Diane Taraz

© 2009 Diane Taraz, Raisin Pie Music (BMI)

Sacred Space   words by Diane Taraz, music by Rafael Scarfullery
My poem was set to music by some 80 composers in a hymn-writing contest. Rafael's winning work includes this gentle melody, plus three wonderful choral harmonies, plus a full organ part. This would be my "elevator speech" if asked to quickly state my theological position; the "holy land" has nothing to do with real estate.

The Lady Leroy   trad. Irish
True love triumphs over dire parental objection. The first of three cross-dressing songs on this CD; donning men's clothing was an effective tactic for centuries. The key here may be that her father is described as "old," and perhaps his eyesight was not up to detecting his daughter behind her disguise. The "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme bears a striking resemblance to this vibrant melody; hurrah for true lovers! A big thank-you to Jonathan Gilbert for his wonderful double whistle.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot   trad., arranged by Diane Taraz
My favorite spiritual, Tarazified. Thanks to the UUlations for singing my arrangement so beautifully. We're a nine-woman subset of our church choir, and we have a great time doing a wide variety of material, from "Yellow Submarine" to "Over the Rainbow" to various compositions and arrangements by myself and our fearless leader Jennifer Kobayashi.

Norland Wind   words by Violet Jacob, music by Jim Reid
In 1913, Scottish poet Violet Jacob wrote "The Wild Geese," and in 1984 Jim Reid set it to this haunting melody. I discovered it on a Battlefield Band CD soon after the passing of Johnny Cunningham, a Scottish fiddler of celestial gifts who played on my first CD. The melody just belongs in open-G tuning, and the song makes a fine requiem.

The Ballad of Deborah Samson   Diane Taraz
Deborah served in disguise after the Revolutionary War was officially over, when Tory raids made the army desperate for soldiers. She got away with it partly because she was very tall, towering over men and women alike, and back then there was no entrance physical and people seldom took all their clothes off. Her steadfast service was rewarded with a military pension, signed by Governor John Hancock in 1792, after she was championed by Paul Revere as a deserving veteran. In later life she was one of the first women to speak regularly in public, as she traveled from town to town, renting halls to parade in her old uniform and recount her adventures. This song and "The Lady in Black" also appear on the Gloucester Hornpipe & Clog Society's 2008 CD, Liberty!

The Lady in Black   Diane Taraz
Legend has it that in January 1862, a Georgia woman, Melanie Lanier, tried to rescue her husband, Lieutenant Andrew Lanier, a Confederate prisoner in Fort Warren on Georges Island in Boston Harbor. She stayed with friends in Hull, studying the island through a spyglass, and one night rowed herself to the island, armed with an ancient pistol, carrying a pickaxe, and dressed as a man. They say she whistled an old melody as a code to be lifted through the bars of a window that faced the sea; I chose an old French tune -- "V'la, l'bon vent" ("Come, Fair Wind") -- that Andrew might have known from his French ancestry.

The men dug a tunnel with the pickaxe, and Melanie lived among them for several weeks. When the tunnel was discovered, she aimed her pistol at the commandant's heart, but the old gun exploded. A piece of shrapnel struck her beloved Andrew and killed him.

Melanie was tried as a spy and sentenced to hang. Her last request was to be dressed as a woman, and a piece of black cloth was found to drape around her.

Soon after a guard felt cold hands clutch his throat from behind; he went mad and had to be sent to an asylum. Others saw dainty footprints in the snow, and to this day the rangers say they and others have seen a figure in black drift through the abandoned corridors of Fort Warren.

All of which is a cracking good tale, but none of it appears to be true. There are no contemporary newspaper accounts, highly suspicious, as the lurid tale of a young woman hung as a spy would surely have been covered extensively. Ah well, never let the facts stand in the way of a good story!

The Sparrow   Jack Hardy
The four Jack Hardy songs on this CD were part of a 1995 tribute to his striking works. I greatly enjoyed Tarazifying them.

The Wedding Song   Jack Hardy
I can't resist singing harmony with myself, and here I become a forest of spirits, floating among the druidic oaks. Eric Kilburn, owner and operator of Wellspring Sound, added the atmospheric electric guitar.

No Man   Jack Hardy
I was 9.5 months pregnant in 1994 when Eric Kilburn and I finished recording the Hardy songs. I was what you call ready.

The Tinker's Coin   Jack Hardy
Jack's most-recorded song. The sidhe are powerful Irish elves. Phil Edmonds plays a mean whistle.

In the Bleak Midwinter   first verse, Christina Rossetti, 1872; other verses by Diane Taraz; music by Gustav Holst, 1906
My Solstice reinterpretation of this carol first appeared on my 1999 holiday CD, Hope! Says the Holly, with piano. Here I play four dulcimer tracks, plus rhythms on various items I found around the house, including a little blue ceramic pot and a little wooden instrument from Vietnam in the shape of a ridge-backed turtle.

Les filles de par chez nous   trad. French
A rudely happy song, made even happier by Chris Turner's bouncy harmonica and jaw-harp. The translation: The girls at our house like to fool around like anything; they call men in off the street and offer them a smoke. "If you have no tobacco," they say, "we'll give you some. If you'd like to get married, just ask! Don't ask Ma, it's none of her business; don't as Pa, he has no say -- just ask me, and I'll say yes!" Lynn Noel adds her own happy lines.

Let's Go Canoeing on Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg   Diane Taraz
An actual body of water in central Massachusetts, also known (thank goodness) as Webster Lake. The "you fish on your side" translation was actually made up by a newspaper reporter in the 1920s, but it seems so right that it remains the accepted meaning of that impressively long and g-laden name. I say, never let the truth stand in the way of a good story!

Minuit, Chretiens   words by Placide Cappeau, music by Adolphe-Charles Adam
Cappeau, a wine merchant and sometime poet, was asked by his village priest to write a poem for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and he obliged in 1847 while on the train to Paris. Once there, he sold his wine and gave his poem to some friends who knew Adam, the "hot" composer of the moment. His inspired melody has since circled the globe. Cappeau's support for equal rights for all drew the scorn of French bishops, who condemned his song as having no religious feeling, but the American translator, a Unitarian Universalist abolitionist, was greatly inspired by Cappeau's lyrics.

An' Thou Were My Ain Thing   trad. Scottish, before 1770
When the one you love owns your last breath, it's serious. Jonathan Gilbert plays alto recorder and sings tenor and bass, and the UUlations join in. My odd harmonies, much like life and love, are an exercise in delayed gratification.