Choral

who knows if the moon’s a balloon? (SSAA & Piano)

SSAA with piano accompaniment (1999 rev. 2006) ca. 3’
e.e. cummings, Text.
Commissioned by the Piedmont Choirs, for use in the International Choral Olympics in Linz, Austria, July, 2000.

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whoknowsimage

Text:

who knows if the moon’s
a balloon, coming out of a keen city
in the sky—filled with pretty people?
(and if you and I should

get into it, if they
should take me and take you into their balloon,
why then
we’d go up higher with all the pretty people

than houses and steeples and clouds:
go sailing
away and away into a keen
city which nobody’s ever visited, where

always
it’s
Spring)and everyone’s
In love and flowers pick themselves

Fall, Leaves, Fall (SATB divisi a cappella)

SATB divisi, a cappella (1996) ca. 3’
Emily Brontë, Text.
Premiered by San Francisco Choral Artists, Magen Solomon, director.

Listen to a performance by the Freeport High School Select Chorale, Stephen Pagano, Director

Fall     


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Fall Leaves Fall Page 1 Click to open a PDF

Fall, leaves, fall; die flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Program Note:

In my setting of Brontë’s poem, I tried to musically linger on the image of a falling leaf through the use of suspensions and lazy, chromatic, interweaving vocal lines. As with leaves, the motion is primarily one of descent, but an occasional updraft lifts the vocal lines too. In most cases, by the time the suspended line resolves, the chord around it has changed, forcing the line to continue.

Agnus Dei (SSAA a cappella)

SSAA a cappella (1995) 3’30″
Text in Latin.
Premiered and recorded by the Piedmont Choirs, Bob Geary, Director.
Also recorded by the Peninsula Women’s Chorus, Martin Benvenuto, Director.
(See Discography.)

Listen to the recording by the Peninsula Women’s Chorus:

      Agnus Dei, with the Peninsula Women's Chorus

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Program note:

Based upon John the Baptist’s reference in John 1:29 to Jesus as the Lamb of God, the text in Latin is:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

Translation:

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

Evoking plainsong through use of the dorian mode and using layered but constantly evolving ostinati, the Agnus Dei creates a mood of gentle but increasingly insistent supplication.

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.