Give Her the River
Soprano or mezzo-soprano, flute, cello and piano
Text: Michael Dennis Browne
Duration: 15 minutes
Commissioned by Thursday Musical for its 125th Anniversary
Premiere–Monica Murray, soprano; Jennifer Kennard, flute; Daryl Carlson, cello; Mimi Tung, piano, Minneapolis, 2017.
2 scores and 2 parts included.
If I could give her anything,
anything at all
in all of the world
to show how I love her,
I’d give her the river.
Give her the river at dawn,
when it shines,
when the swans are gliding.
. . . .
Michael Dennis Browne
Thursday Musical, founded in Minneapolis in 1892 as The Ladies Thursday Musicale, is one of Minnesota’s oldest musical organizations.
For Give Her the River, a work celebrating the 125th anniversary of the founding of Thursday Musical, I chose one instrument from each of the instrumental families represented in the Thursday Musical membership: voice, woodwind, string, keyboard. I also chose a poet, Michael Dennis Browne (b. 1940), who was born in England but has made his home in Minnesota since 1971. The text of Give Her the River comes from Michael’s picture-book of that name with paintings by Wendell Minor (New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster, 2004.) The setting is the Mississippi River as it floats past Riverside Park and West River Road in Minneapolis.
The instrumentation of Give Her the River matches that of Ravel’s Chansons madécasses.
I have set every word of Michael’s beautiful poem and have repeated words sparingly. As I paged through the book I realized I was reading a litany, a responsorial prayer with the same formula beginning each line. The resonance with a traditional form appealed to me and is reflected in the music’s structure. The book bears a subtitle, “A Father’s Gift to his Daughter,” that was not a part of Michael’s original poem. I like to think that my musical work will celebrate the gift that Thursday Musical has been to the Minnesota musical community over 125 years.