Hast'ning Home (2013)
Composed for the soprano Tony Arnold and the Wellesley Composers Conference Orchestra under the direction of James Baker. Premiered August 2013. Finalist for American Prize.
Text of the excerpt
. . . Scarce darken our beautiful sky.
"Dear sister, I am almost homesick. Oh, how happy it would make me to hear one kind word from Mama."
Away here in Texas, the sun shines so bright,/ The stars in their beauty appear. The full moon in splendor illumines the night . . .
"Ann, I shall have to stop writing, as my pen is so bad, it makes me so mad. I don't know what to do.
Hast'ning Home is a monodrama on the life of 19th century shape-note composer Sarah "Sally" Lancaster, who left Georgia and moved to Texas in the 1870's. I am intrigued by the figure of this composer who complained in a letter to her mother of"tunes running through my mind, day and night . . ." She is an almost mythical figure: little is known about her, and little of her music written in Texas, seems to exist. Lancaster's sense of isolation is a metaphor for the isolation I have felt many times in Texas, feeling cut off from a wider world of musicmaking. And yet my native neck of the woods vitally nurtures my creative imagination.
The texts draw on the lyrics of two Sacred Harp shape-note hymns, with interpolated passages from Lancaster's letters. The hymn texts included are "The Last Words of Copernicus" which Lancaster set to music, and a hymn called "Song of Texas" chosen because it captures the state so well.
I have not included any quotations of Lancaster's settings. Instead, I have set the old text with love and admiration in a new language. The work was developed with invaluable support and input from soprano Tony Arnold.