Chansons Innocentes

SATB a cappella, 3 Movements, (1993) ca. 5’
e.e. cummings, Text.
Premiered by the Plymouth Music Series Ensemble at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
Finalist in the 1995 Chautauqua Choral Composition Contest.

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in Just     


I.
in Just
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hopscotch and jump-rope and
it’s
spring
and
the
goat-footed
balloonMan whistles
far
and
wee.

hist whist     


II.
hist whist
little ghostthings
tip-toe
twinkle-toe

little twitchy
witches and tingling
goblins
hob-a-nob hob-a-nob

little hoppy happy
toad in tweeds
tweeds
little itchy mousies

with scuttling
eyes rustle and run and
hidehidehide
whisk

whisk look out for the old woman
with the wart on her nose
what she’ll do to yer
nobody knows

for she knows the devil ooch
the devil ouch
the devil
ach the great

green
dancing
devil
devil devil
wheeEEE

Tumbling-hair     


III.
Tumbling-hair
picker of buttercups
violets
dandelions
And the big bullying daisies
through the field
wonderful
with eyes a little sorry
Another comes
also picking flowers

Program Note:

These short poems by e. e. cummings contain a wonderful, compact interplay between images that reflect a child’s naiveté and playfulness and an adult’s fear of aging and death. These poems find particular poignancy in the compression of these dual meanings into single images. “In Just- / spring” is the magical moment when the world reveals most strongly its process of renewal, bringing with it sunshine and mud. But here spring also reflects an adult’s perspective (the balloon man’s perspective – he is a figure similar to a pied piper beckoning the children to their inevitable future), one who sees In-Just-[ice] in the cycle of life; spring is a metaphor for time past. “hist whist” is replete with ‘scary’ images: little ghost things, twitchy witches, itchy mousies and worst of all, the old woman that knows the devil himself. “Tumbling-hair” is both the untamed, abundant locks of youth and the loss of hair. In this poem the daisies bully their way through the soil shared by other flowers, representing the relentless push of one generation after another. In the face of these dualities, the narrative voice of the poems belongs to children, and cummings infuses the poems with a childlike charm and vibrancy. The musical settings of these poems aim to infuse a similar charm, with subtle hints at the embedded double-meanings.

Posted in Choral, Music

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Quick Bio

CBG2_WPRKOriginally from New York, Charles Griffin returned to the U.S. in 2010 to take a position at Florida's Full Sail University as course director of Advanced Music Composition in their MPBS program, after spending 5 years living and working in Latvia. His compositions and arrangements have been performed at festivals and concert halls throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia, Brazil, Cuba, and Puerto Rico.

He is also a radio show host on 91.5 WPRK FM. His show Zero Crossings incorporates live interviews with composers, conductors and performers with a focus on the local contemporary art music scene.

Read more in the biography section.