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Bright Eyed Joy: The Songs of Ricky Ian Gordon

News & Reviews

  • Ricky Ian Gordon to Premiere Concert-Version "Grapes of Wrath" at Carnegie Hall; "Sycamore Trees" at Signature Theatre

    Ricky Ian Gordon unveils the two-act concert version of his opera The Grapes of Wrath at Carnegie Hall on March 22, starring Jane Fonda, Nathan Gunn, Victoria Clark, and Christine Ebersole. "With a slyness worthy of Weill," said The New Yorker of the original 2007 opera, "Gordon wields his hummable tunes to critical effect." This spring, Gordon premieres his Sycamore Trees at the Signature Theatre. In a preview, the Washington Post says "Gordon has shown over the course of his career that he's anything but cut from a mold."

  • Nonesuch Artists to Perform at Obama Benefits

    With just over four weeks left until election day in the United States, November 4, a number of Nonesuch Records artists will be participating in some very special campaign events. This Monday, k.d. lang will perform at an intimate, in-home fund-raising concert for Obama in New York City with Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Joseph Biden, and renowned chef Alice Waters. The following evening in New York, composer Ricky Ian Gordon and Tony Award–winning actress Victoria Clark perform at a stellar Obama/Biden fund-raiser at the home of television producer Tom Fontana. On October 10, Brad Mehldau and Chris Thile perform works by Bach as well as their own works at an Obama benefit concert at New York's Poisson Rouge.

About this Album

The CD of this album is available to purchase at ArkivMusic.

Bright Eyed Joy: The Songs of Ricky Ian Gordon is the first disc devoted entirely to the music of Ricky Ian Gordon, a composer equally at home writing for the concert hall, opera, dance, theater and film, and whose music, “with its references to Debussy, Ravel and Britten crossed with Bernstein, Blitzstein and Sondheim," says the New York Times, "has an unexpected emotional potency in light of its compositional rigor.” The songs on this new recording are set to texts by James Agee, Langston Hughes, W.S. Merwin, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, and Gordon, and feature such acclaimed vocalists as Audra McDonald, Dawn Upshaw, Adam Guettel, Judy Blazer, Theresa McCarthy, Chris Pedro Trakas and Darius de Haas, with orchestra conducted by Eric Stern.

The disc opens with “Heaven,” sung by Darius de Haas, a song Gordon had originally written to open Only Heaven, a musical celebration of Langston Hughes’s poetry through Harlem of the 1920s and '30s. The lyric is, according to the composer, “just one more wonderful Langston Hughes brush stroke—the simplest, most literal evocation of heaven imaginable.” Among the other Hughes settings included on the disc are “Dream Variations,” “Song for a Dark Girl,” and “Daybreak in Alabama,” all written for Audra McDonald and originally released on her Nonesuch debut, Way Back to Paradise.

On Bright Eyed Joy: The Songs of Ricky Ian Gordon, Gordon also sets the poetry of W.S. Merwin in “A Contemporary,” sung by Adam Guettel, as well as texts by the legendary Dorothy Parker, in whose memory Gordon composed the 1992 operetta Autumn Valentine. Gordon’s own text, in the song “Run Away,” recalls a particularly difficult time in the composer’s life. It is sung here by Theresa McCarthy, who premiered it during a cabaret appearance at New York’s Joe’s Pub in 1998.

A March 13, 2001, showcase performance of Gordon’s songs, featured vocalists Judy Blazer, Kristin Chenoweth, Adam Guettel, Cherry Jones, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Billy Porter, among others, was presented as part of Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series.



Eric Stern, conductor

Darius de Haas (1, 5, 7, 18)
Adam Guettel (3, 10, 11, 18)
Theresa McCarthy (6, 17, 18)
Audra McDonald (2, 7, 14-16, 18)
Dawn Upshaw (8, 11, 13)
Judy Blazer (9, 11, 12)
Chris Trakas (11, 12)

Todd Ellison (8)
Grant Gershon (4, 6)
Ricky Ian Gordon (10, 17)
Ted Sperling (9)

Additional Musicians:
Michael Nicholas, Violin/Viola
Debra Shufelt, Viola
Clay Ruede, Cello
Peter Donovan, bass
Helen Campo, flute, piccolo
Steven Kenyon, clarinet, flute, alto sax
Brian Miller, flute
Mark Thrasher, clarinet, alto sax
Andrew Sterman, clarinet, soprano sax
Vernon Post, trombone
Joe Passaro, percussion
John Nauman, piano
Kenneth Burward-Hoy, viola (16-18)
Jesse Levy, cello  (16-18)
Lawrence Feldman, clarinet / bass clarinet  (16-18)

Produced by Tommy Krasker
Recorded April 2000 and November 2000 at Avatar Studios, New York City
Engineered by Tom Lazarus
Assistant Engineer: Rory Romano
Edited by Paul Zinman at SoundByte Productions, New York City
Mixed at Avatar Studios, New York City
Assistant Engineer: Mark Fraunfelder
Track 14-16, from Audra McDonald’s Way Back to Paradise, recorded November 1997 at The Hit Factory, New York City
Engineered by Joel Moss
Assistant Engineers: Ethan Schofer, Greg Thompson and Tom Hughes
Edited and mixed at Avatar Studios, New York City
Assistant Engineer: Rory Romano
Mastered by Ric Wilson, Digisonics, Northridge, CA

Music by Ricky Ian Gordon. Texts by James Agee (9), Ricky Ian Gordon (4, 17), Langston Hughes (1, 2, 5, 7, 11, 14-16, 18), W. S. Merwin (3), Edna St. Vincent Millay (6, 8, 10), Dorothy Parker (12, 13).
All orchestrations by Ricky Ian Gordon except 13 by Bruce Coughlin.

Design by John Gall
Cover image: Soon (After Doisneau) by Duncan Hannah

Executive Producer: Robert Hurwitz

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