Leaning Toward the Fiddler

Leaning Toward the FiddlerLEANING TOWARD THE FIDDLER is a recording of original works by Seattle-based violinist and singer Hope Wechkin, which also includes her inventive arrangements of traditional Balkan folk songs. Wechkin’s virtuosic and innovative pairing of voice and violin—which she performs simultaneously—fuses folk, classical, and world music into a blend of genres that emerges “full-bore, all-out, utterly unselfconsciously” (Seattle Times). The works on LEANING TOWARD THE FIDDLER range from themes of passionate longing to humorous musical feuds between lovers, highlighting Wechkin’s ability to perform in a wide breadth of styles with great ease and skill.

The album will be released on February 26, 2013.


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  1. 1

    Mujo KujeTrack subtitle

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  2. 2

    Last and FinalTrack subtitle

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Album Description

Mujo Kuje is a Bosnian folk song that is described as a “sevdah,” a type of folk music originating in the regions of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Serbia that is characterized by themes of passionate longing. In my arrangement for voice and violin, both “voices” share equally in the melancholy of unrequited love.

Lisa Sitkin’s A Joyful Time borrows from the sometimes fantastical stories a friend’s Grandma Pearl told about growing up on the Lower East Side in New York City.

An up-tempo melody for solo “fiddle,” Last and Final conjures up an elderly man’s dream of one last spirited dance on earth.

Polegnala e Tudora was made famous by conductor and arranger Philip Koutev and the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir, who recorded this folk song to great acclaim in the 1980s. In my arrangement, the violin provides a double-stopped two-part harmony to the solo vocal line. Between the third and fourth verses, the “voice of the wind,” in wordless syllables, is heard as a vocalise with the violin as accompaniment.

The central melody of Duet for voice and violin is based on a Russian folk song named for the woman being addressed in the first line, Koloda Duda. The text of this song appeared in Sholokov’s novel “And Quiet Flows the Don.” Pete Seeger adapted the text for his version of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” I heard the Russian version sung by Theodore Bikel when I was a child, and the melody has stayed with me ever since. In my setting, voice and violin are equal partners, trading melody and accompaniment, becoming intertwined, and finally resolving with the solo vocal recapitulation of the original melody.

First Song appears in the 22-poem cycle Instrument by Northwest poet Sati Mookherjee. The first eleven poems of the cycle concern the life and work of a professional singer. The voice of a surgeon who operates on the singer emerges in the second
half of the cycle. “First Song,” a poem taken from the first half, is the singer’s metaphoric description of the process of learning to sing. My composition for solo voice is strongly influenced by the music of medieval composer, cleric and mystic Hildegard von Bingen, in its simplicity and in its evocation of mystery.

The teasing “feud” between a young girl and a young boy in Shto ti se maika is played out in short imitative violin passages that separate the verses of this Bulgarian folksong.

The California coast is the inspiration for the poem Sea Drift by Lisa Sitkin. Having visited the location that gave impetus for this poem, I worked to capture the singularity of the birds’ movements and calls, with the frequent dissonances and sections of non-standard meter that pepper the piece. At the same time, I tried to convey the expansiveness of the seascape with the open intervals that appear throughout in the violin.

Dvorak’s lighthearted “Humoresque” is the point of departure for my Henryesque, in which I try to capture the sense of humor and playfulness of my son Henry, who had just turned two years old when this piece was written.

Every singer who studies the classical art song repertoire comes upon Giulio Caccini’s musical setting of Giovanni Guarini’s famous love poem Amarilli, mia bella (“Amaryllis, my lovely one”) sooner or later. I have known and loved this song for many years, but only recently I found a way to explore its wide dramatic range when a violin improvisation on the melody led me to discover the quiet desperation contained in both the text and the melody. I included a bit of that improvisation in the middle of my arrangement, as well as in some of the unexpected reharmonizations of this well-known song.

Rumena Si is a Croatian folk song with an unusual structure, as the voice of the infant is also contained in the lullaby. This is not simply the standard lullaby monologue of a mother addressing her child in wonder and tenderness; rather, the child uncharacteristically also responds, explaining that while it seems he might have been born of an orange tree, in fact, he simply comes from his mother. This exchange is the inspiration for an arrangement that travels some distance from its melodic origin, but in the end, comes back to rest where it began.