A New American Sampler (1997)
Text: Wendell Berry, from A World Lost, (Counterpoint).
Commissioned by The Commission Project
Premiere—1998, by the Spartan Singers of Saint Paul Academy, Anne Klus, conductor, Saint Paul, MN.
Published by Yelton Rhodes Music: www.yrmusic.com
At the center of Wendell Berry’s 1996 novel A World Lost, the protagonist recalls a needlepoint sampler made by his mother, with its close rhymes: “Hours Fly/Flowers Die/New Days/New Ways/Pass By/Love Stays.” Such a poem was often the centerpiece of a sampler, which was a repository of beauty, wisdom and industry. It occurred to me that a musical sampler might similarly contain many ragtag elements: the alphabet (of course!), numbers, memories of grandmother, epigrams, solo lines, a rhythmic round, even a square dance. Traditional sayings collected from actual SPA singers’ families form the basis of the second movement, “Echoes.” The final thought seemed particularly appropriate to the Minnesota winter.
This work was one of several composed for St. Paul Academy and Summit School. See also: Three from the Sea, Critters, and Esau Wood.
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