Steven Stolen's Songs My Mom Would Like, presented May 25 at Trinity Episcopal Church under the auspices of the Meridian Song Project, was a musical conversation between him and his mother, Lorraine Stolen - and a means by which to bring closure to her death earlier this year. The program drew from both the well-known songs of Gershwin, Berlin, Bernstein and Weill, as well as equally significant music and lyrics for "church music," folksongs and Michael Schelle's comedic setting of "Cry Baby" from the book Struwwelpeter.
His friends filled the sanctuary in homage to the loving mother-son relationship that, for some reason, did not/could not touch on his life work - vocal music. What transpired over the course of 90 minutes was a personal program becoming universal as we explored our own parent/child relationships during his journey "to connect the dots," utilizing "the power of songs" to bridge the silence between them.
We all are touched; we all seek conciliation from distancing, needing unity to carry on, to balance the loss and gain, to honor the ellipsis. Gary Walters, who understands the power of silence, created arrangements that heal the fractures; he coaxed Stolen to nourish tears and laughter from the spaces between notes.
Pianists Walters and Catherine Bringerud are expert accompanists, yet for this concert Stolen presented them in virtuoso solo performances, showcasing their singular voices in the larger conversation of extended family. "My mother never met any of you," said Stolen, surmising that if we had, we would have liked each other. May 25 at Trinity Episcopal Church.