Monday, September 22, 2008

Literary music

We were fortunate to have singer-songwriter Anne Hills perform at our library yesterday. The Allmusic Guide says of Anne:

A stunning soprano tone has made Anne Hills one of contemporary folk music's premier vocalists. But her affinity for choosing unforgettable material and her knack for writing heartfelt original songs have brought her to the upper echelon of her craft.
Anne gave a terrific performance for an appreciative crowd -- and took the time to express her admiration of librarians' support for intellectual freedom. Her beautifully expressive voice brought tears to many eyes with her best-known song, "Follow That Road."

But the centerpiece of her concert was songs from her two latest CDs, both of them adaptations from Victorian literature. The earlier, Beauty Attends: The Heartsongs of Opal Whiteley (2006), excerpts the childhood diaries of gifted naturalist and educator Opal Whitely, first published in 1920. The University of Oregon describes this as "a world as a child of 6 and 7 sees it, alive with creatures, fairies, talking trees, and singing creeks." Anne's songs, with music by Michael Smith, bring this 19th century child's view of nature to life.

Her most recent effort is Ef You Don‘t Watch Out!: Anne Hills Sings the Poems of James Whitcomb Riley (2007), reviving the work of the beloved Hoosier poet. I admit to a great personal fondness for Riley's work. My grandfather, who had a university education and whose own father taught high school, spent his life as a family farmer. Riley's writings combine another Victorian perspective on nature and the importance of the family farm with his well-known humorous and cautionary poems for children, and Anne's songs bring both these worlds beautifully into the 21st century.

Anne was a joy to work with. This was her second visit to our library, following a 1981 appearance in the Voices of Winter trio -- but I hope not her last.

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