Mother Muse

Mothers are powerful muses. They represent a whole spectrum of attributes, both mythic and personal: they can be forces of nature and nurturing, guidance and inspiration, patience and strength, and, of course, love: profound, fierce, unconditional. This album features musical compositions that pay tribute to the diverse aspects of motherhood, from the sacred (“Ave Maria”) to the saucy (“Mrs. Robinson”), and everything in between. Motherhood, perhaps the prototype of creation, has compelled us to utilize our full creative potentialities as arrangers and interpreters. Queens and saints, homemakers and lawmakers, scientists and artists, goddesses and mortals: the rich complexity of motherhood inspires this musical tribute.

SONGS MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME, Op. 55, No. 4 (Antonin Dvořák / Anderson & Roe)
Dvořák’s “Songs My Mother Taught Me" is a folkloric, lilting, and wistful selection from his 1880 song cycle Gypsy Songs. The poignant lyrics speak to a mother’s tears, memories, and influence:

Songs my mother taught me, in the days long vanished;
Seldom from her eyelids were the teardrops banished.
Now I teach my children each melodious measure.
Oft the tears are flowing, oft they flow from my memory's treasure.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY from A Night at the Opera (Freddie Mercury / Anderson & Roe)
From one Bohemian tune to another, this time in the form of Queen’s iconic 1975 art-rock fantasy. The protagonist laments to his mother about his crimes and sorrows, pleading for life-affirming redemption:

Mama, just killed a man ...
Mama, life had just begun
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away Mama, ooh, didn’t mean to make you cry
If I’m not back again this time tomorrow
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters...

Our cover version is inspired by the operatic nature of the original song; we reference the music of Mozart and Wagner, while employing text painting (in honor of the colorful lyrics) and ample virtuosity (in homage to the show-stopping flamboyance of Freddie Mercury).

The Night... The Love...

This seminal work for two pianos was personally chosen by our mothers for this album; it is one of their favorite works that we perform, and we lovingly include this composition to honor their tremendous inspiration. Each movement of the Fantaisie-Tableaux is based on a poem by a great 19th-century poet (including Lord Byron), offering a portrait of the human experience with all its reminiscences, passions, sorrows, and aspirations.

MRS. ROBINSON from Bookends (Simon & Garfunkel / Anderson & Roe)
Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” is famously featured in Mike Nichols’ 1967 film The Graduate; the movie features a mother who, in Anne Bancroft's indelible seductress, archly challenges the beatific maternal ideal. To highlight its erotic associations, we liberally quote from the torch song “I Put a Spell on You,” made famous by Nina Simone, and infuse our arrangement with a sensual samba beat.

Simon & Garfunkel’s lyrics playfully speak to the multidimensional nature of mothers, if not all of womankind:

We'd like to know a little bit about you for our files
We'd like to help you learn to help yourself ...

And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson
Jesus loves you more than you will know...

A MOTHER'S GRIEF, Op. 15, No. 4 (Edvard Grieg / Anderson & Roe)
In Edvard Grieg’s song, we encounter the sufferings of motherhood; it is a somber portrait of his wife Nina and her grief upon the loss of their only daughter Alexandra. The lyrics of the original hauntingly mirror their experience:

Gentle Jesus! Cruel one! To the stars you have taken my boy!
Did you need new angels there? That I must lose my joy?
Did you give him shining wings, is he in heaven’s keeping?
Help me in my helplessness, O give me tears for weeping!

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD (Bob Thiele & George David Weiss / Anderson & Roe)
As an ode to the beauty that mothers bring to our lives, we include the classic American song “What a Wonderful World” (originally recorded in 1967 by jazz great Louis Armstrong), a tender meditation on the wonder of existence. Our arrangement, written in commemoration of Greg’s grandmothers who passed away in 2015, is loosely based on Rachmaninoff's "Lilacs," Op. 21, No. 5; this musical reference is a nod to the lyrics which praise the goodness in the world, including the glories of Mother Nature:

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

AVE MARIA, D. 839 (Franz Schubert / Anderson & Roe)
Another beloved piece linked with the maternal is Schubert’s “Ave Maria”; its traditionally sung lyrics honor the Virgin Mary, one of the ultimate icons of motherhood.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed,
Blessed is the fruit of thy womb...

LET IT BE from Let It Be (John Lennon & Paul McCartney / Anderson & Roe)
Another “Mother Mary” hovers over the Beatles’ gospel-inflected ballad, “Let It Be”:

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Here Paul McCartney pays poignant and powerful tribute to his mother Mary, who tragically died of an embolism when he was only 14; yet as the lyrics attest, he could also be invoking the same Mary of “Ave Maria,” a symbolic nod to his mother’s Catholic faith. Our cover version pushes the extremes of gospel piano playing and reaches ecstatic heights in celebrating the wisdom and light of motherhood.

LULLABY: Good Evening, Good Night, Op. 49, No. 4 (Johannes Brahms / Anderson & Roe)
This beloved lullaby sweetly conjures memories of comfort; it also happens to be a song our mothers sang to us during our earliest years. Our arrangement aims to capture the shift from wakefulness to dreamland, the repeating patterns evoking the oscillations of mobile over an infant’s crib: “Lay thee down now and rest, may thy slumber be blessed.”

HUMMING CHORUS from Madame Butterfly (Giacomo Puccini / Jean-Baptiste Craipeau / Anderson & Roe)
*Special bonus track, featuring Accent
One of opera’s most beautiful yet tragic mothers is Cio-Cio-san from Puccini's Madame Butterfly. In this scene, she awaits her lover in a state of vigil alongside her young child. The brilliant a cappella group Accent joins us for this bittersweet jazz-inflected reimagining.

On a more personal level, we owe our lives to our mothers: from the very start, they shaped our values and supported our dreams. They encouraged and nurtured our early love for music, and they continue to support us today in infinite ways. We are awed by their dedication, generosity, resilience, spirit, wisdom, and love. They— and mothers everywhere, in every shape and form—are magnificent muses.

—Elizabeth Joy Roe & Greg Anderson