An album of songs inspired by Summer featuring works by Quilter, Brahms, Vaughan Williams, Gurney, Warlock, Ives, Debussy, Chausson, Finzi & Britten

Summer—often overshadowed by the rich, romantic outpouring dedicated to the glories of spring, yet it is hardly ignored. “Summer,” as Amy Lowell wrote, “is the very crown of nature’s changing year, when all her surging life is at its full.” It is a time of great vitality for both people and nature: birds and insects fill the air and trees with life and song, flowers bloom and begin to bear fruit. Summer is also a time of labour and of relaxation, of blossoming love and of childhood adventure. Above all, summer is a time to fully experience the joys, aches, and wonders of time spent out of doors.
This collection of British, American, German, and French art songs attempts to capture these aspects of our interaction with the natural world over the course of a summer’s day. Selections from the Golden Age of English song paint a spectrum of images and emotion: Quilter’s rapturous songs of new love and summer mornings in Daybreak; the sensuous satisfaction of Vaughan Williams’s Silent Noon and Youth and Love and of Warlock’s Late Summer; and the haunting dreaminess and heartbreak of Britten’s The Salley Gardens, and Gurney’s Sleep. In further contrast, Finzi’s setting of Hardy’s Summer Schemes, tempers our delight in nature with a world-wise sensibility, while Butterworth’s Housman settings remind us that the summertime is not immune from sorrow nor is the season bereft of loss.
Soaring to lands beyond Britain, American Charles Ives, conveys the joys of New England summers—from the boyhood innocence of The Greatest Man and The Circus Band to the fluvial Housatonic at Stockbridge. Brahms’s masterful lieder are represented, from the furiously passionate Meine Liebe ist grün to the ethereal Feldeinsamkeit, which inscribes a perfect moment of suspended time. Debussy’s ebullient settings of Verlaine’s evocative landscape poems, rich in seasonal imagery and dating from the poet’s visits to England, are dedicated to Chausson. In turn, the fluttering texture of Chausson’s Les papillons contrasts with his sumptuous and erotic setting of Le calibre.
William Carlos Williams wrote that “in summer, the song sings itself.” One hopes this collection allows the listener to glimpse, in some small manner, how wonderfully and in how many ways this is true.

This album was recorded in summer of 2009 for a June 2010 release at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto with longtime producer Keith Horner and engineer David Burnham at the helm. Many thanks to Mark Steinmetz and the CBC for providing access to the Glenn Gould space for the recording session as well as to Nathalie Simon for designing the cover and booklet and to Jack Illingworth for the photography.

Review: Opera Canada, Spring 2011

The theme of this collection of songs by British, American, German and French composers is the glorious season of sumer — especially enticing as I write this on a cold February day. Originally from Saskatchewan, raised in Ontario… baritone Peter McGillivray chimes in here with his first solo CD, no doubt a labour of love that he put together himself, since neither the disc not artwork indicate a label name or catalogue number. Nevertheless, he went about it in first-class fashion in a recording made last summer at CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto. With veteran former CBC Radio producer Keith Horner at the helm and the equally esteemed recording engineer David Burnham at the controls, the result is beautifully clean and transparent, with ideal balance of voice and Liz Upchurch’s piano (she plays stylishly throughout). McGillivray’s rich and blooming baritone is, of course, the star attraction. His voice is always keenly focused, rock steady, with nary a wobble, and his enunciation is impeccable at every turn. The featured composers include Quilter, Brahms, Vaughan Williams, Warlock, Ives, Debussy, Chausson, Butterworth and Britten, virtually all settings of texts by inspired, top-tier poets espousing the charms and delights of everyone’s favourite season. McGillivray conjures a magical stillness in Brahm’s “Feldeinsamkeit,” his is gorgeously evocative in Vaughan Williams’ “Silent Noon,” suitably folksy in Ivor Gurney’s lilting “I Will Go With My Father A-Ploughing,” joyous in Warlock’s “In an Arbour Green,” thoroughly tasteful in Debussy’s “Le son du cor s’afflige vers les bois” and delightfully fun-filled in the crazy rhythms and jarring changes of mood and tempo that characterize Ives’ “The Circus Band.” Full texts and (where required) English translations are included. - Rick McMillan

Review: Toronto Star, June 2010

Young Toronto baritone Peter McGillivray has teamed up with Canadian Opera Company pianist-coach Liz Upchurch to weave a rich art-song tapestry of summer-themed enchantments. We open our ears to the brash “Daybreak” of Roger Quilter and close with a wistful walk through Benjamin Britten's “Sally Gardens.” In between are treats both boisterous and sweet by a who's who of late-19th century and early-20th century composers from England (Gerald Finzi, Ivor Gurney, Peter Warlock, George Butterworth and Ralph Vaughan Williams), France (Claude Debussy and Ernest Chausson), Germany (Johannes Brahms) and New England (Charles Ives). McGillivray's rich, flexible and strong voice manages to find the right tone and timbre for each text, while he uses his growing operatic experience to tease out the drama from the verse. Upchurch's fluid, colourful accompaniments add lustre to an already glowing musical outing. - John Terauds