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.