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The Silver Swan - art

The Silver Swan

Click on the image above or here to listen/buy.  One of Renaissance England’s most famous madrigal texts soars in this new setting for soprano, trumpet, and chamber orchestra by Michael Linton Composers are often asked about a piece of music, “How long did it take you to write that”? It’s not a ill-intended question yet […]

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Kathleen Shimeta

Kathleen Shimeta & Gena Branscombe

Discovering Women in Music  “Serendipity” is how mezzo-soprano Kathleen Shimeta describes her discovery of the 19th century composer Gena Branscombe (1881-1977). Ms. Shimeta, a professional singer and graduate trained musician, had not encountered Branscombe’s music until she needed a song based on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “How do I love thee? Let me count the […]

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Dakota Wind

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Here is the great new American music – here is musical composition that captures the majesty of our land and the spirit and intelligence that created it. – Catherine Austin Fitts

Each region of America, I have long thought, ought to have its own anthem. And now the American West does —    especially the Dakotas and the whole Upper West: the badlands, the good lands, the lands where there live giants in the earth.  –  Michael Novak


Dakota_Wind_1POET The author of bestselling Kindle Singles, from “The Gospel According to Tim” to “Dakota Christmas” (revised and expanded as part of his new seasonal volume, “The Christmas Plains”), Joseph Bottum is a widely published essayist and poet, with work in magazines and newspapers from the “Atlantic” to the “Wall Street Journal.” The former literary editor of the “Weekly Standard” and former editor in chief of the journal “First Things,” he holds a Ph.D. in medieval philosophy and has done television commentary for networks from the BBC to EWTN, including appearances on NBC’s Meet the Press and the PBS NewsHour. His books include his latest poetry collection, “The Second Spring.” He lives with his family in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

 

Dakota_Wind2COMPOSER Mike Linton lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and teaches freshman and sophomore level music theory at Middle Tennessee State University. The family broken by opposing loyalties in the Civil War, Linton’s maternal ancestors fled Tennessee to Illinois from where his great-great-grandfather Matthews fought on behalf of the Union. The family then went West, home-steading in Oklahoma and eventually scattering across the high plains of Wyoming, South Dakota, and western Nebraska where his mother was born. “Dakota Wind” is quite literally, a “going home” for him (the photographs on this page are views of the Sioux County Nebraska ranch where his grandfather helped to dig its first well by hand).

 

Dakota_Wind3SOPRANO Elizabeth Linton is a native of Connecticut and has studied in both music and nursing at Middle Tennessee State University. Most recently she has spent time nursing in East Africa and singing the role of the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute in Siena, Italy. Her performances of “The Silver Swan,” “Cantata No. 2” and “Songs of Separation” also appear on Refinersfire. She is the daughter of composer Mike Linton and pianist Janet Gustafson Linton.

 

 

 

Dakota_Wind4ENGINEER Michael Fleming is a former music producer for WGBH Radio Boston, whose credits range from sound editorial and premastering work to producing recordings and broadcasts for numerous solo artists and ensembles, ranging from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Nashville Opera to jazz pianist Jan Jarczyk and Nashville singer- songwriter Phil Lee. He is a violinist and holds degrees in physics and sound recording from Carleton College and McGill University’s Tonmeister program. A member of the Middle Tennessee State University’s Recording Industry faculty since 2004, Fleming was the engineer and sound designer for Refinersfire’s Christmas: Cantata No. 2 and Three Marian Carols

 

Dakota_Wind5HARMONICA Jim Hoke is one of Nashville’s most versatile musicians, having recorded on penny whistle, harmonica, saxophone, auto harp, clarinet and flute for Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, George Jones, Travis Trill, Wynonna Judd, Joan Baez, Faith Hill, and Disney. He began playing saxophone and harmonica in rock ‘n roll bands in his hometown of Schenectady, NY, and came to Nashville by way of careers in Oklahoma and Santa Barbara.

 

Recorded April 25, 2013, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with Todd Waldecker (clarinet), Deanna Little (flute), and William Yelverton (guitar), with members of the Nashville String Machine.

francis poulenc

Francis Poulenc

My first stage death occurred portraying a nun in Francis Poulenc’s Dialague of the Carmelites. Death by guillotine. What a way to go. I remember singing that beautiful and haunting final Salve Regina as one by one the Carmelite nuns are guillotined. Francis Poulenc, the French composer and member of les six, was a composer […]

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A Child’s Carol

A Childs Carol - RefinersfireIn this beautiful and delicate carol, the soprano portrays both the boy and his patient mother, ending with the mother’s gentle lullaby.

Peter Dale (born 21 August 1938) is a British poet, translator and educator.  As well as writing the text used here, he is also the poet of the second of the “Three Marion Carols“.


Dakota_Wind3SOPRANO Elizabeth Linton is a native of Connecticut and has studied in both music and nursing at Middle Tennessee State University. Most recently she has spent time nursing in East Africa and singing the role of the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute in Siena, Italy. Her performances of “The Silver Swan,” “Three Songs of Separation” and “Dakota Wind” also appear on Refinersfire. She is the daughter of composer Mike Linton and pianist Janet Gustafson Linton.

 

 

 

Dakota_Wind4ENGINEER Michael Fleming is a former music producer for WGBH Radio Boston, whose credits range from sound editorial and premastering work to producing recordings and broadcasts for numerous solo artists and ensembles, ranging from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Nashville Opera to jazz pianist Jan Jarczyk and Nashville singer- songwriter Phil Lee. He is a violinist and holds degrees in physics and sound recording from Carleton College and McGill University’s Tonmeister program. A member of the Middle Tennessee State University’s Recording Industry faculty since 2004, Fleming was the engineer and sound designer for Refinersfire’s Christmas: Cantata No. 2 , The Silver Swan, Three Songs of SeparationThree Marian Carols and Dakota Wind.

 

 

Dakota_Wind2COMPOSER Mike Linton lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and teaches freshman and sophomore level music theory at Middle Tennessee State University.

The Silver Swan

The Silver Swan - art

One of Renaissance England’s most famous madrigal texts soars in this new setting for soprano, trumpet, and chamber orchestra by Michael Linton


Composers are often asked about a piece of music, “How long did it take you to write that”? It’s not a ill-intended question yet lurking behind it, unvoiced but hinted, is the notion that a really good composer, truly taken by the muses, writes quickly, as Handel wrote when he dashed off Messiah. Feverishly composed, the piece is great and you’re a brilliant composer. If not so swiftly made, then, well — the music is not quite such a marvel.

“The Silver Swan” was written in a matter of days, and forty-three years. I first came across Gibbon’s text, set by Ned Rorem, in January, 1971, when I turned pages for a college recital of Sherri Woods accompanied by my freshman roommate, Jerry Blackstone (Sherri would go on to be a major soprano in The New York City Opera and Jerry became the leading choral conductor of his generation, eventually heading of the conducting program at the University of Michigan). I immediately loved the text and resolved to write my own setting.

On and off I’d return to Gibbon’s poem, writing a few bars of music, but nothing more came of it. Ten days before our March 2013 recording session for “Dakota Wind”, Pam Sixfin, our orchestra contractor, looked at the session schedule and asked if we had another piece to record for the same ensemble. “Dakota Wind”, she reasoned, wouldn’t demand all the orchestral time we’d contracted. Did we have something else?

I thought of orchestrating “Western Gate” (a piece for soprano and piano I had written to another of Jody Bottum’s poems), and I began to sketch out the orchestration. But I was also speaking daily with Cody Franchetti and those conversations about our culture’s almost suicidal amnesia of its rich past returned me to the Gibbons. The opening soprano line was written literally in a minute. Continuing that line proved to be more problematic and several nearly complete settings were thrown out. But Cody and I also had been talking a lot about the music of the late Baroque and the Sturm und Drang and those conversations manifested, along with memories of watching wedges of swans fly along the Housatonic River in Connecticut, in the modulating sequence “. . . more geese than swans. . . ” that became the song’s fulcrum.

A telephone call to my colleague Michael Arndt to see if the extraordinarily treacherous trumpet line I was writing for him was performable (it was), and the piece was quickly finished. The music was given to my daughter Elizabeth, and two days later the piece was rehearsed for twenty minutes and recorded.

There are authors who plot out their novels, even to the smallest details (J.K. Rowling apparently is an example) while there are others who invent characters, put them in a locale and turn them lose, their characters behaving as they must. There are similar kinds of composers. “The Silver Swan” is not the piece I thought I was going to write: quiet, nostalgic, and with a whiff of innocuous melancholy — like all of the other settings of the poem (although not Gibbon’s own). Those were the versions that I sketched-out and one by one tore up, finding them spastic, inarticulate, false. It was only when I allowed the music both to unabashedly fly and curse that it had the freedom to express nearly the half-century of thought I had given Gibbon’s text, thought that was not nostalgic but passionate, bitter and true — and most certainly not innocuous.

Soon after the recording, I wrote Cody about how my setting changed from my first intentions and how its truth forced itself upon me: ” As you’ve reminded me, we know the world best not through numbers (positivism, etc), but through art, as suggested by Croce and Schopenhauer. And if we’re true artists our own art compels us to inflict even that brutal honesty upon ourselves, if we have the courage to make it so (but it’s really not courage since to have courage suggests that there is a choice between several possible courses of action, between courage and cowardice, but an artist doesn’t have that choice; the true artist doesn’t have the choice of cowardice). The truth wins out, it can’t be stopped.” To which he wrote back: “Well, Michael, that’s unconditionally true, and that’s why in reality it is life that imitates are and not the contrary, which is the pleonasm we always hear.” The song is dedicated “to Cody, who understands.” — Michael Linton


Elizabeth Linton - sopranoSOPRANO Elizabeth Linton attended Middle Tennessee State University on a cello scholarship but graduated with degrees in vocal performance and nursing. Soon after recording “The Silver Swan” Ms Linton spent several weeks nursing in East Africa followed by a month in Siena where she sang the role of the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberfloete. For Refinersfire she is also heard singing Joseph Bottum’s “Dakota Wind.”

 

 

 

 

Michael Arndt - trumpetTRUMPET Michael Ardnt has degrees in trumpet performance from the University of Missouri – Kansas City Conservatory of Music, the University of Minnesota, and Arizona State University and was awarded a Performance Certificate from DePaul University. A member of the music faculty at Middle Tennessee State University since 2002, Dr. Ardnt is an active recitalist, studio musician, and an ensemble performer with the Huntsville Symphony, the Bowling Green Chamber Orchestra, and the Nashville Symphony. For the extreme range in the “Silver Swan” (in a series long, legato phrases the trumpet ascends to a high “D”, three octaves above “middle “C”) Dr. Ardnt performs on a Blackburn E flat trumpet and piccolo trumpet.

 

 

Michael FlemingENGINEER Michael Fleming is a former music producer for WGBH Radio Boston, whose credits range from sound editorial and premastering work to producing recordings and broadcasts for numerous solo artists and ensembles, ranging from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Nashville Opera to jazz pianist Jan Jarczyk and Nashville singer-songwriter Phil Lee. He is a violinist and holds degrees in physics and sound recording from Carleton College and McGill University’s Tonmeister program. A member of the Middle Tennessee State University’s Recording Industry faculty since 2004, Fleming was the engineer and sound designer for Refinersfire’s Christmas: Cantata No. 2 and Three Marian Carols as well as “Dakota Wind.”

 

Michael LintonComposer Mike Linton lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and teaches freshman and sophomore level music theory at Middle Tennessee State University. He is one of the founding members of REFINERSFIRE.

Three Songs of Separation

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Dakota_Wind_1

POET The author of bestselling Kindle Singles, from “The Gospel According to Tim” to “Dakota Christmas” (revised and expanded as part of his new seasonal volume, “The Christmas Plains”), Joseph Bottum is a widely published essayist and poet, with work in magazines and newspapers from the “Atlantic” to the “Wall Street Journal.” The former literary editor of the “Weekly Standard” and former editor in chief of the journal “First Things,” he holds a Ph.D. in medieval philosophy and has done television commentary for networks from the BBC to EWTN, including appearances on NBC’s Meet the Press and the PBS NewsHour. His books include his latest poetry collection, “The Second Spring.” He lives with his family in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

 

Dakota_Wind3SOPRANO Elizabeth Linton is a native of Connecticut and has studied in both music and nursing at Middle Tennessee State University. Most recently she has spent time nursing in East Africa and singing the role of the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute in Siena, Italy. Her performances of “The Silver Swan,” “Cantata No. 2” and “Dakota Wind” also appear on Refinersfire. She is the daughter of composer Mike Linton and pianist Janet Gustafson Linton.

 

 

 

Dakota_Wind4ENGINEER Michael Fleming is a former music producer for WGBH Radio Boston, whose credits range from sound editorial and premastering work to producing recordings and broadcasts for numerous solo artists and ensembles, ranging from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Nashville Opera to jazz pianist Jan Jarczyk and Nashville singer- songwriter Phil Lee. He is a violinist and holds degrees in physics and sound recording from Carleton College and McGill University’s Tonmeister program. A member of the Middle Tennessee State University’s Recording Industry faculty since 2004, Fleming was the engineer and sound designer for Refinersfire’s Christmas: Cantata No. 2 , Three Marian Carols and Dakota Wind.

 

 

Dakota_Wind2COMPOSER Mike Linton lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and teaches freshman and sophomore level music theory at Middle Tennessee State University.

Three Marian Carols

Second CantataThe Marian Carols were written for Mary Hopper and the ladies of the Wheaton College Women’s Chorale upon the suggestion of poet Joseph Bottum. Of the four carols in the quartet, three are included here, named after the composer/harpist Carol McClure, the historian Wilfred McClay, and Mr. Bottom.
marian-carole
Looking for Mary in Christmas Carols

Who is Mary in our carols? Most folks don’t read a lot of theology in December, but we do a lot of singing. Who is Mary here?

 

“3 Marian Carols” – on the same CD as Cantata for Christmas Day

Mary Hopper

 

 

Mary Hopper is professor of Choral Music and Conducting at the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music (Wheaton, IL) where she conducts both the Men’s Glee Club and the Women’s Chorale. A graduate of Wheaton College and the University of Iowa, Ms Hopper is an internationally known clinician and past president of the American Choral Directors Association.

 

 

 

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