The Ladies of Cambridge: professional singer releasing a warm arrangement of a unique sonnet

MONTREAL, Que. — As soon as she read the quirky and unique sonnet about ‘Cambridge ladies who live in ‘furnished souls’, Clare Siobhan was in love.

It was in grade 10 English class at the Cobequid Educational Center Truro that the young musician discovered EE Cummings’ poem.

“At the time, the coolest poem I ever read,” said Siobhan, now 23. “And I kept thinking about it and thinking about it. And finally, I just sat down and was like, ‘OK, this deserves music. It needs to be turned into a song.

Three main factors – a 16-year-old promise to herself who arranged the song, a remark from her teacher following a terrific performance at the school variety show, and finally access to a “handsome” grand piano – drove her professionally recording the single nearly a decade later.

Music from an early age

Clare Siobhan has dressed up as a ‘Cambridge lady’ for the release of her new single based on EE Cummings’ sonnet. – Contributed

Ruth Faulkner recalls Siobhan (surname Macguire) as an intelligent student with a strong appreciation for understanding literature.

The teacher said that the unit on the sonnets can be tricky and complex, with students tending to skip it. But Siobhan was absolutely smitten with the unusual and quirky piece, sticking around after class to ask questions about it.

“I remember really nice discussions with Clare about the sonnet and puzzles over certain details and lines,” Faulkner said. “And I loved the sonnet too, so I loved that so much, having someone to discuss it, and someone else who really loved and appreciated it…I don’t remember anyone. another who had such a strong affinity for it.”

The talented teenager created an arrangement. After several busy acts with others on the CEC variety show, she came out with a solo performance.

“It was unexpected…just thrilling,” Faulkner said.

Afterwards, Faulkner said she would like a recording if there was one – something that has stuck with Siobhan ever since.

Piano teacher Lorraine Brocklehurst watched Siobhan grow as a musician, teaching her every week from age six until graduation. She remembers that Siobhan liked the poem and was not surprised to learn that she had come to record it.

“It’s hard to know when the kids are in high school, how far they’ll go (in music), but I definitely had a feeling there was more, that she wouldn’t stop after she graduated. “said Brocklehurst.

Clare Siobhan, known to locals in her hometown of Truro as Clare Macguire, is a singer-songwriter.  - Contributed
Clare Siobhan, known to locals in her hometown of Truro as Clare Macguire, is a singer-songwriter. – Contributed

Brocklehurst smiled, remembering how Siobhan saved songs on her phone so she wouldn’t forget them. She said it got “quite comical” when she ran out of storage and went to find her parents to see if they could buy her something better.

“She just oozes music…she had so many melodies in her head,” Brocklehurst said.

At the holiday recital, she took a traditional or popular song and gave it a “whole new twist” with her own arrangement on the piano. And Brockhurst added that Siobhan had an innate ability to combine her talents, write lyrics and put music to it.

She adds that Siobhan stands out from the rest.

“She’s got so many different little styles that she can tap into that she doesn’t make every song sound the same,” Brocklehurst said. “And that’s what a true artist (is) like. She will be able to continue as a musician and songwriter because she can.

“Not beautiful and uncomfortable”

The rendition of the “ladies of Cambridge” in the poem is up to the reader, which Siobhan lets breathe in her song which will be released on May 13. In general, the ladies are a well-educated, high-society type living in Harvard Town. They are “furnished souls” who take conventional or fashionable ideas and absorb them and use them in their thinking to guide their actions and their understanding of things, Faulkner said.

Siobhan compares them to the upper class characters from the popular Netflix show Bridgerton. The poem is somewhat “ironic”, poking fun at their preoccupation with trivial matters.

“But I also find it a little respectful,” Siobhan said. “These are things that are really important to people. It’s really important to be able to knit with friends, have tea and chat.

The recording is from the last studio take last summer, with Siobhan singing and playing a grand piano. The minimalist, sung sonnet begins and ends with a piano motif.

“That kind of soft, warm sound, I think of it a bit like a waltz,” Siobhan said. “I think it’s a good one, like the morning coffee song, it’s kind of sweet. I find the text of the poem itself to be a bit like a tongue in cheek, a bit like flirty, talkative or a bit smart. And I also tried to bring that playfulness into the arrangement.

More soon

Siobhan attended Mount Allison University majoring in psychology and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at McGill University to become a speech-language pathologist. This week alone, she traveled to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. for his spring internship.

Then she will be back in Truro. She said she balances her music with school by treating it like another class, setting deadlines and organizing her time. During the summers, she tries to “load” her musical work as much as possible to help gradually release it throughout the year.

Siobhan has won awards for her music, including her single “Ten Speed ​​Bike,” about lovers separated during quarantine, which won the Toronto Songwriting School’s 2020 Lockdown songwriting competition. She also has over 18,000 followers on TikTok, where she posts songs herself, often with a piano or ukulele.

“The Cambridge Ladies” is the second in a series of three special songs recorded last summer. She hints that there is another big project going on. His original music is available on Spotify and Bandcamp.

Faulkner has enjoyed teaching for 30 years and says young people always have interesting ideas.

“I think students sometimes, you know, they sit in the classroom; it seems a bit dry and just academic. What Clare does is so interesting and unique, in the fact that anyone can really love a poem that much.

“I admire what she does so much,” she adds. “That’s lovely.”


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