Friday, February 20, 2015

The Work at Hand at Carnegie Hall

The New York City Experience of
The Work At Hand, Carnegie Hall

By Brenda McGillicutty Burgoo

Charlene traveled from 81 degrees Fahrenheit to 18° on February 14, the day of her departure from San Diego and her arrival at New York City’s JFK. The purpose of the visit was to attend the world premiere of her daughter Laura J. Morefield’s The Work at Hand as set to music by Jake Heggie (Dead Man Walking, Moby-Dick). The three-part cycle was sung by luscious mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton at Carnegie Hall.

Sadly, Jake was laid up on the West Coast with a flu bug and could not attend the premiere.

Barton was magnificent throughout the recital. Charlene was verklempt from beginning to end because it seemed as if Barton’s intelligent program was built around Laura, who loved life, including nature. God and wit, fought for it valiantly, reluctantly departing in 2011, having left behind a legacy of words.

Laura J. Morefield, 2008
Laura knew Jake because he had set Charlene’s poems. They became close friends when Laura and mom were on their annual mother-daughter travels, which sometimes centered on Heggie premieres, the last of which was a mid-chemo trip to the 2010 world premiere of Jake’s Moby-Dick  in Dallas. Subsequently, while seeking a miracle at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Laura and Dan, her beloved husband, went to see Jake’s Dead Man Walking. She declared him her favorite opera composer.

At his request, Laura sent Jake her “top ten poems” before she died. When his Carnegie Hall/Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra commission arose, Jake determined to set Laura’s work for Barton and cellist Anne Martindale Williams. What we heard at Carnegie Hall (collegial pianist was Bradley Moore of Houston Grand Opera) was the chamber music version. To come is the world premiere of the orchestrated symphonic version, which takes place in Pittsburgh May 15 and 17. Charlene plans to attend.

Charlene adds

Dan took our little group (I especially enjoyed being with Dotty Morefield, Laura’s other mother, and Chad Riter, her god-son) to see two Broadway musicals, and treated a larger party to dinner at Trattoria Dell’Arte prior to Jamie’s vocal recital. Le Parker Meridien was marvelously comfortable, with a caring staff that would not let me out the door without a coat! I met with numerous artists who once lived in San Diego – that was so good to see them thriving and happy.
Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and Charlene
Photo courtesy of Josh Ellis

Dan Morefield, Jamie Barton and Charlene
Photo courtesy of Josh Ellis

About Jake’s music:  Laura adored the sea music from Moby-Dick, and the more tranquil writing (for the final section titled “The Slow Seconds”) was rife with a similar, expansive motif. Impressively, Jake managed to capture the anger, frustration and grief one feels when receiving so terrible a diagnosis. Those who have read Laura’s book, The Warrior’s Stance, or have seen the play based upon her work, know how much she loved life. Jake and Jamie paid homage to that, capturing her spirit and allowing her words and amotions to live.

In answer to many queries, there is no recording of The Work at Hand. Laura's book may be ordered through me or by going to Proceeds benefit the Colon Cancer Alliance.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Blue Warrior

The Warriors Project

For no apparent reason, I was feeling blue August 8. So I made a list of warrior accomplishments since Laura's death July 17, 2011

The Warrior's Stance, a volume of poems by my late daughter, Laura Morefield. Proceeds benefit Colon Cancer Alliance, Washington, DC Book design by Patty Kevershan, Kevershan Design

The Warriors' Duet a play by Charlene Baldridge based on the mother/daughter relationship and Laura's profound poetry, both affected by Laura's three-year battle to live.
The play was first heard in a resting at ion theatre, then produced by Circle Circle dot dot in the inaugural San Diego Fringe Festival in 2013. It was a semi-finalist in the 2014 Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Festival.

Poster design by Justin Warren Martin

The Rose in December, a collection of Charlene Baldridge’s poetry written post-diagnosis, published by Finishing Line Press, 2014. Cover art by Patty Kevershan of Kevershan Design

The Work at Hand, Symphonic Songs based on poetry of the late Laura Morefield, composed Jake Heggie, set to premiere in its chamber music arrangement at Carnegie Hall February 17, 2015 and in the full symphonic orchestration with the Pittsburgh Symphony  May 15-17, 2015.

Warriors: The Books We Never Wrote, a 55,000-word joint memoir comprising Baldridge’s What Next, Miss Mommy? and Morefield’s Golf on Monday, Chemo on Tuesday. This manuscript is looking for an agent.

Any questions may be directed to Charlene Baldridge,

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wondrous Strange Snow

Now I can tell you

March 29: I’ve been sitting on hope and this revelation for a couple of months now, and today I finally received what I’ve been waiting for — a letter from the O’Neill Theater Center, where my play, “The Warriors’ Duet,” has been under consideration since last year, a semi-finalist for the 2014 National Playwrights Conference. Today’s letter said,  “…congratulations again on advancing to the semi-finalist round of consideration. At this time, however, we are sad to report that your work is no longer in consideration for the summer.”

What? When my wardrobe and the rest of my life were already planned around this event? I was so hoping to be heaped with O’Neill glory this summer, for the story about this daughter and mother would go global!

In the closing graphs the artistic director and literary manager -- both women by the way -- say there were more than 1,200 works submitted this year; that they hope I feel encouraged by making it this far. Then they write, “Please continue to share your work with us….”

Don’t they know I’m turning 80 on April 26? 

Oh, well, at least my new book, The Rose in December, arrived March 28. That’s some compensation, but I did want it all!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Work at Hand

News of the Warrior

A Title, Soloists and Carnegie Hall Announced for Jake Heggie World Premiere Featuring Laura Morefield’s ‘The Work at Hand’

Laura Morefield at the world premiere of
I just hate it when people (Me!) release the really big news in dribs and drabs. Sometimes it can’t be avoided.

As many of you may already know, our friend composer Jake Heggie, a great pal of my late daughter Laura Morefield and composer of Dead Man Walking and Moby-Dick, among many others, is writing a concerto for soprano, cello and symphony orchestra for Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (I'd previously thought the premiere would be in November 2014; now it will be May 2015).

And that’s not all. There is a title:

The Work at Hand: Symphonic Songs
poetry by Laura Morefield 

Additionally there are two versions of the three-movement work, each movement named for a yoga pose. A chamber music arrangement for soprano, cello and piano will be premiered at Zankel Hall, the chamber music venue in Carnegie Hall, February 17, 2015. The other, for full orchestra and soloists, will be premiered in Pittsburgh in May 2015 (dates and official announcement soon on Pittsburgh Symphony web site).

Soloists for both New York and Pittsburgh performances will be mezzo- soprano Jamie Barton, a Metropolitan Opera regular and recent winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, and cellist Anne Martindale Williams, principal cello of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The pianist is yet to be announced. Here are details:

Need I say that the proud mother is over the moon with joy?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Warriors Write a Book

January 23, 2014

Laura Morefield & Charlene Baldridge

I’m embroiled in a tough task these days, back at work on the big prose book tentatively titled What Next Miss Mommy? and now subtitled The Books We Never Wrote.

The first book is my memoir about the mother/daughter relationship, which we managed to rebuild from the depths to which it had plunged when at age 58 I ended my marriage to the man Laura loved, her stepfather, the late Chuck Baldridge. The resurrection and deepening of our relationship was not easily achieved, and people who saw us together on our yearly cultural trips often urged us to detail how we did it. We never wrote the book because we never figured out how we did it. And then cancer came along, cutting short my daughter’s life, but not our relationship.

The second book was Laura’s never-completed Golf Monday, Chemo on Tuesday, an intended how-to about taking charge of your cancer treatment. Laura completed two chapters before she ran out of steam. Apparently, there were other, more important things to do, like survive.

As I came to the end of a first draft, it occurred to me that Laura’s blog titled “A Month in the Life” could and should stand in for her book. It is chockfull of wisdom. Putting it together chronologically and editing it has taken more than a week, and I’m only up to Day 21.

I found myself telling a friend that I was forging ahead with the work, however painful, because who knows how much time I have left, and there is still much to do. He assured me I will fulfill my assignments and promises to Laura and to myself.

As I said, the work is challenging, reading her words, hearing her voice. Today, after my friend left, I returned to the work and I was buoyed up by these words:  “Only one person in the universe knows when my use-by date is up, and I don’t call him doctor. I trust the numbering of my days to the One who whispered me into being out of love.”