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Robinsongs

 

 for Mezzo-Soprano, Oboe, and Piano
---or---
Mezzo-Soprano, Flute, Clarinet in B flat, and Piano

April 30--September 11, 2012; arranged for flute and clarinet Aug. 11-28, 2015
Duration: about 14 minutes                Photo above: Parma Cathedral dome

for Rebecca, Joseph, and Mary Kay Robinson

Oboe EditionRobinsons

Recording from Feb. 18, 2014 concert with the Robinsons

(Joseph, oboe; Mary Kay, piano; Rebecca, mezzo-soprano). 

See score for lyrics
video (YouTube)

Score PDF      Oboe part      Vocal part     Cover


I. Some Hallucinations    (lyrics by Lewis Carroll)
   A Perfectly Sane Tempo    [5:32]   MP3
II. The Purist         
(lyrics by Ogden Nash)
    Allegro academia        [3:32]    MP3

III. You Are Old, Father William   (lyrics by Lewis Carroll)

    Guano ma non troppo      [6:13]    MP3

Flute, Clarinet Edition

Score PDF      Flute part  Clarinet part    Vocal part     Cover


           

            Joseph and Mary Kay Robinson (no relation) came to a concert in 2006 featuring some of my music performed by Eric Pritchard at Duke University.  Joe had a long career as principle oboist with the New York Philharmonic, and Mary Kay has performed extensively as a violinist. They asked me to write a trio for oboe, violin, and piano, which resulted in Aditya Hridayam. After they performed this at Duke with Thomas Warburton, I realized how lucky I was to work with musicians of this caliber. In February 2012, Mary Kay was one of the musicians performing my Clarinet Sextet for clarinet and strings, which was a wonderful performance.

In 2011, Joe and Mary Kay asked me to write a piece they could perform with their aspiring diva daughter Becky, with Mary Kay playing piano. I wrestled with ideas for lyrics for many months, but found this to be an exceptionally difficult assignment. After finishing Violations for viol consort (or string ensembles) on February 19, 2012, it was time to sit down to do Robinsongs, a set of songs for, well, the Robinsons. After delays and false starts with other lyrics, I managed to start scribbling Lewis Carroll’s Some Hallucinations on April 30, but progress was quite difficult. After that came Ogden Nash’s The Purist. (I’ve made a good-faith effort to find the holder of the copyright—but then, my music is so far from profitable that I don’t suppose royalties will be an issue.) Finally after much struggle and an uncommonly slow season of composition, came another Lewis Carroll poem, You Are Old, Father William, finished on the ominous date of September 11.

 In August 2015 I made a new version of Robinsongs for mezzo, flute, clarinet, and piano, at the suggestion of Marianne Breneman, clarinetist and member of Conundrum, a chamber music group of soprano, flute, clarinet, and piano. This also resulted in making a second edition of the original version.

          Accidentals hold through the measure and not beyond, and do not refer to other octaves. Sometimes I include courtesy accidentals to avoid confusion. Notes retain their value through meter changes.

It is a great privilege to give this little piece to such superb musicians, and I hope they find it enjoyable to play.

Some Hallucinations

  He thought he saw an Elephant,
   That practiced on a fife:
He looked again, and found it was
   A letter from his wife.
“At length I realize,” he said,
   “The bitterness of life.”
 
He thought he saw a Buffalo
   Upon the chimneypiece:
He looked again, and found it was
   His Sister’s Husband’s Niece.
“Unless you leave this house,” he said,
   “I’ll send for the Police!”
 
He thought he saw a Rattlesnake
   That questioned him in Greek:
He looked again, and found it was
   The Middle of Next Week.
“The one thing I regret,” he said,
   “Is that it cannot speak!”
 
He thought he saw a Banker’s Clerk
   Descending from the ‘bus:
He looked again, and found it was
   A Hippopotamus.
“If this should stay to dine,” he said,
   “There won’t be much for us!”
 
                                  --Lewis Carroll

The Purist

 I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist,
Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!"
And sent him off to distant jungles.
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
"You mean," he said, "a crocodile." 

                                     --Ogden Nash

You Are Old, Father William

"You are old, father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head--
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"
 
"In my youth," father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."
 
"You are old," said the youth, "as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door--
Pray what is the reason of that?"
 
"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment--one shilling the box--
Allow me to sell you a couple?"
 
"You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are to weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak--
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"
 
"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life."
 
"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose--
What made you so awfully clever?"
 
"I have answered three questions and that is enough,"
Said the father. "Don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down stairs!"
 
                        ---Lewis Carrol

Musician Biographies

Joseph Robinson is one of the last oboists in America to study with the legendary Marcel Tabuteau, Joseph Robinson has been one of the outstanding orchestral musicians of his generation, serving as Principal Oboe of the New York Philharmonic for 27 years from June 1978 until September 2005. Known especially for his lyricism and phrasing, he has performed concerti, orchestral, and chamber works in concert halls around the world to international critical acclaim.

Mr. Robinson has had a distinguished teaching career, serving for more than 20 years as head of Oboe Studies at the Manhattan School of Music, where he helped establish the first Master of Orchestral Studies degree in America and from which he received the Presidential Medal for Meritorious Faculty Service in 2005.  He has taught at the University of  North Carolina School of the Arts, the University of Maryland, Duke University and at Lynn University's Conservatory of Music in Boca Raton, Florida.  His many students occupy important positions all over the world.

Today, Mr. Robinson resides in Blaine, Washington with his wife, violinist Mary Kay Robinson. They are parents of three remarkable daughters — executive Katie, doctor Jody and diva Becky.

 

Mary Kay Robinson, violinist, is a 1968 graduate of the Juilliard School, where she studied with Dorothy DeLay and Ivan Galamian. She studied chamber music with Felix Galimir, Donald Weilerstein, Josef Gingold and members of the Guarneri String Quartet. She furthered her education with studies with  Glenn Dicterow, Gregory Fulkerson and Gerald Beal.    Her first job after graduation was as violin instructor at the University of Tennessee, in her hometown of Knoxville, where she filled in for her former teacher, William Starr, who was on sabbatical in Japan. She was a member of the University of Tennessee String Quartet and later held a similar position in the University of Maryland String Quartet.

           She has toured with Solisti New York and spent many summers playing with the OK Mozart Festival, Grand Teton Music Festival, and Bellingham Festival of Music. In 2008 she taught at Duke University as well as maintaining a private studio. Also that year, she performed Bill Robinson’s Sonata for Solo Violin #4 at Brevard, NC. She performed on Bill Robinson’s 2012 concert at Duke. Bill has composed two pieces for her to play with her husband oboist Joseph Robinson.

 

Rebecca Robinson, mezzo-soprano, is quickly making a name for herself as a rising talent in the opera world. An accomplished young singer, she is currently in her second year as a Master’s student of Sanford Sylvan’s at McGill University in Montreal. Ms. Robinson has studied under the tutelage of renowned artists including Jane Bunnell, Susanne Mentzer, Karen Beardsley Peters, and the late Beverly Bower.