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Monday, March 11, 2013

Maria Schneider And Dawn Upshaw Join Forces

Soprano Dawn Upshaw, left, and composer Maria Schneider, right, have collaborated on a new album called "Winter Morning Walks." (Jimmy and Dena Katz)

Soprano Dawn Upshaw, left, and composer Maria Schneider, right, have collaborated on a new album called “Winter Morning Walks.” (Jimmy and Dena Katz)

Grammy-winning composer Maria Schneider is known for her big band jazz sound on albums such as “Concert in the Garden” and “Sky Blue.”

Soprano Dawn Upshaw has performed at the Metropolitan Opera hundreds of times and won a MacArthur Fellowship, as well as multiple Grammy awards.

The two collaborate on the album “Winter Morning Walks,” which features musical works composed by Schneider based on the poetry of Pulitzer prize-winning poet Ted Kooser and Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade.

The works are the first that Schneider has written for orchestra; the album features not only Upshaw’s vocals, but also the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

"Winter Morning Walks" album coverUpshaw told Here & Now’s Robin Young that she was a longtime fan of Schneider’s work, and it took her a while to work up the courage to ask her to write music for her to sing.

“Maria’s music has touched me and continues to touch me so viscerally and deeply and I’ve always felt that there’s such joy in her music. And I knew that no matter what she was going to write, it was going to be a joyful experience,” Upshaw said.

Schneider says she found the idea of writing songs for Upshaw scary at first.

“I told Dawn, I said ‘I haven’t really written for orchestra, and I haven’t really written for words and a soprano and I don’t know what I’m doing!’ And Dawn said ‘I just want you to do what you do, I don’t want you to change who you are.'”

So Schneider started composing music for Upshaw.

“I wanted something where the sort of humanity that comes through when Dawn sings, that the music would ask for that, and leave room for that to come forward,” Schneider said.

The resulting album, “Winter Morning Walks,” is being sold in CD and digital download via the website ArtistShare, which Schneider has been using for years to go directly to her audience to fund her work.

“What I love is it brings me close to the people that support my music, you know, sharing the whole process, illuminating even my fears, and in the end they take a little more ownership of it too,” Schneider said.


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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