Inspired by Personal Loss, Debut Recording by Rebecca Scout Nelson Combines Original Works with Renaissance & Baroque Arrangements

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Inspired by Personal Loss, Debut Recording by Rebecca Scout Nelson Combines Original Works with Renaissance & Baroque Arrangements

Rebecca Scout Nelson (photo: Richie Hawley)
Do Not Lament, the debut recording by vocalist and Baroque violinist Rebecca Scout Nelson, intersperses the artist’s original songs and instrumentals with her own arrangements of music by Purcell and others. Inspired by the tragic death of her younger sister, the album tells a powerfully personal story of love, loss and grief. Featuring Nelson and friends on vocals, Baroque violin, viola da gamba, theorbo, harpsichord and other period instruments, Do Not Lament is released today (digital only, Friday, March 10), by Il Pirata Records. Click here to hear the title track from Do Not Lament, and here to stream the whole album.

Rebecca Scout Nelson: singer, violinist, composer and arranger

Music-making has been an integral part of Nelson’s life for as long as she can remember. Born to American musicians in former East Germany, she played violin from age four and soon came to share her parents’ love of classical music and her father’s predilection for bluegrass. Before long she was mounting family concerts with her siblings and writing songs of her own. However, it was only decades later that she discovered her musical sweet spot. By now she had moved to the States to pursue a conventional classical music education, earning degrees from Rice University and the University of Oklahoma. It was there that she first unlocked a passion for period performance and the Baroque violin. She explains:
“Early music made me feel at home. I loved how improvisatory it was and the way I could ornament everything. There was more room for my opinions! Discovering early music brought me a huge step closer to finding my own compositional voice.”
After immersing herself in Boston’s early music scene and completing the historical performance program at New York’s Juilliard School, Nelson joined the Relic, Digital Camerata and Shanghai Camerata ensembles. Most consequentially, she also became a founding member of the innovative composer-performer collective Nuova Pratica, which gave her the freedom and opportunity to compose regularly – often in bluegrass idioms – for period instruments.

Loss, lockdown and Do Not Lament

The next stages of Nelson’s musical journey were less happy ones. In 2018, her beloved sister, Carla, lost a two-year battle with cancer at just 24. Characterizing Carla as “bold, feisty and almost superhuman,” Nelson explains:
“Her love for herself was her superpower. It was almost otherworldly. When she died, it was as though there was a vacuum of boldness that needed to be filled. My brother and I both noticed ourselves becoming braver and louder, as if to honor her.”
As Nelson struggled to process her loss, the pandemic struck. At home under lockdown, faced with tragedies both personal and global, she threw herself into composing, songwriting and creating original arrangements. The result is Do Not Lament. Embracing a range of musical styles, the album is bound together by a narrative arc that traces grief’s slow trajectory from despair to hope. As Nelson puts it, “joy increases throughout as you find the willpower to go forwards.” An illuminating liner note explains:
“This is an album of consolation, highlighting the beauty in joy, in sadness, and most of all in the moments when joy and sadness intersect. Musically the album draws heavily on Baroque and bluegrass traditions. These styles are at the peak of their powers when telling compelling stories; the former through rhetoric, the latter through more literal narrative. Do Not Lament tells stories with a bit of both. It features Baroque violin, viola da gamba, theorbo and harpsichord; Baroque instrumentation that, despite being removed from the bluegrass era by centuries, shares a vitality that is complementary and universal.”
At the heart of this emotional journey are four original songs. The first, “Leftover Love,” came to her initially as music alone. “The melody allowed me to find words about Carla,” she recalls. “I was crying as I wrote it.” By contrast, her title track, the Baroque-style “Do Not Lament,” began with Tolkien-inspired lyrics to honor her sister’s fiercely positive spirit. Next is the bittersweet love song “Five-Year Plan,” which embodies a more contemporary sound. Finally, in “Beautiful Mess” – ironically, one of the artist’s earliest songs – she reflects on life’s contradictions, recognizing that “tragedy or comedy, the show must go on.” Nelson punctuates her program with her own arrangements of four early works. She opens with “Maria durch ein Dornwald ging”; a German Advent song, this loomed large in her Lutheran childhood, and the sisters performed it together during Carla’s illness. Later there follow transcriptions of vocal selections from Baroque composers Antoine Boësset and Henry Purcell, and of “Gli Ochi Toi M’accese L’core”: a little-known, all but previously unrecorded song by Venetian Renaissance composer Francesco D’Ana. Ten of Nelson’s original instrumentals complete the album. Scored almost exclusively for period instruments, but playing freely between Baroque, bluegrass and other genres, the eight Consolations, “I’d Rather Not (Drinking Song)” and “Chocolate Bird” serve as the vital connective tissue of Do Not Lament. Click here to hear “Chocolate Bird.” Reflecting on the recording, Nelson says:
“What’s very important about me is that everything is very personal. Everything must come from the heart. Everything on this album is part of me and who I am, and how my sister and family fit into all that. It’s the sound of me and the people I love.”
Richie Hawley, Il Pirata’s founding president, first knew Nelson as a violinist. Of the first time he heard her sing, he recalls:
“I was blown away. Her voice combines sugar, velvet and sincerity with the ability to bring listeners into her sound world. I’d never heard anyone do that live in person before! I became a superfan. Then, after her sister died, Rebecca shared her feelings by posting videos of herself singing online. Her expression of grief through music had a huge impact on me. It dawned on me that she had an unbelievable talent for expression.”
Nelson is joined on Do Not Lament by a stellar ensemble of period instrument specialists, including Baroque violinists Manami Mizumoto and Tsutomu William Copeland, two of her fellow members of Nuova Pratica; viola da gamba player Sydney ZumMallen, alongside whom she studied at Juilliard; and Joshua Stauffer, whose plucking of the theorbo, archlute, Baroque guitar and guitar contributes greatly to the album’s distinctly Baroque sound throughout.

About Il Pirata Records

Founded in 2021 by clarinetist Richie Hawley, Il Pirata Records is a 21st-century label for artists who envision a different future for classical music. Its mission is to translate unique performances into a recorded sound that creates an immersive and visceral experience for the listener. Il Pirata serves the composer and performer by using innovative techniques in its recording and editing process. Louder fortes and softer pianissimos are hallmarks of the label’s work. The result is a listening experience that conjures the feeling of being right there on the stage.

Rebecca Scout Nelson: Do Not Lament

Release date: March 10, 2023Format: digitalLabel: Il Pirata Records ANONYMOUS: “Maria durch ein Dornwald ging”   Rebecca Scout Nelson: Baroque violin   Joshua Stauffer: theorbo, archlute   David Belkovski: vocals, harpsichord   Sydney ZumMallen: viola da gamba, vocals   Nico Abondolo: double bass Rebecca Scout NELSON: “Leftover Love”   Rebecca Scout Nelson: vocals, Baroque violin   Joshua Stauffer: theorbo, archlute, Baroque guitar, guitar   Sydney ZumMallen: viola da gamba, vocals   Nico Abondolo: double bass   Lara Pucik Johnson: vocals   Richie Hawley: vocals Rebecca Scout NELSON: Consolation No. 1   Rebecca Scout Nelson: Baroque violin   Manami Mizumoto: Baroque violin   Tsutomu William Copeland: Baroque violin Rebecca Scout NELSON: “I’d Rather Not (Drinking Song)”   Rebecca Scout Nelson: Baroque violin   Joshua Stauffer: theorbo, Baroque guitar, guitar   Sydney ZumMallen: viola da gamba   Jake Darnell: frame drum, tambourine   Kevin Devine: hurdy gurdy   Richie Hawley: tin whistle   Nico Abondolo: double bass Antoine BOËSSET (1586–1643): “Je Voudrois Bien, O Cloris”   Rebecca Scout Nelson: Baroque violin   Joshua Stauffer: theorbo, Baroque guitar   Sydney ZumMallen: viola da gamba   Chiara Fasani Stauffer: Baroque viola   Manami Mizumoto: Baroque viola Rebecca Scout NELSON: Consolation No. 2   Rebecca Scout Nelson: Baroque violin   Manami Mizumoto: Baroque violin   Tsutomu William Copeland: Baroque violin Rebecca Scout NELSON: “Do Not Lament”   Rebecca Scout Nelson: violin   Joshua Stauffer: archlute Rebecca Scout NELSON: Consolation No. 3   Rebecca Scout Nelson: Baroque violin   Manami Mizumoto: Baroque violin   Tsutomu William Copeland: Baroque violin Rebecca Scout NELSON: “Chocolate Bird”   Rebecca Scout Nelson: Baroque violin, guitar   Joshua Stauffer: theorbo   Manami Mizumoto: Baroque violin   Sydney ZumMallen: viola da gamba   Sam Adams: guitar   Nico Abondolo: double bass Rebecca Scout NELSON: “Five-Year Plan”   Rebecca Scout Nelson: vocals   Joshua Stauffer: theorbo, archlute   Sam Adams: guitar   Jeremy Delaney: electric guitar   Nico Abondolo: electric bass   Kevin Winard: drums Rebecca Scout NELSON: Consolation No. 4   Rebecca Scout Nelson: Baroque violin   Manami Mizumoto: Baroque violin   Tsutomu William Copeland: Baroque violin Rebecca Scout NELSON: Consolation No. 5   Rebecca Scout Nelson: Baroque violin   Manami Mizumoto: Baroque violin   Tsutomu William Copeland: Baroque violin Rebecca Scout NELSON: Consolation No. 6   Rebecca Scout Nelson: Baroque violin   Manami Mizumoto: Baroque violin   Tsutomu William Copeland: Baroque violin Henry PURCELL (1659–95): “How Blest Are Shepherds” from King Arthur   Rebecca Scout Nelson: vocals, Baroque violin   Joshua Stauffer: theorbo, Baroque guitar   Sydney ZumMallen: viola da gamba   Chiara Fasani Stauffer: Baroque violin   Manami Mizumoto: Baroque viola   Nico Abondolo: double bass   Jake Darnell: frame drum Rebecca Scout NELSON: Consolation No. 7   Rebecca Scout Nelson: Baroque violin   Manami Mizumoto: Baroque violin   Tsutomu William Copeland: Baroque violin Rebecca Scout NELSON: “Beautiful Mess”   Rebecca Scout Nelson: Baroque violin   Joshua Stauffer: theorbo, lute guitar   Nico Abondolo: double bass Francesco D’ANA (1460–1503): “Gli Ochi Toi M’accese L’core”   Rebecca Scout Nelson: Baroque violin   Joshua Stauffer: theorbo, Baroque guitar, archlute   Sydney ZumMallen: viola da gamba   Chiara Fasani Stauffer: Baroque viola   Manami Mizumoto: Baroque viola   Nico Abondolo: double bass Rebecca Scout NELSON: Consolation No. 8   Rebecca Scout Nelson: Baroque violin   Manami Mizumoto: Baroque violin   Tsutomu William Copeland: Baroque violin   Nico Abondolo: double bass
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