Higdon, who lives in Philadelphia, was thinking more of the East Coast than summer’s punishment in Tucson when she wrote about picking blackberries and breathing in the sweet scent of freshly mowed grass.
But the warmth of Higdon’s music and the feelings expressed in the lyrics certainly spoke to us. Higdon’s song cycle, based on poems written primarily by women, including Higdon, took us through the emotions we feel in summer – even in the sweltering heat of a Tucson summer – rejuvenation, freedom and a sense of the adventure.
Higdon’s music was delightfully pervasive on an emotional level – playful and lighthearted as Cooke, in jazzy scat style, sang “ping, pang, pong” to mimic rain falling on a tin roof and richly reminiscent of Great American style. Songbook on “Summer Hue.”
While Cooke, who showed up on Thursday evening with stunning renditions of Rossini’s ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ cantata and Berlioz’s marvelous ‘La Mort d’Ophélie’, was the center of attention, we We could take our eyes or ears off of Huang, who was able to summon from Higdon’s score the playfulness, pain, longing and romance that the composer had intended.
Cooke closed Thursday’s concert with several kid-focused songs, including Florence Prizeis the sweet “Night”.