Song of the Earth — or in German, Das Lied Von Der Erde — is a composition by Austrian composer Gustav Mahler. It’s a comprised of six songs for two singers who alternate movements.

On August 25, mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano and tenor John Matthew Myers, accompanied by pianist Christopher Cano, will play a special piano arrangement of Mahler’s classic composition.

Each week this summer, LebTown will be previewing who’s playing next at Gretna Music — leaving you time to purchase tickets or get more information on the artists by visiting the Gretna Music website or Facebook page, or calling 717-361-1508.

So, without further ado, here are five questions with Jennider Johnson Cano and John Matthew Myers.

How would you describe Song of the Earth to someone who hasn’t seen it perform before?

Jennifer Johnson Cano: To be as succinct as possible and not give too many spoilers,  I would describe “Song of the Earth” as a beautiful collection of poetry set to evocative music which depicts all of the wonderfully complicated aspects of what it means to be human.  It is truly unique within the canon of classical song.

John Matthew Myers: Das Lied is a sonic world that is both visceral and introspective, with themes of living, parting, and salvation.

What inspirations have gone into the performance?

Jennifer Johnson Cano: The music of Mahler is, in and of itself, inspiring.  I feel a particular kinship to his songs – the texts he chose and how he crafted the music – so meticulous yet full of feeling.  His music has a remarkable ability to address the complexities of the human condition, to make one consider, but not dictate what should be felt or thought.

John Matthew Myers: The more that I have lived with the piece, I have become more inspired by Mahler and the circumstances of his life that were surrounding this piece. He used music and composing as a way to pull himself out of being despondent, and I find that the music he wrote can have that effect for others as well.

What has the experience rehearsing and putting it together been like?

Jennifer Johnson Cano: It will be, for all of us, our first time performing “Songs of the Earth” in the piano version.  Having performed both with full orchestra and the Schoenberg chamber version, I’m discovering an newfound intimacy within the piece.  It is as though much of the adornment has been stripped away and we are left with the most pure essence. This allows much more freedom and, in many ways, more vulnerability. 

John Matthew Myers: For me, the experience rehearsing and putting the piece together is partly pacing and to make sure I plan the arch of how the journey of hate songs develop. But I have the guilty pleasure of just being able to listen to the last song sung by Jennifer which is always a treat!

Where is the most unexpected place you’ve heard or played amazing music?

Jennifer Johnson Cano: Amazing music happens all around us, everywhere, everyday.  Music created and performed with joy and conviction will, most often, move me to tears.  While I adore witnessing virtuoso musicians work their magic in grand concert halls, I particularly enjoy seeing young people, just discovering and working on their own craft, put all the various pieces of the puzzle together.

John Matthew Myers: The most unexpected place that I heard music was at the forbidden city in China, it was a production of Turandot and it was magical! For where I’ve performed, I guess the most unexpected venue was an old furniture warehouse that was being turned into a performance and arts expo in Long Beach, California. The piece was Michael Gordon’s Van Gogh and Stewart Copland’s Tell Tale Heart.

What would be your Jigger Shop order?

Jennifer Johnson Cano: The Beignet Sundae!! – I cannot wait to try it!

John Matthew Myers: Ooooh My order at Jigger Shop would either be the Shoo-Fly Pie Sundae or the Death By Chocolate!

If you go…
7:30 August 25, Song of the Earth
“Mahler’s epic hymn to man and nature, love and life, in the composer’s own version for voices and piano.”