Bright Faces

Mary Ellen Childs

Text by Sappjo


Awed by her splendor


Stars near the lovely moon cover their own bright faces when she is roundest and lights earth with her silver


Bright Faces:  years ago I chose a number of Sappho poems to later set to music.  When Dale Warland asked me to write a piece I searched months for a text, but in the end used Sappho’s poetic fragments for the same reason I was originally attracted to them-their clarity, brevity and lack of pretension.  I had the opportunity to work on an early sketch of Bright Faces with The Dale Warland Singers while they were in residence at the Contemporary Music Festival at Indiana State University in October, 1988.  Since then the piece has been almost completely reworked.  Other than the text, little remains of the early version.-Mary Ellen Childs


Mary Ellen Childs has written music for the Kronos string quartet, accordionist Guy Kluevsek Relache, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and various other ensembles.  She also creates musical pieces using other media-Standpoints, a collaboration with Minneapolis lighting designer Jeffrey Bartlett-and multi-monitor video works Still Life and A Chording To.  her music has been presented a Walker Art Center the Bang on A Can Festival and New Music America-Miami.  She has received awards from the Bush Foundation, the MN State Arts Board, the McKnight Foundation, Intermedia Arts, the MN Composers Forum, and the NEA’a InterArts Program.


Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind, Stephen Paulus, Texts by Carl Sandburg


I.  The Woman Named Tomorrow


The woman named tomorrow sits with a hairpin in her teeth and takes her time and does her hair the way she wants it and fastens at last the last braid and coil and puts the hairpin where it belongs and turns and drawls:  Well, what of it?  My grandmother, Yesterday, is gone.  What of it?  Let the dead be dead


II.  We Are The Greatest


The doors were cedar and the panels strips of gold and the girls were golden girls and the panels read and the girls chanted:

We are the greatest city, the greatest nation:  nothing like us ever was


The door are twisted on broken hinges.  Sheets of rain swish through on the wind where the golden girls ran and the panels read: We are the greatest city, the greatest nation:  nothing like us ever was



III.  It has happened before strong men put up a city and got a nation together, And paid singers to sing and women to warble: We are the greatest city, the greatest nation:  nothing like us ever was


And while the singers sang and the strong men listened and paid the singers well and felt good about it all there were rats and lizards who listened and the only listeners left now..are..the rats..and the lizards.  And there are black crows crying “Caw, Caw,” bring mud and sticks building a nest on the words carved on the doors were the panels were cedar and the strips on the panels were gold and the golden girls came singing: We are the greatest city, the greatest nation:  nothing like us ever was


The only singers now are crows crying “Caw, caw,” and the sheets of rain whine in the wind and doorways.  And the only listeners now are...the rats...and the lizards.


IV.  The feet of the rats scribble on the doorsills; the hieroglyphs of the rat footprint chatter the pedigrees of the rats and babble of the blood and gabble of the breed of the grandfathers and the great-grandfathers of the rats.

And the wind shifts and the dust on a doorsill shifts and even the writing on the rat footprints tells us nothing at all about the greatest city, the greatest nation where the strong men listened and the women warbled; nothing like us ever was.


Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind:

The four poems that comprise this work are from the collection Smoke and Steel by Carl Sandburg and were first published in 1920.  The individual titles are the composer’s, not the poets and are taken from the body of each poem.  At first glance they seem to be mostly of a despairing nature with constant mutterings, indifference to time, and lines like “let the dead be dead, and the only listeners left now are the rats and lizards.   Upon closer examination  I chose to see this poetical  grouping in a more optimistic light.  I decided that, in part, this collection was about humility.  Sandburg seems to be saying to the “chest thumpers” who proclaim that “  we are the greatest.. nothing like us ever was to simply look around to see how “ greatness” has been treated by the passage of time.  When view in this light, people (and nations) might be less inclined to gloat at their temporary and usually fleeting greatness.-Stephen Paulus.



Stephen Paulus has been composer-in-residence with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the MN Orchestra, The Dale Warland Singer, and at the Santa Fe, Tanglewood and Aspen music festivals.  In addition to 20 works for orchestra Paulus has written four operas, numerous song cycles, and choral works.  he has also composed music for such prestigious chamber ensembles as the Cleveland Quartet and the Saturday Brass Quintet.  Commissions for solo performs and orchestra have included Doc Severinsen, William Preucil, Evelyn Lear, Leo Kottke, at the New York Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Opera Theater of Saint Louis, and Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard.  His works have been performed in the U.S. , Europe, the Soviet Union, and Japan and are recorded on new World Records and Albany.  A recipient of both Guggenheim and NEA Composer Fellowships, Paulus is co-founder of the MN composers Forum where he worked for eleven years.  He also serves on the ASCAP Board of Directors.


Three Songs From Hebrew Poetry

Steve Barnett


I.  The Poet, Meshullam da Piera,


And they asked me, wise in heart, who is it, Who does not distinguish between good and bad, and sings to the glory of the men of his time, but in his heart has heard the truth  and has questioned it?  I answered them, my friends, I am that man,  (who sings to the glory of the men of his time, who in his heart has heard the truth.) I, the poet who deceives.


II.  Epitaph:  For a Wife, Immannuel Frances


This gravestone is a weight not a monument.  I have placed it on my wife’s grave, just in case,  God Forbid!

She were to rise up from the dead and come home!


III.  The Sun, Judah al-Charizi


O see the sun who has spread her wings over the earth, to sweep away the darkness like  a blossoming tree whose roots are in heaven reaching down to the earth with its branches.


Three Songs From Hebrew Poetry was commissioned in 1981-82 by the MN chapter of the American Choral Directors Association for the MN All-State Chorus, conducted by Dr. Dwayne Jorgenson.  The texts are three Hebrew poems by two medieval poets and one Renaissance writer from the Diaspora  Meshullam da Piera was a Kabbalist in Gerona, Spain, whose writings adapted the current secular Andalusian style.  Immanuel Frances was a Rabbi and Talmudic scholar in Florence, Italy.  Judah al-Charize, born in Toledo, Spain, lived in Provence and often traveled to the Near East.  His poetry is strongly influenced by both Arabic and Hebrew poetic forms.  I am still struck by the text’s timeliness as each poet faces the artist’s ever-present dilemma of truth, marital relations, and the expression of the pure joy of living in God’s creation. -Steve Barnett


Steve Barnett is a composer, arranger, conductor and music producer.  His compositions and arrangements include works for the MN Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Philip Brunelle’s Plymouth Festival Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony, The Baltimore Symphony, and American Public Radio.  He also composed the themes for MPR Journal, and the St. Paul Companies’ logo for All Things Considered.  He continues as music producer for St. Paul Sunday Morning and is the American-based producer for the London Label Virgin Classics, for whom he produced the Gramophone award-winning Benjamin Britten opera Paul Bunyon and Aaron Copland’s only opera, The Tender Land.  Barnett’s popular credits include conducting the orchestra on Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation, 1814 CD.  He was also Music Director of the national radio programs First House on the Right and Good Evening.  Barnett graduated with honors from the University of MN where he studied with Dominick Argento and Paul Fetler.  He also attended the Eastman School of Music, studying jazz composition and arranging.  Barnett is a charter member of the MCF and produced the first five innova recordings.


The Last Invocation

Carol Barnett

Texts by Walt Whitman


At the last, tenderly, From the walls of the powerful fortress’s house, From the clasp of the knitted locks, from the keep of the well-closed doors, Let me be wafted.  Let me glide noiselessly forth; With the key of softness unlock the locks-with a whisper, Set open the doors O soul.  Tenderly-be not impatient, Strong is your hold O mortal flesh, Strong is your hold O love.


The Last Invocation was commissioned by the Plymouth Music Series for a performance by the Westminister Abbey Choir in Minneapolis, October 1988.  Martin Neary, director of the Choir, wanted a short encore piece for a program of British music.-Carol Barnett


Carol Barnett lives and works in Minneapolis as a free-lance composer, copyist, flutist, and pianist.  She has written music for orchestra, chamber ensemble, concert band, chorus and solo voice.  She has received numerous commissions, including those from the Minnesota Guitar Society and the Upper Midwest Flute Association.  Her works have been performed by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Westminster Abbey Choir, and the Ankor Children’s Choir of Jerusalem, Israel, among others.  She is a University of Minnesota graduate where she studied with Paul Fetler, Domminkck Argento, and Bernhard Weiser.  She is a MCF Charter member.



With A Poet’s Eyes - Cary John Franklin

I.  The Uncertainty of the Poet, Wendy Cope

Text used by permission of Faber and Faber


I am a poet.

I am very fond of bananas.  I am bananas. I am very fond of a poet.  I am poet of bananas.  I am very fond.  A fond poet of “I am. I am”-Very bananas  Fond of ‘Am I bananas  Am I?-a very poet.  Bananas of a poet!  Am I fond?  AM I very?  Poet bananas! I am I am fond of a very.  I am of very fond bananas.  AM I a poet?


II.  Rodin’s Muse,  Alison Fell

Used by permission of Virago Press

She writes like hawthorns, is dark and demented, her impossibly heavy head a branch of thoughts the winds have knotted.  In all violence she loans herself,  (this muse who promised him a flat blue slate to shine his shadow on Her calves are rivers from the glacial snout, her bruised elbows abut a space mute and compressing as rock.  The torture starts not in the lovely torque of the belly, or even gravity itself.  This muse who gives no release, is not delicate, does not dance but in a black burning at the pit of the throat, a capture of pain and angles somewhere between his heart and her silence. 


III.  The Badminton Game, Connie Benseley


That morning, I awoke and went down  just as I was, in my green slippers to look at the hydrangea mariesii- the only flower Clifton allows in the garden, for he must have is trees and shrubs.  Out I crept, my slippers darkening in the dew and hearing a movement behind me I turned and found Ruth.  She was carrying the racquets; and so-smiling, not speaking-we ran between the great bushes to the net, and there we played (quietly, of course, so that Uncle Edward might not hear) until the breakfast gang recalled us.  We ran up the back stairs en deshabille, and down the front one, decorous but tardy, and kissed Uncle Edward, but I took care to embrace him as he likes best, to forestall reproof.  Colour rose up being his mustache and his face worked silently, but then he vanished as usual, behind the  Times.


IV.  Coming from Evening Church, Charles Cousley


The heaven-reflecting, usual moon Scarred by thin branches, flows between the simple sky, its light half-gone.  The evening hills of risen green.  Safely below the mountain crest A little clench of sheep holds fast. The lean spire hovers like a mast over its hulk of leaves, and moss and those who, locked within a dream, make between church and cot their way beside the secret-springing stream That turns towards an unknown sea: And there is neither night nor day.  Sorrow nor pain, eternally.


V.  The Merry-Go-Round at night, Dannie Abse


The roof turns, the brassy merry-go-round crashes out music, Gaudy horses gallop tail to snout, inhabit the phantasmagoria of light substantial as smoke.  Then each one vanishes. 

Some pull carriages.  Some Children, frightened., hold tight the reins as they arrive and disappear chased by a scarlet lion that seems to sneer not snarl.  and here’s a unicorn painted white.  Look! From another world this strange, lit retinue.  A boy on a steer, whooping, loud as dynamite-a sheriff, no doubt though dressed in sailor-blue.  And here comes the unicorn painted white. 

Faster! The children spellbound, the animals prance, and this is happiness, this no-man’s land where nothing’s forbidden.  And hardly a glance at parents who smile, who think they understand as the scarlet lion leaps into the night and here comes the unicorn painted white.


With a Poet’s Eye:  In 1985, the Tate Gallery commissioned several poets to write about specific works of art in its collection.  These poems were later published in an illustrate anthology, With a Poet’s Eye.  With the kind permission of the Tate Gallery and the individual poets, I have sought to broaden the expression a step further by setting the poems to music.  I was initially stimulated to write this cycle as I viewed the anthology reproductions in all their fascinating diversity, and was captured by the poets’ word as they led me into their wonderfully evocative worlds.  As the writers cause us to look afresh with a poet’s eye, my simple hoe is to enhance the vision from the perspective of the composer’s ear.  With A poets’ Eye was commissioned by the Plymouth Music Series.-

Cary John Franklin


Cary John Franklin began his musical studies at the age of five in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  he currently lives in St. Paul, MN where he is active as a composer and conductor with commissions and performances rom the Kansas City Symphoy, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Houston Youth Symphony, Plymouth Music Series, Purcell Hall (London), Schubert Club of St. Paul, Chanticleer, Minneaplis Civic Orchestra, and the NEA.  he was the Artistic Producer for the MCF for eight years and is a member of ASCAP.  A graduate of Macalester College, he is Music Director of the First Unitarian Society  of Minneapolis and the Singin Wilderness Festival of Ely, Minnesota.  Franklin is also the Chorus Master and Assistant Conductor of the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and in the past season guest-conducted the Kansas City Symphony and the Washington Opera.



Sydney Hodkinson

Text by John Donne


So, so, breake off this last lamenting kisse, which sucks two soules, and vapors both away, Turne thou ghost that way, and let mee turne this, and let our selves benight our happiest day; we aske non leave to love; nor will we owe any, so cheape a death, as saying, Goe:

Goe; Goe; and I that word have not quite kill’d thee, ease mee with death, by bidding mee goe too.  Oh, if it have, let my word worke on mee, and a just office on a murderer doe.  Except it be too late, to kill me so Being double dead, going and bidding goe.


Expiration:  I have long felt that the work of the English poet John Donne (1572/1631) possessed a special kinship to our own time, seeming to satisfy, or at least assuage, the appetite peculiar to contemporary sensibilities and intelligence.  I have set many of his poems to date and turned to him again for his short piece from Songs and Sonets.  The work is dedicated to my wife, Elizabeth, for our 32nd wedding anniversary.  the musical material is extremely limited-the entire composition generated from the opening 5-note melodic line.  it was written in Ormond, Florida ion 1987.

-Sydney Hodkinson


Sydney Hodkinson, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, is a prolific and widely-performed contemporary composer.  He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Eastman School of Music and joined their faculty in 1973.  he earned a doctorate from the University of Michigan and has also studied with Elliot Carter, Roger Sessions, and Milton Babbit.  Hodkinson has taught at the Universities of Virginia, Ohio, and Michigan and served two years as artist-in-residence in Minneapolis under a Ford Foundation grant.  In 1984-86, he served as Meadows Distinguished Visiting Professor of composition at Southern Methodist university.  Recent commissions have come from the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Montreal Symphony, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Ottawa.  Hodkinson’s awards include NEA and Guggenheim Fellowships, and the Farnsley Prize from the Louisville Orchestra.  Hodkinson’s music is recorded on CRI, Grenadilla, Louisville, Advance, Nonesuch, CBC, and Pantheon labels.


The Settling Years

Libby Larsen


I. Comin’ to Twon, Rober V. Carr

The boys are comin’to twon! What does the marshal l do?  He’s gone and hid, that’s wht he did, For he knowas a thing or two.  the boys are comin’to town! What does the dogs all do?  they hits the trail with a caanine wail, for they know a thing or two.  The boys are comn’ to town!  What does the old town do?  She goes to be while they paint her red, For she knows a thing or two


II.  Beneath These Alien Stars

from Pioneer Woman, Vesta Pierece Crawford


Beneath these alien stars, in darkness I have stood alone, more than mountains come between me and my home, the desert wind has waved my hair:  Desert sands have etched my face, and the courage of the mountains has bound me to this place.  And something of its peace I’ve won, I have stood with only God, Between me and the sun.


III.  A Hoopla

from The Song Primer


Draw the bow across he string, listen to my fiddle sing.  My old Dan is always ready, Slow he is but kind and steady, When I want to I can stop him, Just by saying whoa!


The Settling Years is a three-part collection based on poetry by American pioneers.  The texts are full of a kind of raw energy, swashbuckling attitude and profundity of heart and commitment characteristic of those settlers west of the Hudson.  I had also looked at the more erudite essays of Coleridge-Taylor, Thoreau and Emerson, but chose the rougher stanza because the primitive voices, the pioneers, were profound simply in the way they expressed the nature of their experiences.  The first piece, Coming to Town, is about cowboys after months on the range-bawdy, rowdy and raucous.  The second, Beneath These Alien Stars, is a poem about the bonding of the human spirit to the land.  The third piece, A Hoopla, depicts a barn dance with vocalists who circle ‘round the instruments, stomp, clap, and generally perform with abandon, vigor and boisterousness.  the Settling years was commissioned and premiered by the Singing Sergeants and the United States Air Force Band for the 150th  anniversary of the Music Educators National Association.


Libby Larsen is one of a ground-breaking generation whose music is aimed squarely at the energy of today’s performers and concert halls.  Her works encompass orchestra, opera, choral, chamber and solo repertoire and have been performed throughout the United States and Europe by music figures including Sir Neville Marriner, Zubin Mehta, Leonard Slatkin, and Jehan Sadat.  Critics have said her compositional style is replete with “energy, rhythmic drive, astonishing effects, and imagery with well-defined direction and a no-nonsense attention to organization.”  She was a composer-in-residence with the Minnesota Orchestra (1983-87), a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, and is co-founder of the Minnesota Composers Forum with Stephen Paulus.  the Aldeburgh, New Music America, and Aspen Music are among festivals performing her works.  Larsen has received awards from organizations including the Bush Foundation, Ford Foundation, Jerome Foundation, and the NEA.  Her works are recorded on labels including Nonesuch, Pro Arte, and Leonarda.  She studied composition at the University of Minnesota with Dominick Argento, Eric Stokes, and Paul Fetler and remains a vigorous music advocate serving with the NEA Music Panel, Meet the Composer, the American Music Center, and ASCAP.