Head to the Lake

Soprano Maureen Batt’s Lady of the Lake features Schubert’s classic and the work of contemporary Halifax composer Fiona Ryan.

click to enlarge TOM BELDING

Lady of the Lake album release
Tuesday, July 11, 6:30pm
Board Room Game Cafe Bedford 936 Bedford Highway
Wednesday, July 12, 3:30-5pm
Press Gang Restaurant & Oyster Bar 5218 Prince Street

Maureen Batt and Jeremy VanSlyke had a vision to do something that hadn't been done before in classical music—record the entire song cycle of Franz Schubert's Opus 52, inspired by Sir Walter Scott's "Lady of the Lake" poem. "I don't know if it's ever been recorded before—maybe one time," Batt says. "It's very rare that the whole cycle exists."

But why only have one cycle when you can have two? "We wanted to pair it with something else," Batt says. "Something Canadian." Batt, who does a lot of contemporary Canadian music, knew just the person. "I said Fiona Ryan, she's our woman. We commissioned her to write another song cycle based on that piece of poetry, everything is called Lady of the Lake."

Schubert had it easy compared to Halifax-based Ryan, because his audience was very familiar with Scott's epic poem. Ryan had to get creative.

"She knew there were dramatic elements in the poem, I said, 'Take whatever you want,'" says Batt. "She picked some of the same parts that Schubert did and it sounds completely different, very dramatic. It gives more importance to secondary characters." Batt plays at least two or three different parts in the cycle. "There's all kinds of sides of the story being told as we play through the song cycle."

Recorded in PEI's Indian River, in a church, Lady of the Lake features Batt's crystal-clear soprano, bass baritone Jon-Paul Décosse and two ensemble pieces, one featuring the Halifax Camerata Singers.

"It's got Scottish and Nova Scotian rhythms, harps, folkloric rhymes," says Batt. "Fiona married that text in the music. Everything was on purpose."

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