Hearts on Sleeves – Jessica Bloch

    Sunday, December 13 at 5 pm (Eastern)

    Hearts on Sleeves

    Jessica Bloch, soprano, with Chris Fecteau, piano
    Songs of Robert Owens, Poldowski, Undine Smith Moore, Juliana Hall, Cecil Cohen and Barbara Strozzi 

    PROGRAM NOTES by Jessica Bloch

    The theme of my recital, “Hearts on Sleeves,” touches on our human vulnerability as we experience life, death, nature, and love.

    ‘La Commedia, the first set of songs, is named for the commedia dell’arte characters which connect “Colombine” by Poldowski, and two songs from Robert Owens’ song cycle Heart on the Wall: “Heart”, and “For dead mimes.”  Together, these pieces create the story of Pierrot, who is considered a simple character and a servant.  Pierrot’s journey begins serving the Colombine (another tricky servant character) with his fellow characters: Leander, Cassander, and Harlequin.  Pierrot then offers his heart to the world, only for the world to ignore him.  Like so many great artists of their time, they are only appreciated when they are gone.  Pierrot rests with his beloved Pierrette.

    ‘Ghosts,’ our second set, includes three vignettes of lost souls, completing Owens’ Heart on the Wall cycle. “Havana Dreams” shows a person torn between the paths in life which lay before them. They wonder if the fulfillment they seek could be in a life partner, but ultimately are undecided as to what their path should be. “Girl” is the story of a woman who has passed on; however her love of life is still remembered. I dedicate this piece to Henrietta Lacks, a woman who has saved thousands of lives even after her tragic death of an aggressive cervical cancer.  Since her death, cancerous cells donated from her body have contributed to countless medical advances. Just as Henrietta Lacks is said to have enjoyed dancing, the ghost of the girl in Owens’ song also still enjoys dancing in the rain.  “Remembrance” tells two sides of the same coin: fear of failure, but also fear of success.  The subject of the song spent their whole life in such a paradox and now holds onto the regret of not doing more in life.

    ‘Nature,’ our third group of songs, combines Julianna Hall’s “A Northeast Storm” and Cecil Cohen’s “Death of an Old Seaman”. These contrasting pieces explore the human connection to nature and its wonders. “A Northeast Storm” sets the text of a letter by Emily Dickinson, written to her brother Austin, and recounting their family’s gathering during a particular stormy night. “Death of an Old Seaman” describes sending a loved one back to the sea and thus back to nature on the completion of their life. Storms and seas hold so much power; we can all relate to the effects that nature has on us as people in both life and death.

    ‘Two-faced Love,’ the fourth and final set, shows both a comical take on love’s pains in Barbara Strozzi’s “Amore è bandito” and the overwhelming warmth and fullness that love brings us in Undine S. Moore’s “Love Let the Wind Cry… How I Adore Thee”.  These final pieces remind us that even after the difficult moments that leave us scarred, nothing can match the beauty of loving and being loved.  I hope that this last set leaves everyone with a sense of hope and security in this time of vulnerability.



    Léandre le sot,
    Pierrot qui d’un saut
    De puce
    Franchit le buisson,
    Cassandre sous

    Arlequin aussi,
    Cet aigrefin si
    Aux costumes fous,
    Ses yeux luisants sous
    Son masque,

    – Do, mi, sol, mi, fa,-
    Tout ce monde va,
    Rit, chante
    Et danse devant
    Une belle enfant

    Dont les yeux pervers
    Comme les yeux verts
    Des chattes
    Gardent ses appas
    Et disent: «A bas
    Les pattes!»

    -Eux ils vont toujours!
    Fatidique cours
    Des astres,
    Oh! dis-moi vers quels
    Mornes ou cruels

    L’implacable enfant,
    Preste et relevant
    Ses jupes,
    La rose au chapeau,
    Conduit son troupeau
    De dupes?


    Leander the fool
    Pierrot, who with a hop
    Like a flea
    Jumps over the shrubbery;
    Cassander under his

    Harlequin also,
    This cunning trickster so
    In his crazy costume,
    His eyes gleaming behind
    His mask

    – Do, mi, so, mi, fa –
    All these people go
    Laughing, singing
    And dancing before
    A lovely child

    Whose wicked eyes
    Like the green eyes
    Of cats
    Guard their charms
    And say “keep your
    hands off!”

    Forever they go on!
    Like the fateful course
    Of the stars
    Oh! Tell me toward what
    Shadowy or cruel

    The determined child,
    Nimble and lifting
    Her skirts,
    A rose in her hat
    Leads her band
    Of fools?


    Took his heart
    And hung it
    On a wayside wall.
    He said,
    “Look, Passers-by,
    Here is my heart!”

    But no one was curious.
    No one cared at all
    That there hung
    Pierrot’s heart
    On the public wall.

    So Pierrot
    Took his heart
    And hid it
    Far away.
    Now people wonder
    Where his heart is

    For Dead Mimes

    O white-faced mimes,
    May rose leaves
    Cover you
    Like crimson

    And may Pierrette,
    The faithful,
    Rest forever

    Havana Dreams

    The dream is a cocktail at Sloppy Joe’s —
    (Maybe — nobody knows.)

    The dream is the road to Batabano.
    (But nobody knows if that is so.)

    Perhaps the dream is only her face —
    Perhaps it’s a fan of silver lace —
    Or maybe the dream’s a Vedado rose —
    (Quien sabe? Who really knows?)


    She lived in sinful happiness
    And died in pain.
    She danced in sunshine
    And laughed in rain.

    She went one summer morning
    When flowers spread the plain,
    But she told everybody
    She was coming back again.

    Folks made a coffin
    And hid her deep in earth.
    Seems like she said:
    My body
    Brings new birth.

    For sure there grew flowers
    And tall young trees
    And sturdy weeds and grasses
    To sway in the breeze.

    And sure she lived
    In growing things
    With no pain
    To laugh in sunshine
    And dance in rain.


    To wander through this living world
    And leave uncut the roses
    Is to remember fragrance where
    The flower no scent encloses.

    A Northeast Storm

    It might not come amiss, dear Austin, to have a tiding or two
    Concerning our state and feelings. Our state is pretty comfortable
    And our feelings are somewhat solemn. We are rather a crestfallen
    Company, what with the sighing wind, the sobbing rain, and
    The whining of Nature

    We are enjoying this evening what is called a ‘northeast
    Storm’ – a little north of east in case you are pretty
    Definite. Father thinks it’s ‘amazin’ raw,’ and I’m half disposed
    To think that he’s in the right about it, though I keep pretty
    Dark and don’t say much about it!

    Vinnie is at the instrument, humming a pensive air concerning
    A young lady who thought she was ‘almost there.’ Vinnie seems
    Much grieved, and I really suppose I ought to betake myself to
    Weeping; I’m pretty sure that I shall if she don’t abate her

    Death of an Old Seaman

    We buried him high on a windy hill,
    But his soul went out to sea.
    I know, for I heard, when all was still,
    His sea-soul say to me:

    Put no tombstone at my head,
    For here I do not make my bed.
    Strew no flowers on my grave,
    I’ve gone back to the wind and wave.
    Do not, do not weep for me,
    For I am happy with the sea.

    Amore è bandito

    Amore è bandito,
    amanti su, su.
    È fatto un editto
    ch’Amor non sia più.

    Forniti gl’amori
    l’inganno e la frode,
    ah, ah, più non s’ode
    tormenti e rancori:
    il caso è spedito.

    Amore è bandito…

    Chimere al cervello,
    al cuor gelosie,
    ah, ah, passioni, pazzie
    son gite al bordello:
    il caso è spedito.

    Amore è bandito…

    Speranza e desio,
    querele, sospiri,
    singhiozzi, martiri
    sen vanno all’obblio:
    il caso è spedito.

    Amore è bandito…

    Ognun si conforte,
    rallegresi il core
    ch’il bando d’Amore
    bandit’ ha la morte:
    il caso è spedito.

    Amore è bandito,
    amanti su, su.
    È fatto un editto
    ch’Amor non sia più.

    Love is banished

    Love is banished –
    Up, lovers up!
    An edict has been decreed
    That love is no more.

    Deception and fraud
    Are over and done for the lovers.
    Ah, ah, torments and grudges
    no longer to be heard:
    The case is decided.

    Love is banished…

    Foolish hopes in the head,
    jealousy in the heart,
    passion, madness
    are thrown in the trash:
    The case is decided.

    Love is banished…

    Hope and desire,
    complaints, sighs
    sobs, suffering,
    all gone to hell:
    The case is decided.

    Love is banished…

    Everyone take comfort,
    cheer your heart
    for Cupid’s banishment
    has banished death:
    The case is decided.

    Love is banished.
    Up, lovers up.
    An edict has been decreed
    That love is no more.

    Love Let the Wind Cry… How I Adore Thee

    Love let the wind cry
    On the dark mountain,
    Bending the ash trees
    And the tall hemlocks
    With the great voice of
    Thunderous legions,
    How I adore thee.
    Let the horse torrent
    In the blue canyon,
    Murmuring mightily
    Out of the gray mist
    Of primal chaos
    Cease not proclaiming
    How I adore thee.

    Let the long rhythm
    Of crunching rollers,
    Breaking and bursting
    On the white seaboard
    Titan and tireless,
    Tell, while the world stands,
    How I adore thee.

    Love, let the clear call
    Of the tree cricket,
    Frailest of creatures,
    Green as the young grass,
    Mark with his trilling
    Resonant bell-note,
    How I adore thee.

    But, more than all sounds,
    Surer, serener,
    Fuller of passion
    And exultation,
    Let the hushed whisper

    In thine own heart say,
    How I adore thee.