FORCE OF NATURE
Emily Albrink, soprano
Kathleen Kelly, piano
© ℗ 2023 Lexicon Classics
Executive Producers: Gillian Riesen and Emily Albrink
Producer: Steve Barnett
Recording/Mixing/Mastering Engineer: Preston Smith
Artistic Advisor: Edith Davis Tidwell
Artwork: Madeleine West & Emitha LLC
Recorded on May 27-30, 2022 at Comstock Hall, University of Louisville
Weave me a Name
Rene Orth | Jeanne Minahan
1. Beginnings (1:47)
2. One Of Nine Children, Your (Wild) Grandmother (2:35)
3. The Return (3:20)
4. The Plaits (3:57)
5. Your Turn (2:32)
6. The Single Mother (1:20)
7. Handiwork (5:01)
Many Facets of Womanhood
Nailah Nombeko | Mary McCallum
8. Be brave, be bold, be free! (5:06)
9. Time to take this Leap! (3:54)
10. How do I keep it all together? (3:19)
Steve Rouse | Vin Morreale, Jr.
11. I Know I Look Good (2:39)
12. Thank You (2:59)
13. Can You Keep a Secret? (2:01)
14. Rest Now (3:46)
15. I Love This Song (2:36)
Force of Nature
Jake Heggie | Emily Albrink and Kathleen Kelly
16. Force of Nature (3:11)
17. Space Mountain (4:35)
18. Now I See You (3:10)
In October 2017, I was five weeks pregnant with my second child when my mother suddenly passed away. This devastating loss was life-altering. My mother, Nancy Albrink, exuded a force as a pianist, in her passion for teaching and as my musical partner. I felt compelled to honor her in an impactful and lasting way. It was then that Force of Nature was set in motion. I chose to commission and then record four new song cycles by Jake Heggie, Rene Orth, Nailah Nombeko, and Steve Rouse. For centuries, the canon of classical song has not reflected the female experience - particularly of mothers - with the same breadth and variety of expression that it has granted the experience of men. The pieces on this album explore a wide range of emotions and stories through a female lense including insecurity, body image issues, risk-taking, poor decisions, abuse, gossip, modern motherhood and getting away from it all to sing to the radio. I hope this album resonates with listeners and captures the essence and authenticity of contemporary womanhood. Throughout this process music has, in some ways, become the mother I have lost and making this album has been more cathartic for me than I could have imagined.
Thank you for listening.
- EMILY ALBRINK
NOTES ON THE ALBUM - by Kathleen Kelly
“…(T)his song cycle was written in honor of Nancy Albrink, a passionate collaborative pianist, pedagogue, and mother…I truly believe that more song cycles about the modern female experience — beyond Frauenliebe — need to enter the repertoire and be available for female singers.” -Rene Orth
Among Western classical art songs for women, Robert Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben still occupies a place of honor almost two centuries after its composition, yet it’s no surprise that a living composer would reference this work when speaking about women singers’ desire for greater variety of subject and expression in song repertoire. Frauenliebe continues to loom large in our thoughts and programming in no small part because it stood alone in the genre for so many years. Women have been writing words and music for centuries, but it requires a system of commitment for those compositions to be heard, repeated, programmed, and remembered. The words and music of men, written for men to sing, found easier access to that group commitment.
And so men on the art song stage have had cycle after cycle to choose from, encompassing an enormous range of human experience. In works that are considered “mainstream,” men have been able to sing of love, desire, jealousy, murder, war, fatherhood, anger, drunkenness, God, nature, writing, composition, fear, bravery, shame, suicide, physical labor, homesickness, and the act of singing itself. Women in those spaces found a smaller range of stories about their lives. And within the most intimate emotions, there tended to be a conservative sameness, mirroring the smaller acceptable range of public expression granted women. Men in tuxedos, in shining halls, could sing of lying in wait to murder their lover, or of hallucinating three suns in the sky, or of trying to apologize to their comrade killed in war. Women in those halls found life rather uniformly beautiful or sad. They were like flowers, or birds, and were never given to plotting about their husbands, or wishing themselves free of their children.
Like her daughter Emily, Nancy Albrink was a performer, a teacher, a wife, a mother, and a friend. When Emily began formulating this musical tribute to Nancy, she knew she wanted to contribute to our “system of commitment” by making new music possible and giving it the chance for a long life by performing and recording it. And most of all, she wanted to be part of creating work that would give women a chance to sing about all parts of our lives, not only the sentimental or culturally admirable ones. She wanted songs of impatience, poor judgment, shallowness, resilience, and risk; about gossiping or fleeing violence or navigating mood swings or turning up the radio. And that’s what these songs do.
Throughout these four new works also runs the strong thread of legacy: of passing experience, wisdom, and care from one generation to the next. This is the story of Nancy and Emily, and of mothers and children everywhere, too close for any of us to understand clearly as we live it. We worry about our children as we look forward into a future we will not see, and we look back for our mothers through a lens of late understanding. How grateful I am for the chance to perform and teach these new works, and for more rich voices to tell these complex stories of fragility, power, and love.
“A wise person once told me that, if we are lucky, there is a special person in our lives who ‘gives us the gold.’ For me, it was my Grandmother Sophie…Before I started school, she had taught me to read, write, etc., and she gave me a sense that I could do anything and be anything that I wanted. She was not anyone special in the world at large, but she was more than special to me.” - Steve Rouse