for mezzo-soprano, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano

Abby and Katherine

After Apple Picking is a setting of Robert Frost‘s poem by the same name, shown below. It was a favorite of Dr. Katherine Tinsley, professor emeritus and my dear colleague from Manchester University who passed away from injuries sustained in a traffic accident almost immediately after retiring from her teaching position in the spring of 2017. Her spouse suggested this poem when I asked about setting something to music in her memory. She is pictured above with my daughter, Abigail who loved Katherine dearly and graduated just weeks before her passing.

This video recording is from my composition recital in April of 2019. The piece is sung by the lovely and very expressive Kira Lace Hawkins, and was composed with her specific voice in mind. Every time I hear her sing this piece, tears begin streaming down my face. I’m not sure what it means when your own composition makes you cry — but, perhaps the combination of Katherine’s memory and the tenderness conveyed by these musicians is what overwhelms me. I sort of hope that is always the case with this piece.

To Katherine Tinsley, thank you for doing what all the best teachers and apple pickers do: “cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.”

Kira Lace Hawkins, mezzo-soprano

Lila Hammer, clarinet

Elizabeth Smith, violin

Robert Lynn, cello

Pamela Haynes, piano

“After Apple Picking”

poem by Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.