"I Hear America Singing" is a multi-album, 10,000 art song project instigated by American composer David Paul Mesler and American mezzo soprano Barbara Hume. For the last three years, David has concentrated on setting the poetry of iconic American literary giants Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe and others, to music using a melting pot of American musical traditions: folksong, hymn, early American art song, patriotic tune, blues, ragtime, gospel, jazz, spiritual, musical theater, vaudeville, and operetta, genres that seem to best represent the different poets' distinctly American voices and time periods. Plus, as David frequently says in interviews, "These vernaculars reflect my tastes and predilections as well. I enjoy and want to write accessible music that could potentially reach and move a large public -- music that is lyrical, lively, entertaining, and dramatic. In essence, emotionally appealing." So far, David has written over 1500 art songs, and five acclaimed albums have been produced.
CONCERTS, FESTIVALS AND WORKSHOPS
David and Barbara regularly perform collections of these art songs as full-length concerts, as festival appearances, as convention appearances, and on the radio. They also produce composition master classes and songwriting workshops for all ages.
DAVID PAUL MESLER, COMPOSER, PIANIST
David Paul Mesler is a multi-genre artist: a prolific composer of art songs; an in-demand, Emmy-nominated composer of symphonic, choral, and chamber works; and an award-winning pianist whose ensembles play over 125 dates a year. David uses his classical training and 25 years as a professional jazz musician to explore jazz-classical hybrids in unconventional and dramatic ways. Virtuosic in the extreme, versatile in the extreme, and consistently inspired, David is considered Northwest music royalty. As an art song composer, he has been compared favorably to George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Franz Schubert, Francois Poulenc, Ned Rorem, Samuel Barber, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and Duke Ellington.
David's catalogue as a composer includes 5 orchestral works, 4 large-scale choral works, over 200 chamber pieces, over 200 solo instrumental pieces, and over 1500 art songs. He has also written 5 musicals, and 17 film scores. His compositions cover a wide spectrum and have been heard across the United States, in Canada, Korea, Japan, and Russia, and performed by many ensembles, including: Kronos Quartet, USC Symphony, Northwest Symphony Orchestra, Bainbridge Chorale, Northwoods Wind Quintet, Seattle Chamber Players, Musicians Accord, Annex Theater, Abbey Theater, Foundation Theater Co-op., Circle X Theater, Hoover Street Music Company, Metropolitan String Quartet, Four Winds Quartet, Ensemble a Corda, Trio Presto, The Dave Mesler Group, a variety of performers and ensembles at USC, UCLA, Cal Arts, The University of Redlands, and the University of Washington, and members of the Seattle Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic.
David has been Composer-In-Residence with both the 80-piece Northwest Symphony Orchestra and the 100-voice Bainbridge Chorale. He has also been Composer-In-Residence with both the Highline and Bainbridge Island public school districts. He is Past-Vice President of the Washington Composers Forum and is a frequent contributor to the Seattle Composers Salons.
As a pianist, vocalist, and bandleader, David has performed on the same bill as Diane Schuur, The Manhattan Transfer, Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Burt Bacharach, Lionel Richie, Debbie Gibson, Barry Manilow, Sister Sledge, The Jackson 5, Skitch Henderson, Philip Glass, Lyle Lovett, and Bruce Hornsby. He has also played on the same bill as comedians Victoria Jackson, Harvey Feirstein, Art Linklater, Senor Wences, Bob Eubanks, Garrison Keillor, and The Capitol Steps. David has played for Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George Bush, Steven Speilberg, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Harrison Ford, Julie Harris, Tom Brokaw, Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Gene Kelly, Dudley Moore, and The Brat Pack, as well as for the casts and staff of Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and the classic television comedies Good Times, The Jeffersons, Different Strokes, Love American Style, The Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan's Island, and Bewitched.
The pianist for many films, David has worked on projects for Disney, Warner Brothers, MGM, Touchstone, New Line Pictures, Handmade Films, and ABC, with such talent as John Travolta, Julie Andrews, Forest Whitaker, Michael Keaton, Genevieve Bujold, Louise Fletcher, Sonia Braga, Katie Holmes, Clive Owens, and Kids In The Hall. David's film credits include The Wrong Guy, Battlefield Earth, Eloise At The Plaza, Eloise At Christmastime, First Daughter, King Arthur, Sea Of Dreams, Finding Home, Dennis The Menace Strikes Again, The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, and The Grudge 2. David's television credits include Days Of Our Lives, The Miracle Strip, The Seattle-Tacoma Interurban Railway, Pioneers In Aviation, Sun Microsystems, and The Day Elvis Met Nixon.
David is currently on the music faculty of Seattle Central Community College where he teaches piano, voice, and composition and conducts both the Pop Vocal Ensemble and the New Music Ensemble. David's students have gone on to pursue music careers in Prague, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Korea, China, Switzerland, Sweden, and in many of the United States.
BARBARA HUME, MEZZO SOPRANO
Barbara Hume is an accomplished and versatile mezzo-soprano with extensive experience singing classical art song, oratorio, opera, and musical theater. She has performed as a soloist for the Bainbridge Orchestra and the Bainbridge Chorale; her solo oratorio performances include Mozart's Requiem, Durefle's Requiem, Mesler's Psalm 23, Bach's Mass in B Minor and Handel's Messiah; and her opera roles include Adalgisa from Bellini's Norma, Malika from Delibes' Lakme, Suzuki from Puccini's Madama Butterfly, and Nichlaus from Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffman.
Barbara has performed in musical theater in New York, Los Angeles, the Seattle area and in St. Louis for the Municipal Opera. She has performed in productions of The Merry Widow, Once Upon A Mattress, Big River, South Pacific, Fiddler On The Roof, George M, Mame, and in many concerts incorporating both song and dance.
Barbara has been singing and premiering David's art songs for five years on the concert stage, on recordings, and on the radio. She brings to the project a gorgeous instrument, an emotionally compelling approach, and a technique capable of navigating the trickiest passages.
HOW "I HEAR AMERICA SINGING" GOT STARTED
David grew up in a particularly musical and literate family. His mother was an art song singer and his father was a translator of poetry and short stories. Naturally, David started writing songs at a young age -- 5 -- and started officially collecting them when he was 7. Over the next three decades, David went on to write hundreds of chamber pieces, and eventually dozens of large-scale orchestral and choral works, as well as many scores for films, dance, and theater. Then came the birth of his twin sons.
The combination of being a new and very involved father of twins and the typical musician's smorgasbord lifestyle didn't allow for long stretches of uninterrupted time for composing. But David discovered he could write songs quickly using preexisting texts. He started writing songs in the nooks and crannies of his days, each song written in less than 30 minutes, some in 5.
David says, "My initial inspiration was to write a series of pop songs using D.H. Lawrence poetry. All well and good. Then, with a shock of recognition, I turned to American poets. Of course! The iconic, long-standing literary giants whose work I've loved since childhood. Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe. I was officially on a new course as a composer -- by returning to my first love, songwriting. Within a year I had written 750 songs."
David continues, "My time constraints forced me to write while I was discovering the poems. I didn't have the luxury to mull over and deliberate and therefore know a poem inside and out before I started. But this became an advantage. While I was writing, with each new layer discovered in the text, there was a comparable new feature or twist or edit in the music. This process -- rapid-fire, predominately using first ideas and first impulses -- ended up, in retrospect, being ideal. Each resultant song is not just my setting or interpretation of a poem, it is my discovery of the poem. The music mysteriously captures the twists and turns on my journey to understanding the poem. I love that!"
David met mezzo soprano Barbara Hume in 2000 when she was the soloist for the Bainbridge Chorale's premiere of his setting of the 23rd Psalm. He loved her voice, she loved his music, and the collaboration has proven to be of alchemical chemistry.
WHAT BARBARA SAYS ABOUT DAVID
"I continue to be impressed with David's interpretation of the texts. Both text and melody come together with a synergy that is truly unique, complimentary and inspirational."
WHAT DAVID SAYS ABOUT BARBARA
"Barbara's voice is unusually rich and has a real and profound depth -- it's lustrous and lived in, and her approach is always emotionally compelling. Above all, her singing is beautiful."