On a chilly autumn evening, I was walking down Chicago's Magnificent Mile. In front of me, an elderly man was slowly strolling; his walking-cane tapping on the concrete with each step. He was singing with a raw, slow voice which had an immediate sense of both joy and struggle. I scurried up, and asked if he'd mind me recording him. He said yes, and we continued to walk southward as he sang. Then he stopped and we chatted a little. I asked him his name and whether he'd mind me setting his voice to music. Willie Barbee's face lit up with the idea.
A Wonderful Day sets Willie's voice—spoken and sung—with the instruments of the Bang on a Can All-Stars who provide a gentle bed of sound. My editing of the original recordings is minimal so as to preserve the directness of Willie's voice and the surrounding sounds of traffic, people chatting and the tapping of his cane.
A Wonderful Day is the first in a collection of short electro-acoustic works titled Chicago Street Portraits, which combine recordings of local street musicians with live instrumental ensembles.
— Anna Clyne
This program note may be reproduced free of charge in concert programs with a credit to the composer.
Earlier printed versions of this work mistakenly reference the featured vocalist as Wooly Barbee. His name is Willie Barbee.