Father Said: EP
sixteen songs for medium voice and guitar, op. 28
Set to wise and humorous poems about early American life on the prairie by the composer’s grandfather
Recorded: 2004, released in 2012
Lyrics: poetry by Frank C. Wallace (1888-1951); Father Said: (date unknown)
Duration: 21 minutes
Instrumentation: baritone (medium voice) and 1997 Traphagen guitar
Vocal range: G2 – F#4
Preview: a sample PDF of Father Said:
A poetic reminiscence by Wallace’s grandfather on his father and childhood on the wild plains of Texas in the 1890’s, Father Said: is an important contribution both to American folk history and to the literature for voice and classical guitar by a leading composer in the medium. It is a collaboration spanning three centuries: a powerful combination of the pioneer wisdom and wit of Wallace’s great-grandfather, pioneer Joel Sylvanus Wallace (b. c.1845), as remembered in both the elegant poetry of grandfather Frank C. Wallace (b. Chico, Texas, 1888) and the compelling composition of the grandson (Frank A Wallace, b. Houston, 1952).
An extraordinary image of early American life and its connection to nature, the cycle is dedicated to Wallace’s father, Earl Wallace (b. 1917, Waco), who only met great-grandfather Joel once or twice as a child, remembering an old man with a long white beard once knocking on the door in Waco, Texas. The stars / May fall, but look again and you will see / The fixed stars shining on as if to shame / Our fears. So the saga begins with the setting of the great outdoors that pervades the piece. It continues We threaded tangled trails that wound the brakes / And creeks in sleaves of endless turns and twists. / When one is lost, the right turn seems the wrong.
Father Said: has a marvelous structure, as set out by the poet, in which short triptychs of wise sayings come between longer stories of childhood scenes. Father, Mother, Brother and Aunt Tabitha all inhabit the 21 minutes of song in which Father muses, Shall I / Fret at the summer sun when it distills / The nectars in the lush Elberta peach / For me? and ponders The spears / Of pungent odor from the wild horse-mint / Have wounded me with poisoned tips until / I drowse. His stout independence proclaims in Ingenuity, He found no shade, but made his own, / So shade and shine he had together; / He turned his back to break the sun, / Or face it, so to change his weather.
The musical settings range from jazzy to whimsical to poignant. In this delightfully through-composed series of vignettes, baritone/composer Wallace has succeeded in creating melodies that have the grace of 19th century song, the perfect vessel for the humor and pathos of his grandfather’s 20th century verse.
Copyright ©2004 Frank A. Wallace
Cover photography and design by Nancy Knowles
All rights reserved.
Download Father Said: the complete poems from the song-cycle. Texts are also attached to the MP3s. Here is a sample from the beginning.
By Frank C. Wallace, 1887-1951
“to my father Joel Sylvanus Wallace” Selections for songs by Frank A. Wallace, b. 1952
My great-grandfather seemed so far remote.
Too vague to fancy him a life-like man.
He was some mystic figure, always old,
And never young, or given to the ways
Of life as you and I, until at length
My Father pointed out a huge pecan,
Which he had planted in his passing year
As though he wished to live, defeating Death.
May fall, but look again and you will see
The fixed stars shining on as if to shame
THE FIXED COURSE
We threaded tangled trails that wound the brakes
And creeks in sleaves of endless turns and twists.
When one is lost the right turn seems the wrong.
But on we trailed, for father was in charge,
And no objection to his course had weight.
A wag remarked, “Our course may run bee true,
But all the stars are out of place tonight.”
And then our goal.
To say, “a woodsman knows his trees;
by night He knows the stars.
If he will lay his course
By things as fixed as stars he’ll come out right.”
Are cliffs that gave way to the weaker winds
Which proved more willful than the granite cliffs
A bowl, a jar that chokes the yellow vine,
A tethered cub depress me more than
The river is much like the other side
And yet the farther banks call out to me