A Million Acres of Sky (2014)
Song cycle for soprano, cello, harp, piano, & percussion based on poems by Carl Sandburg
Dedicated to Chamber Cartel
After completing my undergraduate degree in May of 2014, I frequently found myself occupying a quiet nook and reading the late poems of Carl Sandburg. These poems were, to me, like an epigraph for the upcoming month I had set aside for rest and reflection. As I read through HONEY AND SALT, Sandburg’s final collection of poems, I felt a kinship with the late American poet who, in the sweet air of the western North Carolina Mountains, reflected on his life with a poignant nostalgia I somehow related to as a burned-out twenty-two year old. I pre-composed the piece at one of my favorite places on Earth – my grandmother’s mountain home in Flat Rock, North Carolina, just a few miles away from the Carl Sandburg Home where Sandburg lived the last couple decades of his life. When speaking of their home (named "Connemara") in rural Flat Rock, Sandburg’s wife Paula once said, “We didn’t just buy two-hundred and forty-five acres when we bought Connemara – we bought a million acres of sky, too!” In each of these songs, I sought to create a unique musical landscape that would augment the restful beauty of Sandburg’s poetry and harken back to the land where it was written. The soprano melodies (most of which came to me as if prewritten and awaiting dictation) float atop lulls and bursts of instrumental texture and explore themes of innocence, loss, and beauty.
II. If So Hap May Be
“Foxgloves” “If So Hap May Be” and “Lesson” from HONEY AND SALT by Carl Sandburg. Copyright © 1963 by Carl Sandburg and renewed 1991 by Margaret Sandburg, Helga Sandburg Crile and Janet Sandburg. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Your heart was handed over
to the foxgloves one hot summer afternoon.
The snowsilk buds nodded and hung drowsy.
So the stalks believed
As they held those buds above.
In deep wells of white
The dark fox fingers go in these gloves.
In a slow fold of summer
Your heart was handed over in a curve
from bud to bloom.
If So Hap May Be
Be somber with those in smoke garments.
Laugh with those eating bitter weeds.
Burn your love with bold flame blossoms,
If so hap may be.
Leave him with a soft snowfall memory,
If so hap may be.
Never came winter stars more clear
yet the stars lost themselves
midnight came snow-wrought snow-blown
In early April the trees
end their winter waiting
with a creep of green on branches.
In early October the trees
listen for a wind crying,
for leaves whirling.
The face of the river by night
holds a scatter of stars
and the silence of summer blossoms
falling to the moving water
Come clean with a child heart.
Laugh as peaches in the summer wind.
Let rain on a house roof be a song.
Let the writing on your face
be a smell of apple orchards in late June.