Liner Notes: Jorgensen CD
Michael Jorgensen, Baritone
Bonnie Jorgensen, Piano
Our Favorite Classical, Popular, and Sacred Music
In this CD we decided to celebrate the varying genres of music we have performed together over more than 35 years. From the concert hall to places of worship to meetings and events, we have enjoyed presenting a broad range of musical styles. We endeavor to share music of quality with broad appeal, and hope we have achieved that.
We hope you enjoy our music and our memories!
Michael and Bonnie Jorgensen
George Gershwin (1898-1937) moved easily between popular and classical styles, perhaps never more successfully than in his 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. Infused with blues and jazz, the controversial work has since entered the standard repertoire and is probably the most well-known opera by a composer from the United States. The aria “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin” appears early in Act 2 as Porgy reflects on how happy he is since he befriended Bess.
Aaron Copland (1900-1990) developed a distinctly American style of composition, compelling many to consider him “the dean of American composers." Old American Songs is divided into two sets composed in 1950 and 1952 respectively. Set I was first performed by Peter Pears (tenor) and Benjamin Britten (piano). Set II, represented on this CD, was first performed by William Warfield (baritone) and Aaron Copland (piano). Originally for voice and piano, the two sets have also been orchestrated.
Gershwin’s Three Preludes from 1926 again introduce jazz and blues into a classical form, this time preludes for the piano. The bold syncopation and engaging melodies here can be found in Gershwin’s popular songs, but the concise logic of form of these preludes also reveals a gifted classical composer.
Written in 1932-3, Don Quichotte à Dulcinée was the last completed composition of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Originally intended for a movie about Don Quixote starring the Russian bass Theodor Chaliapin, four songs by Jacque Ibert were selected for the picture instead. Each of Ravel’s three songs is based on a Spanish dance rhythm.
“The Impossible Dream,” the best-known song from the 1965 Broadway hit Man of La Mancha, was adapted from a 1959 teleplay by Joe Wasserman starring Lee J. Cobb. Rex Harrison was apparently originally intended to play the title role, but the vocal demands of the score prompted the casting of Richard Kiley, who subsequently won a Tony award for his portrayal of Don Quixote.
We enjoy combining two songs from different sources, especially when the union seems to enhance the individual pieces. The first of these “two-fers” features a song from Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 musical Follies, written in the style of a 1930’s torch song. We’ve coupled it with an actual song from the 1930’s, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” an unforgettable ballad from the forgotten 1938 musical Right This Way. The piece subsequently became a World War II favorite, served as the theme song for Liberace’s television show of the 1950’s, has been featured in many movies, and was sung by Queen Latifah in the ‘In Memoriam’ portion of the 2009 Academy Awards.
Obsessive love is the theme of our next song combination, featuring the standards “Night and Day” and “Come Rain or Come Shine.” The first piece, with words and music by Cole Porter, was first performed by Fred Astaire on stage in The Gay Divorce (1932) and on the silver screen in The Gay Divorcee (1934). The second piece, composed by the great Harold Arlen, initially achieved only modest success when it appeared in the 1946 show St. Louis Woman, but has since evolved into a jazz standard.
Our next “two-fer” contrasts younger and older love in two highly contrasting songs. “The Sweetheart Tree” comes from the 1965 movie The Great Race. Composer Henry Mancini, known for his film and television scores, also wrote the theme to The Pink Panther as well as the
Oscar-winning song “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Operetta composer Sigmund Romberg penned music for film as well, and “When I Grow Too Old to Dream” comes from the obscure 1935 movie The Night is Young. The evocative lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II inspired the inclusion of some poetry in our interpretation: a few lines from Robert Browning’s “Rabbi Ben Ezra” and Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 73.”
Hammerstein collaborated with composer Jerome Kern to create one of the most influential works for American musical theater, 1927’s Show Boat. One of the show’s highlights is the great American song, “Ol’ Man River.” Two of the most notable performances of this piece feature Paul Robeson, who sang it in the 1932 stage revival and the 1936 movie version, and William Warfield, who sang it in the 1951 film.
Felix Arndt was an American pianist and composer of popular music who is best remembered for his 1915 composition “Nola,” written as an engagement gift to his fiancée—and later wife—Nola Locke. Arndt influenced the young George Gershwin, who would visit Arndt in his studio on 42nd street in Manhattan. Arndt died during the 1918 flu pandemic.
The next two songs introduce words and music by Michael Jorgensen. The exact date of composition is long forgotten, but the second probably comes from the late 1980’s, since Bonnie and Michael at that time lived in Huntington, Indiana, the hometown of Dan Quayle, who is featured prominently in the song.
“Blackbird” was composed by Paul McCartney (though officially also credited to John Lennon) as an apparent reaction to the 1960’s Civil Rights movement and included on the album The Beatles (also known as The White Album). McCartney has claimed that the guitar part was inspired by Bach’s Bourrée in E minor. Playing guitar on this recording is Michael and Bonnie’s son, David.
We close our CD with some of our favorite sacred pieces, starting with “Great is Thy Faithfulness” in a stirring arrangement by Ovid Young. Horatio Spafford penned the text to “It is Well with My Soul” after he lost all four of his daughters in the 1873 sinking of S. S. Ville du Havre while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. We share this hymn regularly when we perform at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. In addition to being a great hymn, “Amazing Grace” is special for us because it brings the three of us together in an arrangement inspired by one of our favorite bands, New Odyssey.
If you told me the eternal turning
Of the world offended you
I would send Panza:
You would see it motionless and silent.
If you told me you were bored by
The number of stars in the sky
I would tear the heavens apart;
Erase the night in one swipe.
If you told me that the now
Empty space doesn't please you
Like Chevalierdieu, with a lance at hand,
I would fill the passing wind with stars.
But, my Lady, if you told me
That my blood is more mine than yours
That reprimand would turn me pale
And, blessing you, I would die.
Dear Saint Michael, who gives me the chance
To see my Lady and to hear her.
Dear Saint Michael, who gracefully chooses me
To please and defend her.
Dear Saint Michael, will you descend
With Saint George to the altar
Of the Virgin in the blue mantle.
With a beam from heaven, bless my sword
And his equal in purity
And his equal in piety
As in modesty and chastity:
O Great Saint George and Saint Michael,
The angel who guards my watch
My sweet Lady, so much like you
Virgin in the blue mantle.
Chanson à boire
Fig for the bastard, illustrious Lady
Who, for losing me in your sweet eyes,
Tells me that love and old wine
Put my heart and soul in mourning.
I drink to pleasure!
Pleasure is the only goal,
To which I go straight...
When I'm drunk !
Fig for the jealous, dark-haired mistress
Who moans, who cries and swears,
Always being the pallid lover,
Watering down his intoxication
I drink to pleasure! ...
I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin from Porgy and Bess
Music: George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Words: Ira Gershwin (1896-1983) and DuBose Heyward (1885-1940)
Old American Songs, Set II
Music: Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Words: 1, 3, and 5, anonymous; 2 credited to John G. McCurry (1821-1886), 4 by Rev. Robert Lowry (1826-1899)
Three Preludes for Piano
Music: George Gershwin
Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
Music: Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Words: Paul Morand (1888-1976)
The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha
Music: Mitch Leigh (1928-2014)
Words: Joe Darion (1917-2001)
Losing My Mind from Follies
Music and words: Stephen Sondheim (b. 1930)
I’ll Be Seeing You from Right This Way
Music: Sammy Fain (1902-1989)
Words: Irving Kahal (1903-1942)
Night and Day from The Gay Divorce
Music and words: Cole Porter (1891-1964)
Come Rain or Come Shine from St. Louis Woman
Music: Harold Arlen (1905-1986)
Words: Johnny Mercer (1909-1976)
The Sweetheart Tree from The Great Race
Music: Henry Mancini (1924-1994)
Words: Johnny Mercer
When I Grow Too Old to Dream from The Night is Young
Music: Sigmund Romberg (1887-1951)
Words: Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960)
Ol’ Man River from Show Boat
Music: Jerome Kern (1885-1945)
Words: Oscar Hammerstein II
Music: Felix Arndt (1889-1918)
The People in My Memory
Music and words: Michael Jorgensen (b. 1954)
You Should Have Married a Doctor
Music and words: Michael Jorgensen
Music and words: John Lennon (1940-1980) and Paul McCartney (b. 1942)
Great is Thy Faithfulness
Music: William Runyon (1870-1957)
Words: Thomas O. Chisholm (1866-1960)
It is Well with My Soul
Music: Philip P. Bliss (1838-1876)
Words: Horatio Spafford (1828-1888)
Music: from William Walker’s Southern Harmony (1835)
Words: John Newton (1725-1807)
Michael Jorgensen, baritone, is a Professor of Music at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, where he has taught voice and other music-related courses since 1991.
Bonnie Jorgensen, piano, is a professional accompanist at Minnesota State University in Mankato and Gustavus Adolphus College.
David Jorgensen, guitar and trumpet, (new bio)
Dr. David Klee, CD recording, mixing, and mastering, serves as the Director of Jazz Studies/Music Production and Technology at Buena Vista University.
Cover photograph by Bonnie Jorgensen.
This CD was recorded in July and August, 2009 in Anderson Theatre on the campus of Buena Vista University, Storm Lake; Cherokee Recording Studio in Cherokee, Iowa; and in Björling Recital Hall on the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota.