Richard and I heard an online concert by Emily Eagen on February 5, 2021. It was hosted on Facebook and the Jalopy Theatre. Emily was celebrating turning in her dissertation and getting her doctorate. Woo hoo! I’ve known Emily since the 90s, we met in Madison when she was doing her master’s as a singer.
She opened with “Chuck It,” a Depression-era song by Julia Lee. She sang it and whistled while accompanying herself on the ukulele. Chuck it in a bucket! I should mention that Emily is a world-champion whistler.
Her second song was a Sephardic song in Ladino about the nightingale singing of love. She said it was perfect to whistle because of the bird element. The song was beautiful with the fragrant Moorish contours of music from the Middle East.
Next she sang a song from 1931, “The Evolution Girl.” She sang it with a wonderful twangy sense of the folk style. She dedicated the song to a colleague of hers, another teacher at Jalopy, who died in August. She sang two songs by English Renaissance composer John Dowland. First “Come Again, Sweet Love,” such a magical song. I didn’t catch the title of the second song but it didn’t strike me as strongly as the first.
She sang two children’s song she wrote. First, “My Pet Dragon,” which was about “being antsy, not feeling like you can sit still, feeling like you need a pat on the head.” This was a major highlight of the concert, it was such a cute, funny, charming song. The next song, “What the Star Said,” is her response to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” In her mind, “Twinkle, Twinkle” is a song about a child looking up in the sky and wondering what the star is. “What the Star Said” is the response of the star, explaining what it is. She said that the melody was an inversion of the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle.” I didn’t quite hear that but why would she lie? A lovely song.
I said at the start of this review that she sang the first song accompanying herself on the ukulele. She played that ukulele on every song so far! And played it beautifully.
The next song was written by a Civil War-era female singer songwriter named Mrs. E. A. Parker, “I’ll Marry No Man If He Drinks.” A bit of temperance propaganda! Who knew. She accompanied herself on the piano for that one.
“West Virginia Mine Disaster” is a song by Jean Ritchie. Emily said that there were many songs about disaster and they’d typically tell the story of the disaster but Ritchie wanted to write a song from a woman’s point of view. She sang it a cappella, it was stunning.
The next song, “Look Stranger,” was her combination of a poem by W. H. Auden and a shape note hymn called “The Golden Harp.” She saw the intention of both the poem and the hymn as a longing for another world. She accompanied herself on the piano for that. I would love to do a choral arrangement of this song, I could totally hear a chorus going to town on it.
She did a little demo about whistling, talking about vibrato in particular. She said that in singing you often get very concerned about the use of vibrato - - how much you use in what style. When she’s whistling she says she just does what she wants! She performed “Over the Rainbow,” whistling and accompanying herself on the piano. It was priceless. I’ll think of her when I hear that song for a while.
She sang a lullaby that she wrote. The message of the song was, help me encourage this child to be who he is so I can be more intensely myself. Something like that. “Who Needs a Christmas Song?” was another original song, a work in progress. She guessed that she wasn’t the only person writing a Christmas song in February. She said that if anyone had any ideas about how to end her Christmas song, let her know. She’d have eleven months to work on it. Both of those songs were with ukulele.
She whistled "Ashokan Farewell," the song that she performed when she won the International Whistling competition for the first time (she's so modest, she doesn't say how many times she won it). I'm not able to find her performance of that song on YouTube, but she has a recording on her website. Check it out, you will be amazed.
Her final song was “Come Take a Trip in My Airship.” She sang it and played the ukulele and of course whistled. A perfect closer for a delightful concert. Here she is performing that song in 2016.