Ten years ago I performed this gorgeous Lied (meaning ‘song’ auf Deutsch) by Franz Schubert in Graz, Austria at the American School of Musical Studies and at McGill, my alma mater, in Montreal, Canada. “Nacht und Träume” = “Night and Dreams”. It’s simple, and therein lies its power. It floats and just at the turn of a passage, it twists and gives you a calm, gut-wrenching note.
I’ve loved this song forever. If possible, maybe I’ve loved it before I knew it existed. It floats, it’s poignant, and I imagine the velvety night enveloping me.
Heil’ge Nacht, du sinkest nieder;
Nieder wallen auch die Träume
Wie dein Mondlicht durch die Räume,
Durch der Menschen stille Brust.
Die belauschen sie mit Lust;
Rufen, wenn der Tag erwacht:
Kehre wieder, heil’ge Nacht!
Holde Träume, kehret wieder!
Holy night, you sink down;
The dreams flow down, too,
Like your moonlight through the rooms,
Through the people’s silent chests.
They listen softly with desire;
They call, when day awakens:
Come back, holy night!
Sweet dreams, come back!
I love classical music, especially German Lieder, but it’s been done in its traditional way for a long, long time. I think that’s why I could never fully gel with my opera studies. I’d rehearse with my coach, and I’d ask her about making it my own. She told me that my interpretation and delivery is my voice for the piece. I’ve always been stumped on that thought. There have been many singers before me and there will be many singers after me who will offer their interpretation of traditional classical pieces as they’re written. I just never felt any ownership. It wasn’t MY soul pouring into those pieces. I felt, in a way, like a puppet. That’s part of the reason why I have always wanted to compose my own music. I needed to find a way to release what’s me. I’m shy of sharing, because I don’t think anyone cares, or, if they do, so what? But I do it for myself. I write what I want to listen to.
That’s why I am deciding to make a modernized electronic version of this Schubert piece. I dreamt up the idea while walking the halls between the practice rooms at McGill. It’s a rhythmic piece, so it will lend itself well to an easy beat. I don’t think I’m going to put any drums on it; it’s a gentle piece. I have, however talked to a kickass opera singer friend of mine who agreed to the project – she’ll sing the piece, and I will slice and chop her voice, then sample it. As they do in hip hop.
This fall, for a number of reasons, I’ve been shifting my life and having tiny victories – shoutout to Greg and Doug Walters, Cason Kelly, and Austin Purnell (it was the name of their band). I’ve set goals and they’ve realized themselves. So screw limiting beliefs. I’m going to make this piece – and it will be awesome. I’m gonna do what I wanna do!
Here’s me singing “Nacht und Träume” in recital during my opera days: