NEW: In collaboration with the editors of Bound Off, Charles Kaufmann has produced a (zero budget) short film based on his short story, "The Beach Ball," to be shown at The Printer's Ball in Chicago in late July 2010. Shot in Casco Bay, Portland, Maine, featuring Mackworth Island as a prop and narrated by the author, Kaufmann's The Beach Ball can be viewed on the Bound Off channel on You Tube.
As an organist, he is a former student of James David Christie. Over the past thirteen years he also has held organist and choral directing positions in churches in Portland, Maine; Kennebunkport, Maine; Exeter, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
As a bassoonist, he studied with K. David Van Hoesen, Sherman Walt and Arthur Weisberg. A former member of the Bergen Philharmonic, Bergen, Norway, he has recently performed in period instrument ensembles made up of "many of North America's top early music specialists," [James McQuillen, The Oregonian] and "national original instrument all-stars," [Richard Dyer, Boston Globe]. Recent concerts have included engagements with the Handel & Haydn Society of Boston, Trinity Consort, of Portland, Oregon, and Music In Context, Houston, Texas.
Listen to Charles Kaufmann, bassoonist, performing the bassoon solo in Ravel's Bolero with the Bergen (Norway) Philharmonic:
Listen to Saint-Saens Bassoon Sonata, Charles Kaufmann, bassoon; Einar Rottingen, piano. (Recorded in Grieg Hall, Bergen, Norway, by Norwegian Radio, NRK):
Listen to Adagio-Allegro from Franz Schubert's Octet for strings and winds. This is a live performance of Portland Baroque Orchestra, Monica Hugget violin and conductor. Listen to this entire Portland Baroque Schubert Octet recording at the Wikipedia Schubert Octet entry. Kaufmann plays on a ca. 1800 Grenser replica bassoon made by Dutch bassoon maker Peter de Koningh. This bassoon was stolen during return shipment to the maker for repairs in 2007, and replaced with gratitude by a 1793 Grenser replica made by Guntram Wolf. Thomas Jefferson desired just such a bassoon for his personal wind septet — an ensemble that eventually became the US Marine Band — as he proposed in his letter of 1778 to Giovanni Fabbroni:
The bounds of an American fortune will not admit the indulgence of a domestic band of musicians, yet I have thought that a passion for music might be reconciled with that economy which we are obliged to observe. I retain for instance among my domestic servants a gardener (Ortolans), a weaver (Tessitore di lino e lin), a cabinet maker (Stipeltaio) and a stone cutter (Scalpellino laborante in piano) to which I would add a vigneron. In a country where like yours music is cultivated and practised by every class of men I suppose there might be found persons of those trades who could perform on the French horn, clarinet or hautboy & bassoon, so that one might have a band of two French horns, two clarinets, & hautboys & a bassoon, without enlarging their domestic expenses. A certainty of employment for a half dozen years, and at the end of that time to find them if they choose a conveyance to their own country might induce them to come here on reasonable wages. Without meaning to give you trouble, perhaps it might be practicable for you in [your] ordinary intercourse with your people, to find out such men disposed to come to America. Sobriety and good nature would be desirable parts of their characters. — Thomas Jefferson, June 8, 1778.
Listen to the three movements of the Mozart Duo for two bass cleff instruments, K. 292 (1775) — perhaps written originally for two bassoonists — as played with sobriety and good nature by Kaufmann on a Guntram Wolf Classical bassoon after Grenser, ca. 1793, and cellist Nathan Whittaker. Recorded July 17 and 18, 2009:
Listen to the opening few variations of Chip's 1989 composition, Dorothea's Welcome Song, written and premiered in Bergen, Norway in 1989. This is a setting of a text written by Bergen poet Dorthe Engelbrechtsdatter (1634-1716), which, in flowery language, welcomes the King of Denmark to Bergen after the devastating fire of 1702 in which Dorothea lost "house and home." Engelbrechtsdatter had notated the melody of an old hymn at the top of the text -- the melody to sing her text to, and the melody from which I harmonized the variations. This recording features movements 2-5. Ingela Oien plays flute; Marit Karaskievich sings the soprono lines.
Kaufmann gained a unique perspective on the life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-1882, through giving—more, or less—500 tours of Longfellow's childhood home for the Maine Historical Society. In 2007, as organist at the First Parish in Portland, UUA, the Longfellow family church, he founded The Longfellow Chorus, Inc. in order to help celebrate the poet's bicentennial.
Listen to Snow-Flakes, Charles Kaufmann's SATB setting of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, sung by The Longfellow Chorus, (Portland, Maine), Charles Kaufmann, director. Snow-Flakes won the second prize in the 2007 Ithaca College Choral Composition Contest and Festival, where it was beautifully sung by the Niagara-Wheatfield High School Chorus, David Curtis, director, Robert Hall, pianist. Listen to Niagara-Wheatfield High School's Ithaca Competition performance of Snow-Flakes.
Listen to a masterful performance of Snow-Flakes recorded December 1, 2007, by The Choral Art Society of Portland, Robert Russell, director.
In 2008, Charles Kaufmann was commissioned by The Choral Art Society of Portland, Maine, to compose two additional Longfellow settings to be performed with Snow-Flakes in December 2009. Ultimately, the commission -- "A Longfellow Winter" -- was completed using four additional highly unusual Longfellow winter poems as texts.
His SATB choral composition, The Peace of Wild Things, (a Wendell Berry poem), was chosen as one of six final entries in the international 2003 23rd Annual Ithaca College School of Music Choral Composition Contest.
His SATB choral composition, The Sky Sings, a Denise Duhamel poem, was performed in May 2007 by The Choral Art Society of Portland, Maine, Robert Russell, director. About this performance, Denise Duhamel commented, "I felt like I was hearing my muse singing back to me. I could never have imagined such a beautiful song springing from the text."
He was commissioned by the Community Chorus at South Berwick, Maine, to compose an SATB choral composition for their 2007-08 season. The new work, Spheres, a short cantata setting of a series of brief poems by Constance Hunting, 1925-2006, was premiered in spring 2008.His interest in history and music has led him to organize several vocal concerts centered around the music of nearly forgotten American composers. In 1992, "Music from Celia Thaxter's Parlor," performed in Kennebunkport, Maine, and on the site of the Appledore Hotel, Appledore Island, Maine, brought to life Victorian art song settings of the poetry of the New Hampshire/Maine poet. In 1998, his choral concert featuring music published between 1795 and 1810 in Exeter, New Hampshire, by Ranlet & Norris rekindled interest in a local Federal Period music publisher, and was called by the Boston Globe "a finale that should be remembered for many years to come." In February, 2008, and again in March, 2008, he will lead choral concerts celebrating the 201st birthday of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and featuring American, French, English and Hindu choral and vocal settings of the poetry of Longfellow, 1845-1918. These concerts will take place in the Longfellow family church in Portland, Maine, and at The Wayside Inn, Massachusetts.
Listen to another "Sacred Songs from a Sacred Land" preview. Anna, a first generation United States immigrant from southern Sudan, sings an Acholi Christian chant about Mary — an invocation to prayer — accompanied by chimes formerly part of the organ of the Chestnut Street Church, Portland, Maine, and here imaging what the church bells of Juba would sound like.
And the ASERELA chorus sings another, Wakelo Tyerwa: "We bring our gift." Here can be heard an ululation known in Acholi as kajila, as sung by Christine, a high school student in Portland, Maine.
REVIEWS AND COMMENTS
Charles Kaufmann is going to put the word sexy into bassoon playing.
—Angela M. Brown, noted soprano, March 1, 2010
The Longfellow Chorus, directed by Charles Kaufmann, an excellent orchestra (mostly members of the Portland Symphony), and outstanding soloists soprano Angela M. Brown, baritone Robert Honeysucker, tenor Mark Sprinkle and pianist and organist Geoffrey Wieting turned what could have been a local celebration into a major musical event.... Coleridge-Taylor also set to music [Longfellow's] poem "The Quadroon Girl" (Opus 54, No. 4), which depicts a plantation owner selling his own mixed-race daughter into sexual slavery. The work was orchestrated by Kaufmann from the 1906 piano-vocal score and convincingly sung by Honeysucker.... Orchestra, soloists and chorus united to provide what can only be termed a definitive performance of ["The Death of Minnehaha" (Opus 30, No. 2), by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor] a little-known masterpiece.
—Christopher Hyde, concert review of The Longfellow Chorus 203rd Birthday Choral Concert, Portland Press Herald, March 2, 2010.
The [Choral Art] society got its money's worth in commissioning "A Longfellow Winter," by Maine composer Charles Kaufmann.... The work, tonal and impressionistic, creates just the right atmosphere to set off our native poet's apt lines about...winter.... Kaufmann knows his favorite poet so well that he is able to "music" the tricky dactylic hexameter of "Now had the season returned," from "Evangeline".... The whirling snowflakes of "Birds of Passage" and the wind singing in the rigging from "Hyperion" were also beautifully portrayed. "A Longfellow Winter" seems destined to become a season classic....
—Christopher Hyde, concert review, Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, December 7, 2009.
I think the performance does great credit to all involved. As a past holder of the office of International Co-ordinator to The Elgar Society, I am delighted that this wonderful — and rarely heard — cantata has received such an excellent and committed performance in America.
The concerts were superb — especially the Sunday concert, every second of which was pure joy. The Longfellow settings were expertly and sensitively honed, with heart-warming dedication and masterful musical insight — even now fragments of melody continue to play in my head. As for the Elgar, the music was a revelation, and the performance a sensation. I could tell that the audience realised what a privileged bunch they were. Hearty congratulations to your outstanding chorus, company of musicians — and their inspirational conductor.
—Kevin Jones, one of the 2008-09 Longfellow Chorus International Composers Competition winning composers commenting on the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 202nd Birthday Choral Concert, Charles Kaufmann, Director
Charles Kaufmann has single-handedly resurrected an interest in Longfellow and how Longfellow's poetry has been set to music in the past; and, in addition, he has inspired composers world-wide to create new music set to Longfellow's poetry.
- Lily Gordon, trustee, Longfellow's Wayside Inn National Historic Site
I felt like I was hearing my muse singing back to me. I could never have imagined such a beautiful song springing from the text.
- Denise Duhamel, commenting on Charles Kaufmann's choral setting of her poem, The Sky Sings.
[Kaufmann's music] is not minimalism, new romanticism, or so-called new age music, but a combination of these. These styles are not mimicked. They only serve as a point of departure from which stems a distinct and personal statement.
- Peter Dobrin, The Philadelphia Inquirere-mail: Charles Kaufmann