A Secret Gift is a new Americana song cycle inspired by recently found letters from the Great Depression written in response to an anonymous gift giver on the eve of Christmas in 1933. Lives were changed by the generous offer of a helping hand. This story is told in Ted Gup's bestselling book, A Secret Gift.
Phillip Bimstein composed the new 14-song cycle for Red Rock Rondo and then scored 8 of the songs for full orchestra and 165-voice choir. Red Rock Rondo performed A Secret Gift at Libby Gardner Hall last December with the Salt Lake Symphony, conducted by Robert Baldwin, and the West Jordan High School Concert Choir, directed by Kelly DeHaan. (While 240 musicians joined us on our CD, and video of the symphonic premiere will be screened, Red Rock Rondo will perform our September 15 concert in our regular configuration as a sextet.)
A Secret Gift begins with "Secret Prelude," an instrumental meditation on generosity and compassion. Immediately following, "Silent Snow" tells how secret gifts were given to an entire community:
Silent snow falls so light
On an evening bright in old Ohio
Mercy falls to waiting hands
From a generous man nobody knows
Each ensuing song portrays a different letter or story from that era: the struggles of single women ("Work Sleep Love"), the tragedies and triumphs of grueling dance contests ("The Last Marathon Dance"), a 14-year-old girl's touching plea for food and clothing ("Dear Sir"), and a lighthearted celebration of a surprising but necessary food staple of that time ("Dandelions").
JUST UNDER THE WIRE ... A HORSE ON WHEELS!
Just under the wire, one last song raced in - on the back of a horse on wheels! Our new CD was completely recorded when the creativity of photographer Roz Newmark and artist Edie Roberson inspired one more trip to the piano. Edie Roberson's whimsical trompe-l'oeil painting, "Serendipity," graces the CD jacket cover (designed by Sandy Bell). Her personal collection of antique toys includes a toy horse on wheels which Roz photographed for the inner jacket. Recalling one of the book's stories, about a little girl who received a toy pull-horse for Christmas (as a result of the secret gift to her parents), Phillip responded to Roz's evocative still-life by quickly composing "Horses on Wheels" as a wishful coda.
Wherever you are, we hope you are happy too, and can happily help us unwrap A Secret Gift!
Red Rock Rondo:
Charlotte Bell, Phillip Bimstein, Hal Cannon, Harold Carr, Flavia Cervino-Wood & Kate MacLeod