B A R R Y L A N D .



meet rucker.








heil america.
what's wrong with the pledge of allegiance

keeping the cart before the horse.
a provocative lesson on the heart and the wallet

memoirs of an amnesiac.
delightful musings from an off-the-wall composer

a musical offering.
the strange recipe for a sunday morning instrumental

killer music.
my score for sea world's shamu show, and the story behind it

some clips from my first solo CD


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 T his January I got to do a rare thing: see a brand spankin' new opera. Austin and Houston, along with Baltimore and San Diego, went together to seduce Carlisle Floyd out of retirement for a new opera based on the best-seller Cold Sassy Tree.

What fun! The composer of Of Mice and Men and Susannah (which, by the way, is second only to Porgy and Bess in performances of American operas worldwide), at the wizardly height of his power, coming forth to present this story of an old man marrying young, scandalizing a small town, setting his young wife free of her demons, and releasing his grandson into manhood in the process.

We're in a golden age of opera in America. Don't believe me? How bout this: in the last ten years, more new operas have been written and performed in America alone than worldwide in any decade since the 1890s. 200 in all. Yep. And 60 of them have been done in the last year. OK. Sit back down.

I hope you're taking advantage of this wave: in the past couple of seasons, we've seen the American canon opera-fied. Jackie O, Streetcar Named Desire, the Great Gatsby, and this season's much anticipated Dead Man Walking. It adds up to an exciting time for those who love opera, and an exciting time for those who didn't know they could love it. Regional companies are going nuts, and big lugs like the Met are at least attempting nimble new things (cf Gatsby).

The performance went over brilliantly well, and afterwards we went back and met Carlisle Floyd, who is every bit as kind and cool as you'd expect. If Aaron Copland is the DW Griffith of American composers, Floyd is the Robert Zemeckis: sly, observant, unexpectedly touching, and a craftsman whose craftsmanship — like all the best — conceals itself.

Here's what I think will be a lasting aria from Cold Sassy Tree. The ornery, free-spirited old general store owner, Rucker Lattimore, and his new bride have been cold-shouldered out of the local church, so he decrees that they have a church service right at home. When the sermon came, that unmistakable shiver ran through the audience. We knew we were listening to a homer.


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rucker.mp3   2.3 mb

And when God put us here, He said:

'I give you eyes to see the world
and all the beauties in it
like the morning comin' up, or butterflies
so don't mock me by bein' blind!'

'I give you ears so that you can hear
all the sweet sounds on this earth
like the laughter of children, or a fiddle tune
so don't mock me by bein' deaf!'

'Most of all,
I give you a heart that's as wide as the sky
that can fill with joy or with pain
so don't mock me with an empty heart
'cause that says you have missed out on life!
that you've scorned why I put you here.'

when God decides my time is up
I'll be heart-broke to turn loose of this world
but I'll still be grateful tuh him
that in his wisdom
his infinite wisdom
he put me here.