Suite from Vinegar Tom

20 min.


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Program Notes
In the pioneering feminist play "Vinegar Tom", premiered in 1976, British dramatist Caryl Churchill portrays the oppression and humiliation of a group of women accused of witchcraft in 17th century England. Churchill uses the device of epic theater, notably used by German playwright Bertolt Brecht and others beginning in the early 20th century, by including seven original songs written by her and set to music composed by a member of the original cast. The inclusion of the songs performed by the actors in contemporary dress is used to break the imaginary fourth wall dramatic convention separating the performers from the audience by speaking directly to them. This enhances the play’s narrative of misogyny, repression and intolerance. In the late 1990s, I was asked to set Churchill’s song lyrics to new music, as well as to compose incidental music for a production in 2000 at the Theatre School at DePaul University. The original instrumental accompaniment for the songs I had written for the play was for cello and piano. Though, because the songs are quite lyrical, I found they worked especially well for clarinet. The "Suite from Vinegar Tom" is a rewarding and approachable work and is particularly suitable for recitals. Suite from Vinegar Tom I. Introduction II. Nobody Sings III. Interlude (Waltz) IV. Something to Burn V. If Everybody Worked As Hard As Me VI. If You Float VII. From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee VIII. Interlude (Polka) IX. Evil Women (Grand Chorus)
Recording Notes
Robert Woolfrey - clarinet, Eric Charnofsky - piano