Art songs occupies a unique place in classical music. The combination of poetry and music, singer and pianist working together to enhance a poet’s text is considered by many to be the pinnacle of musical endeavours.
There are thousands of art songs in the musical canon, with much of this owed to 19th century German composers who had a fondness for writing evocative piano accompaniments to the poems of friends. This intimate familiarity with person and art became central to this concept, and as music has evolved, art songs have emerged in all genres from classical to jazz to pop.
Now entering its second season, The Linden Project was founded when singers Julie and Jeremy Ludwig presented recitals in Hamilton. Audience response was overwhelmingly positive; however, questions lingered about the style of music being performed. Seizing upon the opportunity, the two created The Linden Project to, in Julie Ludwig’s words “build genuine connections between the singer, pianist and audience.”
Concerts are held in small, intimate venues to encourage these connections. Additionally, The Linden Project insists on maintaining a casual atmosphere and adds personal stories and anecdotes to each piece. The overall result is that the music feels relatable and the overall experience is comfortable, while still special.
As many of the songs performed are in a language other than English, program notes include full translations and are available online ahead of each concert. However, Ludwig recognizes that reading lengthy text may detract from the overall experience. “We aren’t used to reading poetry in our spare time the way it was done so many years ago,” she stated. “And there’s nothing wrong with that.” As an alternative, or for those who may simply prefer a different type of engagement in the performance, projections are utilized alongside songs for condensed, to-the-point translations or to display relevant imagery as appropriate.
To date, concert themes have run the gamut of art song topics including a song sampler and a concert about the seasons, complete with outdoor garden party. Concerts are always held in diverse locations that underscore the theme of the evening. The goal, states Ludwig is to “present music in places where people may not expect an art song and challenge what’s always been done before.”
The Linden Project’s next concert, The Last Lousy Moments of Love, is styled as a cabaret, so it is appropriate that the concert will take place in the cabaret space of The Staircase Café Theatre. Featuring the talents of singers Alexandra Beley and Julie Ludwig and pianist Krista Rhodes, the concert promises to take audience members through the stages of love and relationships, from a first meeting and courtship through to breakups and loneliness. As French is often called the ‘language of love,’ it’s no surprise that many of the pieces to be performed include French composers; however, Ludwig is quick to point out the many English-language musical stops, including music by classical composer Benjamin Britten, showtunes by Stephen Sondheim and Cy Coleman, and contemporary music by Kurt Vile and others.
“Everyone can relate to either wanting to be in a relationship, being in a relationship, or being at the end of relationship,” Ludwig commented on the theme. “And so many composers and songwriters have written music on the topic that there are a multitude of musical styles to perform about it.”
Who: The Linden Project
What: The Last Lousy Moments of Love
Where: Staircase Theatre Cabaret Space (27 Dundurn Street North)
When: November 23 at 8pm
Tickets: $25 in Advance; $15 for Students (21 and under). Prices will increase at the door.
More Information or To Buy Tickets: https://lindenproject.ticketleap.com/the-last-lousy-moments-of-love/
Feature photo of The Linden Project at their June 2019 concert “The Seasons” by Katy Togeretz