Mirror Visions Ensemble: “Clean Plates Don’t Lie”

Chef Dan Barber's Fish

8:00 pm • Saturday, September 27th 2014
Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall at Williams College • Williamstown, MA

Leonard Bernstein’s text and perhaps inspiration for his song cycle La Bonne Cuisine (1947) was Emile Dutoit’s La Bonne Cuisine Française. The work is subtitled “Four Recipes for Voice and Piano” and has the following songs:

(1) Plum Pudding
(2) Queues de Boeuf (“Ox Tails”)
(3) Tavouk Guenksis
(4) Civet à Toute Vitesse (“Rabbit at Top Speed”)

The work was premiered in October 1948 at Town Hall in New York City with mezzo-soprano Marion Bell and pianist Edwin MacArthur.

Inspiration, and texts, for Richard Pearson Thomas’ cantata entitled Clean Plates Don’t Lie from the Chef Dan Barber’s menus for Blue Hill at Stone Barns.


The Mirror Visions Ensemble (soprano Vira Slywotzky, tenor Scott Murphree and baritone Jesse Blumberg) will be joined by composer and pianist Richard Pearson Thomas, violinist Naho Tsutsui and cellist Alberto Parrini at Williams College on Saturday with their program Concert à la carte. It’s a program inspired by food and celebrates the delights of dining.

Unlike most chamber music enterprises, the Mirror Visions Ensemble is run by singers rather than instrumentalists, and its programs are shaped with an ear to the poetry of song texts rather than to overarching notions of musical style.”   —The New York Times

Mirror Visions’ performances often recreate the salon or soiree musical settings made popular during the 19th century.  The first half of their program at Williams explores food—ingredient selection, meal preparation (including recipes!) and the pleasure of dining—in familiar and lesser known songs by American composers such as Barber, Berg, Bernstein, Bolcom, Porter and Schwartz. It seems that quite a number of American composers are foodies and have given in to the temptation with the representative body of work about the pleasures of dining.

The program concludes, in celebration of sustainable food, with Richard Pearson Thomas’ Clean Plates Don’t Lie which is based on the menus and philosophy of Chef Dan Barber, originator of the farm-to-table movement. Not familiar with this Barber? Check out his TED Talk  How I Fell in Love with a Fish, and you’ll get a glimpse of the humor and love behind Clean Plates Don’t Lie, despite the serious concept of sustainability.

In his program notes, Richard Pearson Thomas writes:

When Tobé Malawista, Artistic Director of the Mirror Visions Ensemble, asked me to compose something about “sustainable food”, I was initially at a loss … It wasn’t until Tobé sent me copies of menus from Blue Hill at Stone Barns that the idea for “Clean Plates Don’t Lie” began to click. The menus themselves are simple and elegant, listing the fresh ingredients from which the day’s meal will be prepared, divided into groups such as Greenhouse, Field, Foraged, etc. The names of the plants and animals are poetry in and of themselves, and Chef Dan Barber transforms them into culinary poetry. So I fashioned a cantata, interspersing sections of the menu as arias and choruses with short recitatives on the subject of sustainable food.   —Richard Pearson Thomas, 2010

He even manages to bring the cantata to a grand finale with a fugue. The composer’s full note about the piece as well as  Saturday’s program can be viewed by clicking here.

How delicious … a program of American music about food and the pleasures of dining!
Sounds yummy, n’est pas?

Indeed, so we’ll say bon appétit and leave you with a little carrot jingle to munch on.

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