A WIND HAS BLOWN THE RAIN AWAY: A couple of cold, rainy Sunday afternoons ago, I got dragged to a concert in downtown Washington, and stayed enthralled to hear a striking collaboration: the playful poetry of e.e. cummings set to music by New York composer Ellen Mandel and sung beautifully by Cincinnati baritone and actor Todd Almond. I discovered that there’s a CD of the same program. It’s called a wind has blown the rain away. I wish I could give it to every poetry lover I know, to remind them that spring is coming. And with this music, sooner than later.” - Alan Cheuse

— All Things Considered NPR

E.E.CUMMINGS SONGS: At "A Night of Song," a concert by two young sopranos at the chapel of St. Bartholomew's Church in Manhattan... I heard a composer who was new to me, Ellen Mandel. Her settings of four poems by E. E. Cummings were ardent and spiky with meter and key changes that felt refreshingly organic. Her music lives in that borderland between theater song and classical song, where singers like Audra McDonald and Dawn Upshaw often dwell. I'd love to hear them sing her work.” - Margo Jefferson

— New York Times

A WIND HAS BLOWN THE RAIN AWAY: EE Cummings' work has got to be among the most difficult to set to music. It's strongly visual in its placement. It's complex rhythmically, and has such a strong, innate musicality that doesn't rely on the traditional rhyme but instead through sound and structure, and the confounding of traditional syntax. Nevertheless, Ellen Mandel has such a deep understanding of the work that she's managed to enhance and support it through her 15 compositions on a wind has blown the rain away. I've featured her CD the first of all my dreams in an earlier blog post, and one of the things I mentioned was that Cummings was the star of that CD. In a wind has blown the rain away it's all Cummings. The music is so apt - mimicking the motion and themes of the work without ever detracting from it. Todd Almond's voice is sublime too. The title song is one of my favourites. I've reprinted the entire poem, a Shakepearean sonnet, below, and you can listen to it by clicking onto Ellen's website here (just scroll down - it's the 10th song): http://www.ellenmandel.com/music.html” - Magdalena Ball

Poetry Monday

Just back from a great trip to Ireland---- doing five concerts with British baritone Rob Gildon of my songs to poems by Seamus Heaney, WB Yeats, E.E. Cummings and others. During the Festival, Arminta Wallace, of the Irish Times, interviewed me for an article on various people's favorite Seamus Heaney poem. Follow the link to the whole article----everyone's comments are worth reading!! I'm honored to be a part of it! ELLEN MANDEL  Jazz pianist and theatre composer  “There’s one poem at the moment I love, love, love: I set it to music, because it just pulled me right in. It’s from Clearances, and starts: ‘When all the others were away at Mass. . .’ Heaney describes a Sunday morning when everybody else is out of the house. He’s there with his mother, peeling potatoes. They sit at a table, doing this work, and kind of dreaming. It’s very, very quiet: there’s just the little ‘plop’ of the peeled potatoes as they drop into the cold water, one by one. “Then it switches to the parish priest at his mother’s bedside, going hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying. Some people are listening and some are responding, but the poet goes back in his memory to the two of them peeling potatoes, and the last line is: ‘Never closer the whole rest of our lives.’ In my own life, when my mom was ailing, I would sit with her at her little kitchen table – and then when she really was not able to handle her accounts and bills, her younger brother, my uncle, would sit with me at the table, doing that work for her. I became very close with my uncle because of that, so when I saw that poem I thought of it immediately.”” - Arminta Wallace

Irish Times

SUNDAY, JULY 29, 2012 Magdalena Ball: Poetry Monday:THE FIRST OF ALL MY DREAMS I've had Ellen Mandel's exquisite the first of all my dreams on an endless loop in my car. The CD is the most wonderful musical rendering of the poetry of ee cummings, W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Glyn Maxwell and some of Mandel's own work too. That kind of line up would be enough to entice me. However, Mandel has managed to enhance the beauty of the work through richly extraordinary musical compositions, and the most amazing vocals by tenor Todd Almond. You can read my full, detailed review of the CD at The Compulsive Reader. Then check out, just for example, the ee cummings poem "stinging gold": http://poetry.poetryx.com/poems/10128/ and listen to what Mandel does with it here:http://www.ellenmandel.com/audio/TODD_ALMOND_AND-stinging_gol_hifi.m3u You can check out more of her amazing work with tons of sample tracks at http://www.ellenmandel.com/music.html. This is truly music for poetry lovers. Go, now, and get yourself a copy. You can thank me later.” - Magdalena Ball

Poetry Monday

A WIND HAS BLOWN THE RAIN AWAY The flowing vocal line and piano suggesting rainfall for the title song is particularly good, as is the hymn-like music for "i am a little church." "when faces called flowers" is also memorable. Each of the remaining twelve is equally natural. The melody lines seem to grow out of the texts of the quirky poems, and the piano creates atmosphere and lends drama. This organic style is perhaps the result of the composer's experience writing songs for plays -- dozens of them, such as Molière's Imaginary Invalid, Dylan Thomas' Under Milkwood, Beckett's Waiting for Godot, a couple by Tom Stoppard and Shakespeare, among others - performed in NYC and all over the country. A collection of these is available from the composer on a CD entitled Every Play's an Opera, and they, too, display an amazing variety. Mandel’s jazz background is likewise evident, yet these are true "art songs," not merely songs from musical theater or for a lounge. She seems to be among those composers, like Franz Schubert, Gabriel Fauré, and Ned Rorem for whom writing songs seems to come naturally and whose songs seem to marry the music to the texts seamlessly. Almond's voice is perfect for these works, too, and his theatrical background stands him in good stead: he knows just how to interpret the songs. The CD simply blew me away at first hearing and continues to do so numerous listenings later! The accompanying booklet has lovely and appropriate photography both outside and inside (as does the tray card), and well-written succinct bios of the poet and the performers. Get yourself a copy ASAP if you are a fan of great song.” - Marvin Ward

Classical Voice of North Carolina: CVNC

Review of MEDEA: Even the horror-movie elements in Medea (that flesh-eating dress, for example) are turned to a high theatrical effect that is underscored by Ellen Mandel’s eerie original music.” - Wilborn Hampton

— New York Times

Ellen Mandel: “This composer’s music for the Jean Cocteau Repertory Theater has been remarkable for consistent invention, compositional resource, and apt theatricality. So attention should be paid as she branches out now with musical settings of ten e.e. cummings poems on behalf of a new dance by Lonne Moretton.” Kerner, Village Voice a wind has blown the rain away: “That’s the collective title for 14 songs by the freshly inventive and emotionally on-target composer, Ellen Mandel, from poems by e.e. cummings. Todd Almond sings them, with the composer at the piano.” Kerner, Village Voice” - Leighton Kerner

— Village Voice

Looking back at the 128 performance reviews I wrote for Theaterscene.net in 2017, these shows were outstanding and quite memorable Ravishing performances, magnificent direction and dazzling production design all make this a glorious revival of Molière’s classic comedy of hypocrisy, Tartuffe. The enticing opening tableau is a visual spectacle. Clad in period dress, the frozen ensemble of ten is dimly bathed in light to the blaring sound of baroque music. The rousing original music by Ellen Mandel, heavy on the harpsichord, is the perfect accompaniment to the actions and is proficiently realized by her modulated sound design.” - Darryl Reilly


Review of Rutherford & Son: “Ellen Mandel’s sound design, combining industry and domestic heartbreak, is particularly effective.”” - Levett

— Backstage