Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Guest Blog: Culture of Pub Music/Ariel Pisturino

(Dublin pub musicians. Photo by Jeremy King, Flickr.)
Culture of Pub Music

by Ariel Pisturino

In 2019, I spent a few days in Dublin, Ireland, exploring the city with my partner. Ireland is a magical place, full of history and folklore. One night, we were out and about and it started to drizzle, as it does in that part of the world. Looking around for a place to duck into, we started to hear some raucous music. We stuffed ourselves into this little pub. It was PACKED with wall-to-wall people, and everyone’s attention was on the group of musicians playing traditional Irish music on traditional instruments. It was such fun and a different experience from being in America. It got me wondering about the culture of Irish music.

Traditional Irish music began as an oral tradition, with generations learning by ear and passing it down. It’s a tradition that still exists today. Irish music originated with the Celts about 2,000 years ago. The Celts were influenced by music from the East. It is even thought that the traditional Irish harp originated in Egypt. The harp was the most popular instrument and harpists were employed to compose music for noble people. When invaders came to Ireland in the early 1600’s, that forced people to flee the country. Harpists roamed through Europe, playing music wherever they could.

The most famous composer/harpist was Turlough O’Carolan (b.1670-d.1738). He was a blind harpist, composer, and singer. He traveled all over Ireland for 50 years, playing his music. He is considered Ireland’s national composer.

The main traditional instruments are fiddle, Celtic harp, Irish flute, penny whistle, uilleann pipes and bodhrán. More recently the Irish bouzouki, acoustic guitar, mandolin and tenor banjo have found their way into the playing of traditional music.

Irish pub songs are part of a tradition of storytelling by the fireside. People used to visit their neighbours, friends and relatives in the evenings after work or on a Sunday after mass, sit with them by the fireside, and share stories. In between the stories there would be songs, usually unaccompanied.

There was a big revival of pub music during the 1960’s with popular bands singing traditional Irish music, usually accompanied by guitar. (Think: The Chieftains.) In the 1970’s, local singers started forming singing clubs to focus on the traditional songs. One of the first singing sessions was hosted in Dublin during the 1980’s. These sessions became more regular and popular amongst pubs to host these groups, and that’s how pub music evolved into what we experience today.

Previously published in the unSUNg Concerts Newsletter, March 17, 2022

Ariel Pisturino graduated from the Thornton School of Music at USC with a Masters in Vocal Music. She teaches part-time at three different colleges and universities, privately in her own music studio, and performs with various opera companies and vocal groups in the Los Angeles area. She is the Curator and Artistic Director of the unSUNg Concert Series, which is dedicated to reviving previously-composed, forgotten vocal music and sponsoring new composers and young vocal artists.

Ariel Pisturino as Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore:

Ariel also does a lot of church singing and concerts:

unSUNg Concert Series: http://www.unsungconcerts.com

Ariel’s current project: Musical Director for the student production of Working!:

Find Ariel on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and SoundCloud.

Ariel Pisturino: http://www.arielpisturino.com

~

Dawn Pisturino

March 23, 2022

Copyright 2022 Ariel Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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“He Shall Feed His Flock” – Handel’s Messiah

I like to start out the holiday season by listening to Handel’s Messiah. Not only is the music powerful and majestic, with a wide variety of vocal ranges, but the lyrics and the music capture the essence of Jesus’ life and teachings. One of my favorite pieces is “He Shall Feed His Flock,” which is straight out of Matthew 11:28-29 and Isaiah 40:11 in the Bible. This Oratorio is a fine example of Baroque music that has endured for 280 years.

Performed by Swiss soprano Regula Muhlemann. From Handel’s Messiah.

Lyrics

He shall feed his flock like
A shepherd
And He shall gather
The lambs with his arm
With his arm

He shall feed his flock like
A shepherd
And He shall gather
The lambs with his arm
With his arm

And carry them in his bosom
And gently lead those
That are with young
And gently lead those
And gently lead those
That are with young

Come unto Him
All ye that labour
Come unto Him, ye
That are heavy laden
And He will give you rest

Come unto Him
All ye that labour
Come unto Him, ye
That are heavy laden
And He will give you rest

Take his yoke upon you
And learn of Him
For He is meek
And lowly of heart
And ye shall find rest
And ye shall find rest
Unto your souls

Take his yoke upon you
And learn of Him
For He is meek
And lowly of heart
And ye shall find rest
And ye shall find rest
Unto your souls

Source: Musixmatch

Scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens.

Music by G.F. Handel, 1741.

Dawn Pisturino

November 6, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


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Reprise: Concert for the Dead

Story by Dawn Pisturino.

Illustration by Job van Gelder.

Dedicated to my daughter, lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino.

Ariel knelt before the marble niche holding the remains of her dead older brother and placed a bouquet of roses in the stone vase. Six months had passed since the horrible night a drunk driver had taken Jonathan’s life. She would never forget.

“Coach Willis still talks about you, Jonathan,” Ariel said, tracing the carved letters of his name with trembling fingers. “Nobody’s beaten your track record. You were the best. You always will be.”

She pulled some sheet music from her backpack. “The opera club is doing Purcell this year. I got the lead role. I’m so excited!” She began to sing:

“When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create

No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;

Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate . . .”*

The haunting elegy echoed through the halls of the Great Mausoleum, bringing tears to Ariel’s eyes. As the last melancholy note faded away, the mausoleum doors slammed shut. The lights flickered and dimmed.

Icy panic clawed at Ariel’s chest. She could hardly breathe. Then a long, agonizing scream tore from her throat.

She ran to the entrance and pushed against the heavy metal doors. Locked.  She searched for an intercom or emergency button. Nothing.

“Let me out!” she cried, pounding on the door. “It’s not closing time!”

Voices whispered all around her.

“No!” she howled, throwing her weight against the unyielding door.

The whispers grew louder. “We’ll let you out when the concert is over.”

“W-what c-concert?” Ariel stammered, searching the empty air.

“The Concert for the Dead.”

And then she saw them, gliding down the dark corridors, the eerie inhabitants of this condominium for the dead.

They crowded into the main hall, hundreds of them, the ghastly and the beautiful.

Men dressed in military uniforms soaked with blood, arms ripped away, legs shredded at the knees, and heads split open, eyeballs dangling from their sockets.

Women gowned in rustling silk, faded and torn, ringlets framing faces eaten away by worms. Pale young mothers with tragic eyes, carrying shriveled up babies in their arms.

Dead children glared at Ariel with menacing faces, their transparent fingers clutching moth-eaten ragdolls and time-worn teddy bears.

An orchestra appeared. Skeletons with shreds of rotting flesh hanging from their bones. The conductor raised his baton, and the slow, plaintive strains of a violin filled the air. He turned and looked at Ariel with one putrid eye, motioning her to begin.

I know this song. I can do it. Shaking with fear, she dug her fingernails into her palms and began to sing:

“None but the lonely heart can know my sadness

Alone and parted far from joy and gladness . . .”**

She sang until the sun disappeared and the stained glass windows lost their color. She sang until the moon ran its course and the stars began to fade. Finally, her throat too parched and raw to continue, she pleaded:

“The concert’s over. Please let me go.”

Hushed whispers rippled through the audience. Then a lone figure broke through the crowd.

“Jonathan!” Ariel cried, grateful to see a familiar face.

Smiling, he extended his arms to her. “We don’t want you to leave,” Jonathan said, drawing her close. “We want you to sing for us forever and ever and ever . . .”

Cold waxy fingers tightened around her throat. In the background, the orchestra played a quiet requiem.

* * *

When the groundskeeper found Ariel’s body the next morning, he noticed two peculiar things. Her throat was purple with finger marks, and her hair had turned completely white.

Copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino, Job van Gelder, and Asheka Troberg. All Rights Reserved.

This story is dedicated to my daughter, lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino.

Published in the November 2011 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree. Read it here.

Published on Brooklyn Voice, February 2012.

Artwork by Asheka Troberg.

*“Dido’s Lament,” from Dido & Aeneas by Henry Purcell

**“None but the Lonely Heart,” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and J.W. Goethe

Artwork by Jason Smith. I commissioned this Concert for the Dead artwork for my daughter, Ariel Pisturino, as a gift.

Copyright 2011-2021 Jason Smith. All Rights Reserved.

Happy Halloween! Make it scary!

Photo by Dawn Pisturino.

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Ride of the Valkyries

The Ride of the Valkyries is one of Richard Wagner’s most popular pieces. The music has been used as part of the soundtrack in Francis Ford Coppola’s movie, Apocalypse Now, included in Halloween music collections, and hailed as an anthem for strong, courageous women. Everybody loves the iconic image of hefty, solid women dressed in armor, ready to wage battle. The music is rousing, active, and elevating. And the scene, which marks the beginning of Act Three in the opera Die Walkure, appeals to people who appreciate the enduring legacy of Nordic and Teutonic mythology. It is the second opera in the four operas which make up the Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle (The Ring). Many people believe J.R.R. Tolkien derived The Lord of the Rings from Wagner’s Ring, but Tolkien always denied that idea. Still, the similarities cannot be ignored. Wagner’s ring is a symbol of complete and total power that can be wielded against others. Cursed by Alberich, it becomes the cause of all the misery in the world. Sound familiar?

But who and what are the Valkyries?

In Norse mythology, the Valkyries were warrior goddesses associated with the god Odin. Their primary function was to bring back the bodies of slain heroes to Valhalla, where they would feast with Odin. They were called the Einherjar. Some were chosen to fight with Odin at the end of the world, during Ragnarok.

Wagner uses Teutonic mythology in his opera. The Valkyries were the daughters of Wotan who chose which heroes would be slain and then transported their bodies to the halls of Valhalla. Wotan’s daughter, Brunnhilde, embodies the qualities of courage, strength, wisdom, and precognition. It is her sacrifice which finally destroys the cruel, omnipotent power of the ring and saves the world.

The Ride of the Valkyries, from the Metropolitan Opera 2012 production. Enjoy!

Dawn Pisturino

October 4, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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unSUNg “Perceptual Mishmash” video benefit concert

My daughter, Ariel Pisturino, is the Artistic Director, as well as a performer, in the new unSUNg video benefit concert series. Click on the link to listen to this amazing group of musical artists, performing new and forgotten musical masterpieces.

(The link has expired.)

All donations benefit Water Warriors United, a group of dedicated Navajos who transport water supplies to the disabled and elderly on the Navajo reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. Visit their website at:

http://www.collectivemedicine.net

Enjoy!

Dawn Pisturino

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A Special Christmas Gift from My Daughter

For Christmas, my daughter took my poem, “Butterfly, Butterfly,” and had it set to music by composer and film maker Barry Gremillion. Then they recorded it for me. I cannot tell you how touched I was by this loving gesture. Thanks, Ariel and Barry!

CD cover: click photo to enlarge

Butterfly CD cover

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Gallantry, a one-act opera

Presented to you by CHAMBER OPERA PLAYERS OF L.A., with Ariel Pisturino and E. Scott Levin:

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Ariel Pisturino on Sound Cloud

Ariel headshot cropped 2013

Ariel Pisturino, Soprano

Hear her latest recordings on Sound Cloud:

http://www.soundcloud.com/arielpisturino

 

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