Of his new recording with pianist Laura Ward, baritone Randall Scarlata writes:

“When I was a child, one of my favorite activities was sitting on the floor with old photo albums, gazing at pictures of people I never knew, but with whom I still sensed a connection. I could see pieces of myself in them: the cleft in my grandfather’s chin, my great grandmother’s nose. Those photos revealed whom and where I came from, and connected me to a different time and place.

When Laura Ward and I first started planning this recording project, we pored over dozens of scores. Central to the project was a focus on American composers, and we wanted a personal connection with both the texts and their musical interpretation. Two relatively recent song cycles kept rising to the top: Benjamin Boyle’s Le passage des rêves (2007), and Robert Maggio’s Forgiving Our Fathers (2001). While the styles of these two composers are markedly different, Laura and I were drawn to the gift for narrative they share, and color palettes that evoke other times and places. As we narrowed our list of songs to complement these two cycles, the lineage they share became clear.

In Robert Maggio’s (b. 1964) Forgiving Our Fathers, one hears a skillful sense of prosody akin to Ned Rorem. There are harmonic shadings of Samuel Barber, and the Gallic clarity of Nadia Boulanger’s famous salon. The sharpest influences, however, are perhaps the rock and Broadway musicals that he listened to as a teenager. One hears the jazzy ostinatos of Leonard Bernstein and clever economy of Stephen Sondheim. Maggio’s writing is never fussy or arty. Dramatic delivery of text is paramount, and Maggio writes in a way that allows the performers to project the song in a conversational, yet theatrical way.”

Maggio writes:
“The poems I selected for these songs were all written by living American poets, and reflect on father and son relationships. The film Smoke Signals provided the initial spark: the story revolves around a young man’s search for his father, their confrontation, and eventual reconciliation. When I heard Dick Lourie’s poem, ‘Forgiving Our Fathers,’ recited by the main character at the end of the film, I was deeply moved by it, and hoped I would some day find the right opportunity to set it to music. After years of waiting, in the final months of revising and editing these songs, I became a first-time father.”