Original acoustic music written and performed by Odds Bodkin.
©2022 Odds Bodkin All Rights Reserved
Original acoustic music written and performed by Odds Bodkin.
©2022 Odds Bodkin All Rights Reserved
Classical songs explode inside an adventure this coming Sunday, May 23rd at 3 pm EST when Odds Bodkin joins musicians live onstage in Philadelphia to perform the broadcast premiere of DANIKA THE ROSE. Get your livestream tickets here and tune in for this groundbreaking new performance work. As Sopranos Jazimina MacNeil and Sarah Shafer sing Dvorak’s beloved Moravian Duets in Czech, pianist Jonathan Ware wraps them both in music while Odds tells his original story in English and Brett Ashley Robinson plays the girl Danika. It’s a vivid, exciting and hauntingly artful display of virtuosity on many fronts. Don’t miss it!
Akin to Peter and the Wolf, only for adults, DANIKA THE ROSE tells the tale of a girl haunted by her beauty and the two men who violently compete for her affections, all set in a duchy along the Danube long ago. Hunting dogs, telepathic deer, storms of mayflies, deep fried eagles and talking dream birds add to the otherworldly nature of this adult fairy tale.
Tickets begin at $15. The live audience is sold out, but you can watch it from the comfort of home!
This concert is sponsored by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and takes place on the stage of the American Philosophical Society next to Independence Hall.
How did Danika the Rose, a new work soon to be live-streamed from the American Philosophical Society stage in Philadelphia, arrive on the American classical music scene?
It’s a story worth telling.
I’m Odds Bodkin, and I wrote Danika the Rose. Soon I’ll be performing it onstage with four other people for the Chamber Music Society of Philadelphia. It’s an adult fairy tale, interwoven with songs by Dvorak. Yes, I wrote it, but I didn’t do it alone. In the next few blog posts I’ll tell that curious story.
It begins back in the fall of 2018. I was visiting the Thoreau School in Concord, MA with my guitars and harp, warming up before the flood of schoolkids arrived for their performance, when a young woman stepped into the empty auditorium and walked up to the stage.
“Mr. Bodkin,” she said, “I have a proposition for you.”
Well, I thought, that’s quite the opening statement. “And you are?” She was quite pretty, late twenties, early thirties.
“Jazimina MacNeil. I’m a classical singer.”
Taking note of the name, I stopped playing my harp to listen.
“I’ve been a fan of yours for years,” she went on, “and I have a project I hope to interest you in.”
Obviously she’d learned I was performing here on this day. Well, you’ve got initiative and nerve, I thought, harping once again. “Go on, please.”
“A soprano friend and I sing Dvorak’s Moravian Duets together, but they’re little-known works.” I’d always loved Antonin Dvorak’s symphonies, especially From the New World, but wasn’t aware of any duets. “And so to bring them to a wider audience,” she went on, “I thought using them in a story might help.”
Ah, I thought, so that is why you are here, Jazimina.
“And I’d like you to write it,” she finished.
“You’re talking about a commissioned work.”
“Yes, I am. An adult fairy tale. One that uses all twenty-three duets. They’re all sung in Czech.”
“Any English translations?” I asked, assuming this would be for American audiences.
“Yes, but we’re not going to use them.”
A spoken-word fairy tale with obscure 19th Century art songs sung in Czech? Now there’s an easy sell to Americans, I thought. But then again, I like fairy tales, psychic whirligigs that they are, and writing one would be fun, especially if I were going to be paid for it. Peter and the Wolf came to mind.
I gave her my email address and told her to send me a proposal. She left before I could speak with her again.
Little did I know what a work of art we would create.
In tonight’s performance of HERCULES IN HELL, Hercules tells his own life story shortly after his death. Where does he do this? In the Underworld, a place he is shocked to find himself.
Of course, Persephone, Queen of the Dead, despises her husband Hades. Trapped in the Underworld with him, she longs for news of the living world. And so when Hercules, freshly dead, drops down before her, she won’t let him proceed to his final resting place on Mt. Olympus until Hercules tells both her and her husband his life story.
This is Odds Bodkin’s dramatic setting for the myth of Hercules, a storytelling work originally commissioned by The Art Institute of Chicago for an exhibition of Greek art.
Here’s a sample:
Hercules is reluctant to tell his story, because his life tallies just as many foul murders as glorious acts, but he tells it anyway, just to be able to leave. Does he give the full truth, or just his point of view? In places it’s hard to tell. Nevertheless, in his huge, deep voice, as Bodkin plays 12-string guitar, Hercules begins his story:
“My mother, Alcmene, loved my mortal father Amphitryon, but she would not have him in her bed until he’d avenged the deaths of her brothers, so while he was away, Zeus came to mother, disguised as Amphitryon, and fathered me. So who is my father? Zeus, yes. But I’ve never met him. Some father he is. No, it was Amphitryon who raised me…”
Thusly, the conversation between Hades, Persephone and Hercules unfolds. It’s about a man who cannot control his temper, a bad thing when you’re the strongest man in the world.
Odds Bodkin won the prestigious Golden Headset Award for Best Audio when he released his epic Hercules recording into the storytelling world. Now you can watch him tell it, live and up close, as he Zooms the show from his studio in New Hampshire.
Tonight! Sunday, Oct. 18th at 5 pm EST. Join the crowd who have bought tickets. If after the show you have a question, Odds will answer it over ZOOM. It’s all live, sponsored by Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA. Kari Kuelzer, the owner, will MC the show and moderate questions.
Special thanks to Abigail Taylor, Katie LaBrie and Gavin Bodkin.
Antonin Dvorak, the great 19th Century Czech composer, wrote sophisticated folk songs he named the Moravian Duets, after Moravia, a land along the Danube River. In translation, the lyrics tell of young lovers torn apart by parents and war, of farm life among meadows and forests owned by powerful landlords, and other details of agrarian life in those times. Songbirds figure in many of the songs.
However, these works aren’t particularly well-known to the public. Commissioned by singer Jazimina MacNeil and guided by these snippets of story, Odds Bodkin took on the task of crafting them together into a cohesive fiction. The result is Danika the Rose–over an hour of richly textured storytelling and music.
As with most fairy tales, there are innocents and a villain, but this story also digs deep into environmental awareness and ecosystems pushed out of balance, along with exploring human beings’ complex relationships with game animals.
If you attend the adult premiere on Sunday Oct. 6th, 4 pm at Bass Hall in Peterborough, New Hampshire, expect a compelling story told in English interspersed with songs sung in Czech. Unless you know the Czech language, you’ll simply be absorbed by the sheer beauty of two renowned young sopranos singing Dvorak’s music, together with an accompanist.
I was onstage at the Thoreau School in Concord, MA, warming up my harp for a show when a young woman entered the empty auditorium and walked up to the stage. “Odds, my name is Jazimina MacNeil,” she said. “I’m a singer, and I have a proposition for you.”
Never having met her, I kept on playing. “Do tell,” I replied, intrigued. “What’s your name again?”
“Jazimina. I’m a mezzo-soprano.”
Interesting name, I thought. “Classical music?”
“Yes.” She and a colleague, a soprano, Sarah Shafer, Jazimina explained, specialize in singing Antonin Dvorak’s Moravian Duets, a little-known set of songs with lyrics in Czech, the preponderance of them for two women’s voices.
I’ve loved Dvorak’s music all my life, especially his New World Symphony. “So why are we talking?” I asked.
“I want you to write a fairy tale based on the duets,” she said. “One that you can tell, while Sarah and I sing the songs in between.”
I immediately thought of Serge Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, a favorite of mine as a child. A combination of storytelling and classical music. This project could be similar, but new.
“Not many people know about these duets, but with a story,” she added, “they might love them as much as we do.”
Long story short, two years later we’re preparing summer rehearsals with pianist Emely Phelps for the premiere of Danika the Rose in October. It will take place in Peterborough, New Hampshire at Bass Hall, with the help of The Harris Center and Electric Earth Concerts.
Here’s a quick preview of this new commissioned work, to be debuted in August 2019.
When you think of physical toughness, who comes to mind? Army Rangers? Navy Seals? Elite athletes? Well, add one more category: the White Mountains Professional Trail Crew of the Appalachian Mountain Club. With 80 pound packs on their backs, they are known for sprinting the trails of the Presidential Range, including Mt. Washington. Steep trails. Up into the clouds, in sun or fog or downpours, they run at full speed with their axes, freeing the forest trails of downed trees and hoisting five hundred pound rocks around to build stairs.
Every hiker who has ever climbed New Hampshire’s White Mountains has walked over bridges the Trail Crew has built, or rock stairs they have constructed. You don’t see them much. When you pass a sign that reads, “Trail Closed,” that’s where they are. A crew of men and women, living in the open for long stretches of time, unable to bathe for days, covered with spruce pitch to fend off bugs. A wild bunch. Smelly. Dirty. When they emerge from the trees to surprise hikers, they often resemble something out of Deliverance. Many hail from the country’s best universities.
Founded in 1919, the AMC Professional Trail Crew is a hundred years old this summer, and to celebrate their centennial on Mt. Washington this August, they’ve asked me to tell their story.
I’ve been working on it for a year. It’s called THE OLD MAN SPEAKS.
More to follow.