Sunday 25 Sep 2016

R Louis Stevenson
Jennifer Flaten

I admit I wasn't intimate with the work of Robert Louis Stevenson. I knew he wrote "Treasure Island" and "The Strange Case Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," among others. I discovered his influence is wide, extending to Ernest Hemingway and Vladimir Nabokov, among many others.

When I began to listen to "Songs to Robert Louis Stevenson," by Sjef Frenken, I wasn't sure what to expect. Frenken set poems by Stevenson to music. The poems on this CD came from "A Child's Garden of Verses."

What I heard is a lovely introduction to the work of Robert Louis Stevenson. Released in 2008 "Songs to Robert Louis Stevenson" is an act of passion by Frenken. Setting poetry to music is difficult, but Frenken makes it seem easy.

The music must complement the poetry; else, the result the result is a poetry reading, with musical accompaniment. On "Songs," Frenken blends music and poetry and creates a new form of artistic expression and it just right. The music is beautiful and understated, never overwhelming the poems themselves.

Lisa Lapointe lends her voice to the 25 verses on "Songs," each piece flowing naturally into the next. Her mezzo-soprano nicely captures the sweet nature and childlike wonder of the poems, such as "Foreign Land."

"Foreign Land" makes an adventure out of climbing a tree. Another cut, "Bed in Summer," is a wonderful, true picture of how children view bedtime in each passing season. Even a simple poem, such as "The Cow," has delightful imagery and explores the inner workings of a child's imagination, as do many of the poems on "Songs."

"Songs to Robert Louis Stevenson," is a wonderful gift for any poetry lover or anyone, child or adult. The CD is a welcome addition to the limited world of child-friendly music.

You won't add any of the music on "Songs to Robert Louis Stevenson" to your workout routine, Frenken, always thoughtful, created this CD for adult reflection. Still, I imagine it would help children wind down at bedtime. Not only is it soothing, it is a novel and effective way to introduce poetry and music to a child or to an adult, for that matter.

To purchase, "Songs to Robert Louis Stevenson," call the Ottawa Folklore Centre at 1-800-385-FOLK or locally at 613-730-2887; VISA, MasterCard and American Express accepted. Byte-town Fyfer Records (2008); SF/TIC-01 and ASIN B0016K8U7I.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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