I met Emma Brown in the first year of my Bachelor's degree in The Hague. I needed a singer to work with for my duo class, so essentially what happened is that I ambushed her in the canteen one afternoon and demanded she work with me.
Miraculously, she agreed. Our very first lesson with duo coach Han-Louis Meijer was scheduled three days later, and we, innocent, green and overconfident as we were, decided that about an hour's worth of rehearsal was quite enough.
We left Han-Louis' classroom wide-eyed, quiet and very much inspired. Between that moment and our next lesson, exactly a week later, we rehearsed 38 hours: an entire Grieg lied cycle.
We've been a duo ever since.
Emma, after finishing her Bachelors in singing, decided to follow it up with a Masters in Church Music and Composition, the exam of which, "Through the Liturgical Year", took place last June. In addition to her stunning choir music, as performed by the Pancras Consort, she decided to put her Three Pieces of Eden on the programme as well... and who better to perform it than the composer herself?
As Emma herself writes about the songs:
These songs grew from a project at Utrecht Conservatoire back in 2009, when I was studying singing as my main subject. Singers were put in contact with composers in a project called “I Write a Song.” I interpreted this literally, so I wrote a song. Unfortunately, this was not the intention of the vocal department and I was reprimanded: apparently singers were not expected to compose themselves, simply to provide a text and introduce the composition students to their voices.
The song I wrote for Utrecht was "One Foot in Eden", the first song in this cycle. It has been through several edits since then. The other two songs, "Heaven is What I Cannot Reach" and "In a Garden" were composed this year, 2014. They took as their basis elements from "One Foot in Eden".
The poems "Heaven is What I Cannot Reach" and "In a Garden" were chosen because they continued the theme of "One Foot in Eden". The latter points out that we still look back to Paradise, but because we live in a fallen world we experience hope, pity, charity, and love – these are unnecessary in Paradise. "Heaven is What I Cannot Reach" is both the poet's longing for heaven, which is unattainable, and her attempts to settle for a life without temptation. "In a Garden" is a beautiful description of the poet standing in her freshly-manicured garden, and yet, in spite of the garden's neatness, longing for Eden.
A preview of the song cycle can be found on the "Media" page.