To Live in This World

by Awet Andemicael, soprano; Emily Popham, Edith Hines, vln.; Eleanor Kaye, vla.; Martin Smith, vnc.

To Live in This World: Three Poems of Mary Oliver, for soprano and string quartet (2002) 13′

Commissioned by Music in the Vineyards in loving memory of Gail Adams.
  • The Swan
  • Oh Tiger
  • In Blackwater Woods

Program note

When violist Michael Adams asked me to write a piece for Karen Clift to perform at the Napa Valley’s Music in the Vineyards, I intended to set poems about wine (there are surprisingly few!). In my search, I happened upon Mary Oliver’s work, and the last lines of “In Blackwater Woods,” spoke urgently to me. Two images from that poem—the river, and fire—gave me the subjects of the first and second movements. “The Swan” also contains a humorous reference to Blake, prompting a quotation from my setting of Blake’s “Cradle Song,” which I wrote to welcome Karen’s first child, Maddy. Cultural references are unusual in Oliver, where the speaker usually observes and is rocked by the experience of the natural world: inspiration arrives in the guise of wild things. To Live in This World is dedicated to the memory of Michael’s mother Gail Adams, the vibrant founder of Music in the Vineyards. It received its premiere in August of 2002, in the cave of Clos Pegase Winery in Calistoga, Calif.
Recording appears by permission of The Ravinia Festival’s Steans Music Institute.