Reviews

Here are a few things that have been said about the music of Kim D. Sherman:

HEARTLAND – “Heartland… dares to create realistic characters and gives them some great songs to sing – things you can’t say about enough Broadway shows these days.”

Lawson Taitte, Dallas Morning News

LEAVING QUEENS – “Sherman’s score provides a lovely mix of piano and strings with Gaelic fiddle…Ryan finds ways of neatly juxtaposing first-generation toil and sacrifice with second-generation progress in pursuing the American dream.”

Charles McNulty, Village Voice

BECOMING MEMORIES – “Every mood shift is carefully orchestrated with Kim Sherman’s music…”

The Pittsburgh Press

I HATE HAMLET – “…to recall the screwy comic style of Barrymore’s Hollywood and Broadway days the director has added to that nostalgic mood with hokey old-time background music by Kim Sherman.”

Frank Rich, New York Times

GRAVESIDE – “Most striking of all is Kim D. Sherman’s Bosnia-inspired Graveside, with its Eastern European folk influences and use of drone effects from sacred music.”

Stereo Review

A WINTER SOLSTICE RITUAL – “The piece conjures up tonal visions of the world as it awaited the coming of the Messiah. The score is chillingly evocative and sumptuously scored for chorus, and it was performed to great enthusiasm.”

Michael Caruso, Chestnut Hill Local

THE SONGBIRD AND THE EAGLE

‘Songbird’ oratorio filled with power

By Richard Scheinin

Mercury News

Posted on Wed, Dec. 13, 2006

Did you hear the one about the soap actor — the guy who used to be on “General Hospital” and “Another World” — who’s starring in a Buddhist oratorio about an eagle and a songbird that save the world?

Sounds like a joke, right?

It’s not. The actor is Jordan Charney and the oratorio (sort of) is “The Songbird and the Eagle,” which turns out to be a charming and beautifully scored new work by composer Kim D. Sherman and librettist Rick Davis. It had its world premiere performances over the weekend, courtesy of the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and the Choral Project, and I wish I could see it again.

“Songbird” is a success because it doesn’t overreach. It has a simple set of messages: Follow your heart; do what’s right; stay the course. The music glows; it’s deft sound painting, satisfied to tell a story. Sunday’s performance at St. Benedict’s Church in Hollister was both heartfelt and expert — and, in case you were wondering, free of political correctness.

Commissioned by the San Jose Chamber Orchestra, “Songbird,” which featured a lustrous performance by soprano Allison Charney (daughter of the soap actor) as the Eagle, doesn’t quite fit into a category.

It stands between opera and musical theater. With its vocal solos, chorus and orchestral accompaniment, it has the feel of an oratorio. And, like an oratorio, it hasn’t any sets or staging. But when was the last time you heard an oratorio based on a Buddhist fable? It’s a long way from “The Messiah.”

Even so, it made an ideal centerpiece for the third annual “Winter’s Gifts” collaboration between the chamber orchestra and the excellent 45-member chorus, based in San Jose.

“The Songbird and the Eagle” tells the tale of the young, innocent Songbird (sung by Katrina Swift, a 13-year-old soprano) who tries to save the world from storm and fire. The arrogant Eagle dismisses the effort as impossible, but, ultimately, spurns the other eagles in its aerie to join the Songbird — and puts out the fire with its tears.

The fable is effectively narrated by Jordan Charney, whose words cut in and out of the musical storytelling. The chorus comments on the tale with “oohs” and “ahs” and by imitating natural sounds — crackling flames, cries of terrified forest creatures.

Swift, as the Songbird, is pure-voiced and earnest; perfect. Allison Charney sings as a dramatic soprano should, red-blooded in her transformation from high-flying overlord to world savior.

Story and music are underscored by judicious piano figurations (Michael Touchi was the keyboardist), punctuated by steady birdcalls of silvery flute (beautifully played by Isabelle Chapuis) and intensified through applications of timpani and bells (Galen Lemmon).

Concertmaster Cynthia Baehr performed lyrically in long-lined cameos. But all this only hints at the overall sound of Sherman’s musical language, which draws upon the golden-landscape imagery of Copland and the pure-hearted melody of musical theater (think “The Fantasticks” as well as Sherman’s own “O Pioneers!” and “Heartland”).

With its craggy, leap-about lines for the Eagle, it also pays homage to contemporary American opera; interpreted by Allison Charney, those lines are never far from song.

Occasionally fed by jazz (and I think I even heard a hit of Beach Boys), the music is stocked with harmonies that embody the story’s emotional life. Let’s hope Sherman and Davis will find new venues and audiences, of all ages, for their work.

Contact Richard Scheinin at rscheinin@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5069.