River Dreams

SATB Chorus, piano

A suite of choral art songs about the confluence of two great rivers, the Mississippi and the Minnesota.

Click the image to preview the score:

Listen to a performance by the South Metro Chorale, Mark Bilyeu, cond.; Nathan Cicero, piano

I. Prelude

II. The Tramp

III. The Minnesota Near Mendota

IV. The Stars Again

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River Dreams

SATB, piano obbligato
14′ duration
Texts: poems by Leyland Huckfield, Owen Peterson, Martha Ostenso, 
Elizabeth Hodgins, Paul Bliss
Premiere: South Metro Chorale, Mark Bilyeu, cond. Nathan Cicero, piano, 6/14/19

Program Note

The South Metro Chorale and its Director Mark Bilyeu commissioned this suite of choral art songs for its twentieth anniversary gala. The South Metro is located just south of Minnesota’s Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, but think of it as the area around the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, a place rich in Minnesota history and treasured by Native Americans for millennia before that as Bdote. The project required a sense of place, and I found it in Minnesota Verse: an Anthology, a volume edited by Maude Schilplin and published in St. Cloud in 1938. The poets therein are little known today, but their verse attests to a vibrant poetic culture in Minnesota in the first third of the twentieth century.

I chose texts by five Minnesota poets for the four movements:

Leyland (Benjamin) Huckfield (1882-1923) was a poet-gardener of Rochester, Minnesota, who tended the grounds of the Mayo Clinic in its early days.

Owen Peterson (1896 – 1932) was born in Fosston, Minnesota and attended Carleton College. He fought in the trenches of the First World War, an experience that left him in delicate health. He published many poems under the pen name “Colorado Pete.”

Martha Ostenso (1900-1963) was born in Bergen Norway, came to America at the age of two and lived in seven little towns in Minnesota and South Dakota. Ostenso began as a poet, but in 1925 her prize-winning novel Wild Geese was published and later made into a movie.

Paul Bliss (1889-1941) graduated from Saint Paul Central High School and acted on Broadway before serving as a Major of Infantry in France during the Great War. He thereafter pursued a career as a journalist, writing for the Minneapolis Journal and serving as music editor for the Minneapolis Star. During the Depression he worked for the WPA and conducted agricultural research.

Elizabeth Hodgins (1915-1989) attended Derham Hall and the College of St. Catherine and lived all her life in Saint Paul. She won the Atlantic Monthly collegiate contest for 1936. Hodgins married Miles Hubbard and had eight children, the youngest of whom is Rob Hubbard, who writes about arts and culture for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. – DET

Text (excerpts)

I. Prelude

When you have dreamed for a night by the mighty Mississippi
Take up the wanderer’s bundle and lock the homestead door;
Open the gates of the pasture and let the beasts go free
And turn your feet to the river road that leads to the heaving sea
For you have done with the valley farm for ever and evermore. . . . (Leyland Huckfield)

I am a weaver of golden cloth,
Singing old songs, I weave
A fabric to wrap around a thousand dreams
When the long blue shadows leave. . . . . (Owen Peterson)

II. The Tramp

Open wide the door—
What does it matter
That his dusty clothes
Are all a-tatter?. . . . (Martha Ostenso)

III. The Minnesota Near Mendota

The heritage of years is in this place
Where maples lean above the shallow bank
And shower leaves upon the river’s face. . . .  (Elizabeth Hodgins)

IV. The Stars Again

Set me hill-high
Looking northward,
Looking southward,
West or east;
Set me thrill-high
To the night sky,
When the rush of day
Has ceased. . . . (Paul Bliss)


Additional information

Weight 0.125 lbs


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