for SSATBB chorus with string quartet and piano

Text: Witter Bynner

This work was commissioned by the Canyon County Honor Choir of Nampa, Idaho, who premiered the work in the fall of 2018.  I wrote a blog article called “Birdsong Research” about my study in preparation for this composition. Indeed, I wanted to include the bird calls of each of the winged creatures mentioned in the poem as a way to educate the high school choristers on the subject. Each of the instruments represents a specific bird, and the singers imitate the birdsongs played by the instruments.  The poem is also about self-discovery, which I felt an excellent topic for young singers. In addition to the Canyon County Honor Choir, this work is also dedicated to my former student, dear friend, and colleague, James Hutchings.

This performance is by the Manchester University Chamber Singers, April 14, 2018. The instruments demonstrate the various birdsongs at the start of this video. Instrumentalists are:

Elizabeth Smith, violin

Linda Kummernuss, violin

Margaret Sklenar, viola

Robert Lynn, cello

Pamela Haynes, piano

“The Robin” by Witter Bynner

Except within poetic pale

I have not found a nightingale,

Nor hearkened in a dusky vale

To song and silence blending;

No stock-dove have I ever heard,

Nor listened to a cuckoo-bird,

Nor seen a lark ascending.

But I have felt a pulse-beat start

Because a robin, spending

The utmost of his simple art

Some of his pleasure to impart

While twilight came descending,

Has found an answer in my heart,

A sudden comprehending.