By Rachel M. Anderson, Freelance Writer
(Minneapolis) - Minnesota has a long history of musicians. Everyone has heard of Prince, Bob Dylan and Judy Garland, but do the names Anna E. Schoen-Rene, Emil Oberhoffer or Henri Verbrugghen mean anything to you?
At one time or another, they were all influential musical pioneers in Minnesota, and as such served as the inspiration for a new historical novel about life in Minneapolis and other cities at the turn of the twentieth-century. In the days before the Internet and television, life was a lot simpler, and music was a significant part of the people's lives.
A Song In My Heart, written by Roma Calatayud-Stocks, is the story of Alejandra Stanford who dreams of one day becoming an orchestral conductor. She is incredibly skilled at playing the piano and has an uncanny ability to compose music.
The author says Alejandra's story was inspired by her own admiration for the role of a conductor in an orchestra. "I was also very much inspired by what was happening at the turn of the century with music in both my hometown of Mexico City and my adopted homeland of Minnesota. The early 1900s were an incredible time in both nations' musical history. Calatayud-Stocks says she enjoyed profoundly researching that period in history. Most of the events surrounding the characters' lives are based on true events that happened in history, from the creation of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1903, to World War I, to the Roaring Twenties.
When she started writing Calatayud-Stocks had several goals in mind: to call attention to the rich history of music in Minnesota, to highlight the music of composers at the turn of the century from around the world and the role of an orchestral conductor in performing the music of legendary composers, and to address many of life's challenges as the main character pursues her dreams.
A Song in My Heart took almost ten years to complete from the author's first idea in 2002, to the final completion in June 2011.
A Song in My Heart is accompanied by a CD that contains a musical score composed by the author. "Since music was intrinsic to Alejandra's emotional and intellectual journey, I thought it would be interesting to create original music to accompany the telling of the story," said Calatayud-Stocks, who goes on to explain that many of the songs and instrumentals that accompany the book, of which eight compositions are new and world premieres, were composed after she had conceived the idea for her novel. '
In his review of the music, Emmy award winning composer, Chan Poling said, "I have arranged and played many styles of music over the years. Roma's music has touched me always. Her new collection of songs for her story, A Song In My Heart, are once again beautiful and lushly romantic, evocative of another time and place."
Ana Luisa Fajer Flores, the Consul General of Mexico in St. Paul, Minnesota said, "A Song in my heart is a delightful reading. I enjoyed it immensely. The novel flows with 'Vals del Sol,' or Juventino Rosa's masterpiece, 'Over The Waves.' It flows softly and rhythmically. Family, love and music are in the center of action. They remind us that no matter if it is the 20th century or the 21st human kind is the same. We need the same things, we love and suffer dawns and sunsets, war and peace, but it is always MUSIC in the novel that offers a safe port. Alejandra Stanford, the main character in the novel, shows us the sweetness of life but at the same time the strength, the power of seduction, the firmness of a decision. A Song in my Heart is a powerful, impetuous Song in someone's heart, in a man or a woman's soul, in a Mexican, Minnesotan, French or English heart. It is a novel that can find its place in any context, in any time in history. There is, in my view, its enormous value."
And John Watson Milton, an award-winning author of fiction and history wrote, "Roma Calatayud-Stocks' debut novel is about the life of Alejandra ("Ale") Stanford during the first three decades of the 20th century. The author takes the reader on a compelling journey from Minnesota and New York to Mxico and across the continent of Europe, spicing her narrative with details that speak to her own powers of observation and willingness to do the necessary research. As she leads us along the trajectory of history, the author describes how the once-compartmentalized genres of music began to merge, so that Gershwin and American jazz could be performed by classical symphony orchestras. This parallel journey takes us from Debussy to Albniz to Lecuona, Scott Joplin and Falla. It is a sparkling account, and we look forward to the sequel that is sure to follow. I enjoyed it immensely!"
A Song in My Heart is intended to be a trilogy. The next book in the series will be titled Striking the Right Note, beginning in 1933 in Berlin.
About the Author
Roma Calatayud-Stocks is an author and songwriter. With bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Minnesota, and later additional studies at MacPhail Center for Music, she turned to a professional career in music. In 1998, Roma recorded her original compositions and released her debut album Carnival of Life.
In 2002, Calatayud-Stocks was the creator, artistic director and producer of Latin Renaissance, a fundraiser concert for the Minnesota Orchestra Volunteer Association and Casa de Esperanza at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. She continued producing cultural events, and took additional classes in music history and fiction writing at the University of St. Thomas.
A Song in My Heart is Calatayud-Stocks's debut novel. It is the literary and musical realization of many years of study, research, composition and artistry. The musical score to A Song in My Heart, with fourteen songs and instrumentals in popular twentieth-century musical styles with classical, jazz, and Latin influences, was composed by Roma Calatayud-Stocks and arranged and performed by Chan Poling and other Twin Cities musicians.
For more information and a complete synopsis of "A Song In My Heart," please visit the author's website:www.RomaStocks.com.