Shards of Spun Glass – Addie Rose Forstman, soprano

    Sunday, November 1st, 5pm (EST)

    Shards of Spun Glass

    Addie Rose Forstman, soprano, with Edward Forstman, piano
    Songs of Nailah Nombeko, Nico Muhly, and Maria Thompson Corley

    PROGRAM NOTES by Addie Rose Forstman

    We begin with the end: both the theme and title of this evening’s concert are drawn from the final song on the program, “Big Yellow Taxi”, by Maria Thompson Corley. Here is an excerpt of its text that serves as the inspiration and “glue” for the arc of my program.

    “Big Yellow Taxi”

    My heart paused as Notre Dame burned,
    mourning its grandeur,
    crumbling like shards of spun glass,

    Democracy had no assumed expiration
    Lit by careless matches,
    ancient timbers and lofty towers fall to ash
    behind a facade of stone.

    As Joni Mitchell said in her song of the same title: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone…” a sentiment that profoundly echoes across centuries, and which is twined into William Blake’s poetry, as well

    from Short songs to the poetry of William Blake
    Nailah Nombeko (2011)
    – My Pretty Rose Tree
    – The Sick Rose
    – The Divine Image

    from Short songs to the poetry of William Blake, composed in 2011 by New York native, Nailah Nombeko, a member of The New York Women Composers, Vox Novus and the African American Art Song Alliance. The selections from Nombeko’s Blake songs serve to introduce the themes that the other two works explore in different ways: oppression, loss, and disillusioned idealism.

    The Adulteress 
    Nico Muhly (2009)
    text from Psalms 63 and 56 and from The Gospel according to St. John.

    In The Divine Image and in Muhly’s The Adulteress lies an injunction to each of us to do better, to recognize the goodness of others, as well as one’s own shortcomings and responsibility to set judgment of others aside, and walk with honest love. This work of Muhly’s serves as the ‘sermon’ of this program.  It is a long piece, in the vein of a contemporary cantata, containing a number of voices and perspectives drawn from the Psalms and the Gospel of John. The Adulteress composed in 2009 by Nico Muhly, with text from Psalms 63 and 56 and from The Gospel according to St. John.  Muhly is a New York City based American composer, perhaps best known for his operas Two Boys and Marnie, commissioned by the English National Opera and the Metropolitan Opera.

    Our concert concludes with the song by Maria Corley that inspired both our program’s title and its themes — in which shards of glass from the broken windows of Notre Dame’s burning frame shatter, symbolic of ephemeral beauty, and broken faith in systems and institutions of the modern world.

    Big Yellow Taxi
    Maria Thompson Corley (music and text, 2020)

    Composed in 2020 by Maria Thompson Corley, this text was written by the composer during the April 15, 2019 fire at Notre Dame de Paris.  Jamaican-born, and Canadian-raised, Maria Corley is a pianist, composer, writer, and voice actor based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

    There is so much at stake each day of our lives — so much we don’t want to lose, whether we realize it or not.  These songs are a call to strive to appreciate, protect, and profoundly care for our fellow-humans, and for the land we should never take for granted, lest it be used beyond repair. We encourage you to vote with your conscience, and to continue to support artistic organizations like dell’Arte that are striving to create and produce opera with greater equity and a better representation of artists and communities in this country. 

    Thank you for joining me on this musical journey

    Addie Rose Forstman



    My Pretty Rose Tree

    A flower was offered to me,
    Such a flower as May never bore;
    But I said, ‘I’ve a pretty rose tree,’
    And I passed the sweet flower o’er.

    Then I went to my pretty rose tree,
    To tend her by day and by night;
    But my rose turned away with jealousy,
    And her thorns were my only delight.

    The Sick Rose

    O Rose thou art sick.
    The invisible worm,
    That flies in the night
    In the howling storm: 

    Has found out thy bed
    Of crimson joy:
    And his dark secret love
    Does thy life destroy.

    The Divine Image

    To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
    All pray in their distress;
    And to these virtues of delight
    Return their thankfulness.

    For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
    Is God, our father dear,
    And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
    Is Man, his child and care. 

    For Mercy has a human heart,
    Pity a human face,
    And Love, the human form divine,
    And Peace, the human dress. 

    Then every man, of every clime,
    That prays in his distress,
    Prays to the human form divine,
    Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace. 

    And all must love the human form,
    In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
    Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
    There God is dwelling too. 

    The Adulteress

    O God, you are my God, I seek you,
         my soul thirsts for you;
    My flesh faints for you,
         as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
    So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
         beholding your power and glory.
    Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
    So I will bless you as long as I live;
    I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
                                                                 — from Psalm 63

    Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.

    When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.

    When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’ Again Jesus spoke to them saying ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’
                                                                   — from the Gospel of John

    Be gracious to me, O God, for people trample on me;
         all day long foes oppress me;
    my enemies trample on me all day long,
         for many fight against me.
    They stir up strife, they lurk,
         they watch my steps.

    Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
         for in you my soul takes refuge,
    in the shadow of your wings i will take refuge,
         until the destroying storms pass by.

    For you have delivered my soul from death,
         and my feet from falling,
    so that I may walk before God
         in the light of life.
                                                                      — from Psalm 56

    “Big Yellow Taxi”

    My heart paused as Notre Dame burned,
    mourning its grandeur,
    crumbling like shards of spun glass,
    forgetting the toppled spires pointed towards a God
    France had long ago dismissed.
    Parisians and tourists stood
    in solemn worship of stone and ancient wood.
    My cathedral burns like candle wax,
    each new ache and wrinkle
    an inevitable shortening on the wick,
    while my fragrance wafts, then dissipates.
    Democracy had no assumed expiration
    Lit by careless matches,
    ancient timbers and lofty towers fall to ash
    behind a facade of stone.