Recording Review by Barry L. Cohen in magazine then called The Connoisseur's Rack (v.1 #1 pp.5-6 [unpaginated]) of
SONGS OF CONSCIENCE by Edith Segal and Leonard Lehrman. Helene Williams, soprano, Leonard Lehrman, piano. Recorded by LRP, available from the Professor Edgar H. Lehrman Memorial Foundation, 10 Nob Hill Gate, Roslyn, NY 11526 [sic: 11576]. 76 min. Cst. $10.00
Not since the Vietnam Era have we experienced anything close to a wave of protest songs, even a wavelet. That particular period in our history saw serious composers join up with the powerfully influential band of folk and pop singers in a a virtual all-out antiwar aesthetic. Of course, this latter group's legacy has been well documented in the now historically important Woodstock and Monterey albums. It is regrettable, though, that no major audio documents of the more serious composers have been handed down to us. This group included the likes of William Mayer with his Letters Home, Lou Harrison with Peace Pieces, Robert Fink with Lysistrata and the War, Richard Wernick with Kaddish-Requiem and several other indisputably serious symphonic-choral-operatic works that, at best, were performed and then forgotten. If a composer could collaborate with a musical figure of broad appeal, the chances of recording were better. A sort of mixed breed which comes to mind is Baptismal, an anthology of poems sung and recited by Joan Baez with brooding Moog synth music by the usually mirthful Professor Peter Schickele.
In Songs of Conscience, Leonard Lehrman, likewise a musical professor, but a lyricist, arranger and composer of over a hundred works, including seven operas, five musicals and four cantatas, has set lyrics (some of his own) to music to be sung by a soprano. Any connection to the Schickele-Baez collaboration ends right there. For one thing, this recording is divided into Songs by Edith Segal, the 90-year-old poet-composer-dancer-choreographer, and Songs by Leonard Lehrman. On careful reading of the liner notes we see that Segal supplied all the words to her 15 credited songs but only seven of the melodies. Lehrman, on the other hand, is responsible for all of the music in his set but only about half of the texts.
The Segal songs deal with familiar subjects, subjects which have made headlines. Selections such as "Three Songs for Ethel and Julius Rosenberg," "From Six Million Nameless Graves," "Tell It On and On" (about the three murdered in Mississippi in 1964,) "Underneath the Spanish Stars" and "Dream of "Peace" are indeed intended to catch both the ear and the conscience. The original music for Crimes and all the other arrangements are by Lehrman.
The flip side [of the cassette] covers more socio-political ground. Ideas such as "Sisters," three songs with biblical allusion, are obviously tied to the struggle for women's rights. "Where Do I Belong" and "If I Can't Dance" are selections that were written as part of one of Lehrman's works, E.G.: A Musical Portrait of Emma Goldman[,] on which he collaborated with Karen Ruoff Kramer. "The Glorious War" and "The SDI Waltz" were used in Superspy: The S-e-c-r-e-t Msuical, with Joel Shatzky as Lehrman's collaborator.
The project is a worthy one. Dr. Lehrman obviously has a social conscience of his own as attested to by some of his other works, e.g. We Are Innocent, a Cantata about the Rosenbergs, and New World: An Opera About What Columbus Did to the "Indians." Songs of Conscience further demonstrates his ambitions in that direction.