Three Songs for CB

Instrumentation SATB choir and string quartet

Timing ca. 13′ in three movements

Composed 2003

Poems by Carol Burdick

Commissioned by the Alfred Chamber Singers in honour of Carol Burdick

World Premiere March 27, 2004, St. Jude’s Catholic Church, Alfred, New York. Alfred Chamber Singers; Kim Cook, violoncello; Alfred University string quartet; Luanne Crosby, conductor

Performance Note After Storm, Angeline on Ossabaw and Discards (poems by Carol Burdick) comprise a trilogy of works with a “progressive” accompaniment (the first a cappella, the second with obbligato cello, and the third with string quartet). They may be performed separately or in combination; if the complete trilogy is performed, they should be presented in the order given above.

Programme Notes

When I first read Carol Burdick’s poem After Storm, I was struck by a poetic voice breaking with grief. The simplicity of the opening words masks an underlying sense of loss and pain. I imagined someone whose heart was suffering, who sought to bring peace to where there was only unrest. But the peaceful beauty of the winter snow, outside, does not find its way into this troubled soul. This setting emphasises this contrast between the outer and inner worlds. After a gentle opening suggesting the calming of the falling snow, the sopranos continue this mood with a long melody, while the lower voices struggle to speak underneath. In the next section, the voices combine to appeal for rest, but ultimately beg to be released of all feeling. The last section suggests both a sense of defeat and resignation, and the possibility of eventual release.

Carol Burdick’s poem Angeline on Ossabaw depicts, for me, a perfect moment of innocence. Young Angeline dances on the beach, without a care in the world. The older women who watch her have danced in their own earlier time, and they know from their own experience that Angeline’s innocence will not last forever — for pain, sadness, and shadow will always be waiting for her. This setting for choir and cello seeks to capture that perfect moment. The choir itself ebbs and flows like the tide against the sand, while the solo cello represents Angeline herself, dancing in her own perfect world, exploring and inquisitive, untouched by the shadow ahead of her.

When I read through Carol Burdick’s poetry collections in search of texts for a trilogy of choral works, Discards sparkled for me. “Sari’s” careful and stately procession along the beach, and the delicate colour and glint of the broken seashells she collects, were both images that, to my imagination, made for potent musical inspiration. The result is a work that dances on the surface and glistens in detail.

Reviews

As usual, Ryan’s palette was immensely immediate and accessible. The opening sound, clean-line, is dead and white, a means of expressing pain. The second song for cello and choir was more overtly emotional, and the last scored for choir and string quartet was the most dazzling: playful and vivid, as Middle Eastern rhythmic effects…dominated. (J H Stape/reviewVancouver)

Three Songs for CB turned out to be the most interesting composition of the evening.…Angeline on Ossabaw is singularly impressive, with sensitive choral writing and a lovely solo cello part.… (David Gordon Duke/Vancouver Sun)

PDF score excerpts

CB texts   After Storm excerpt   Angeline excerpt   Discards excerpt

Audio excerpts

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