Program notes to Tweet! – Daniel Dorff
In early 2010, I wrote a new piccolo piece for Lois Bliss Herbine to premiere at that summer's International Piccolo Symposium where she was a resident artist.
The robins waking me up early every morning that May provided great inspiration, and one morning the opening theme and its contrasting theme poured out quickly. The form and development became a lot of fun to compose, with lots of elements of rondo, variations, and particularly using timbre contrasts as a way to make a full sonorous experience out of an unaccompanied piccolo work.
Notes on Alight – Lois Bliss Herbine
Kristyn Moore at Powell Flutes alighted on the idea for me to include premiere recordings and a single solo flute track in what was first conceived as an EP of three standard encore selections performed on the piccolo. In selecting the name for the project, I wanted to tie together Amanda’s Prayer, Daniel’s Tweet! and the encore that I have become known for over the years, performing Massenet’s Meditation from Thais on the piccolo. A greater challenge was my idea to tie the theme with past recording projects- my solo piccolo CD "Take Wing" (2004) which includes the premiere of Daniel Dorff’s Sonatine de Giverny, the chamber CD and title track recorded in my church “Illuminations” (2009), and my most recent New Age and World Music recordings for the United Nations peace initiative (2016 and 2017). I came up with White Dove, but after hearing the raw recordings, Kristyn alighted on our title.
Alight is a bird in motion that comes to rest or perch
It is feeling a strong emotion,
something afire or illuminated,
or to come upon accidentally.
With only a few days before my booklet was due for print, the backstory unfolded with ease. As a student of John Krell (the pre-eminent piccoloist of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1952-1981 and instructor at the Curtis Institute) I immediately thought of the teaching analogy of a bird alighting which was passed down to me.
Subito piano--like a bird flying 60 mph, landing on a wire, and not jarring it. – Attributed to William Kincaid, Woodwind Anthology, p. 685 (Courtesy of Kincaid student, Patricia George)
In music it means to turn-on-a-dime. There is a great moment in Daniel Dorff’s Tweet! central to this project where he lets go of a soaring and voluminous high D and the next entrance is low soft peck of a note marked “secretly tiptoeing”. It was the composer’s favorite moment at the NFA premiere in 2011. He said I sounded like an electric guitarist holding the reverb pedal while making the shift.
“Many times you wish to land on a note like a bird landing on a wire without shaking it.” – Marcel Tabuteau (as told to his conducting student, Marc Mostovoy)
This stalling technique was taught to me by John Krell (the author of Kincaidiana on the legacy of his teachers William Kincaid and Marcel Tabuteau). The trick (if one can call it that) is to fill up the space with sound on the proceeding forte with both volume and intensity (which is an extremely fast column of air which utilizes the overtone series and the interaction from produced resultant, difference and summation tones.) Pressurized air makes the sound more concentrated and travel a father distance than slow air.* A hall with great acoustics will accentuate the difference in an immediate drop off to slow or unpressurized air. Also needed is a great recording engineer who knows how to capture the relationship between the sound at close range coming from my instrument and the response of the hall, otherwise there will be no discernable difference to the listener in a recorded performance.
Dean of American oboists, John Mack’s most fond memory of his teacher Marcel Tabuteau as shared with Herbine– “Listening to him was like taking a trip to outer space and back. He would take off like a rocket, whisking off and spinning up, down and all around. He would see what was below and then alight like a feather in your hand…”
(continuing John Mack’s quote but not printed in the program notes) “His longtones left you shaking. There was electricity in the air all the time. It took the breath out of you.”
Coming down to the wire to have our project ready in time for the NFA 2018 convention, Drew Taurisano alighted on a technique to present the flute differently then the usual classical mix. Rather than drawing out the tone of the flute I encouraged him to experiment, focusing attention to the spirit of the sound emanating from the acoustic response of the church. While I realize that this makes for an unusual presentation, I encouraged this aural anomaly because it spoke to my heart. I believe it more closely represents the experience the performer receives in the live performance.
Besides for introducing a new variation in Tweet!, I use Kincaid and Tabuteau’s alighting “like a bird on a wire” intensity shift near the opening in Amanda’s Prayer and twice during the Meditation. You can try to locate these, or perhaps just sit back and enjoy the flight – Lois Bliss Herbine
*For a more in-depth explanation, see Krell’s Kincaidiana, A Flute Player’s Notebook, reference Part I Tone and Part II Legato Intervals
Amanda Harberg, Prayer for flute and piano - 4:42, Daniel Dorff, Tweet! for solo piccolo - 5:04, Jules Massenet, Meditation from Thais for piccolo and piano - 4:40
Lois Bliss Herbine: Flutist, Piccoloist
Amanda Harberg: Pianist
Drew Taurisano: Recordist, Mixing Engineer
Special thanks goes to Jim Salamone and his Cambridge Sound Studios, Abby Palmisano, Minister of Music and the Carmel Presbyterian Church and to V.Q. Powell Flutes and Buffet Crampon for their generous contributions that made this recording possible.