Elegy for Miss Covington

Instrumentation SSAA choir and string orchestra (min. 33221)

Timing 4’50”

Composed 2007

Poem by Barbara Goldowsky

Commissioned by Elektra Women’s Choir in celebration of its 20th anniversary

World Premiere April 14, 2007, Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver, British Columbia. Elektra Women’s Choir, with string orchestra; Morna Edmundson, conductor

Programme Notes

From a New York Times article, May 18, 1910:
“Blanche Covington made up her mind that there was no escape from Halley’s Comet and that it would kill everyone in Chicago…Dreading the suffering she might have to undergo she locked herself in a room and turned on the gas.”

When I first explored Barbara Goldowsky’s poetry for my mezzo-soprano cycle First there was light, there were many poems that inspired me musically, but didn’t fit with that particular project. Elegy for Miss Covington is one of those poems that I’ve been waiting to set. The poem finds a dark humour in Miss Covington’s ill-informed and (certainly to the modern observer) ludicrous actions — how could she overreact like that? — and in this setting, there is much gossip as the story spreads. Fortunately, Miss Covington was saved, and after her moment of notoriety was over, her name disappeared into oblivion. The piece turns sweetly poignant when the poem conjectures what the rest of her life, which went unreported, might have been, suggesting that perhaps she lived a full, long life, and her spirit now rides the tail of the comet.

Elegy for Miss Covington was commissioned by Elektra Women’s Choir in celebration of its 20th anniversary.

(programme note by Barbara Goldowsky and Jeffrey Ryan)

PDF score excerpts

Elegy Covington text   Elegy Covington excerpt

Audio excerpt

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