Adirondack Light was composed in spring, 1992, in response to a commission from the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra in commemoration of the centennial of the Adirondack Park. It is scored for narrator and chamber orchestra and received its premiere October 18, 1992, in Queensbury NY. The text is adapted by the composer from a poem by Guggenheim award-winning poet, Jordan Smith – “A Lesson from the Hudson River School: Glens Falls, New York, 1848”.
The piece is in one continuous movement subdivided into several parts. Images of water dominate the first two sections. A fast-flowing millrace in the first section contrasts with the wide, serene, and sometimes treacherous Hudson River in the second. The third section recounts the extraordinary adventure of a Boston traveler who penetrates the dark, romantic aspects of the Adirondacks with startling consequences. The earlier light and water images return in the final section.
Adirondack Light contains “windows” into four Adirondack folksongs introduced to the composer by folklorists George and Vaughn Ward. When the piece begins the narrator is seated on stage. Towards the end of the orchestral introduction he rises, perhaps to his porch railing, perhaps to an inside windowsill. During the orchestral epilogue he returns to his seat. – HT
PSALM 104 (PRAISE, MY SOUL) (Chorus and Small Orchestra)
Small orchestra version of original organ accompaniment. An anthem whose trumpet fanfare and joyful character contributes to a festive feel. Singing Welsh translations are also provided in certain sections.
“Shakkei,” a term used in Japanese landscape design, means “borrowed scenery.” Two well-known examples of shakkei underlie the oboe concerto. The first movement, marked “slow and spacious”, is inspired by Mount Hiei as viewed from Shoden-ji, a temple with a dry landscape garden. The second movement, marked leggiero, is inspired by the hills of Arashiyama as viewed from Tenryu-ji, a temple with a lush stroll garden. In musical terms, the sparse landscape of the first movement is complemented by an “overgrown” second movement. In both movements the composer could not resist lightly “borrowing” from Debussy’s Nuages since the idea of borrowing was part of the identity of the piece and a cor anglais was at hand. – HT
Performed here by Virginia Shaw, oboe and the North/South Chamber Orchestra conducted by Max Lifchitz. (Audio is an excerpt from the 2nd Movement.)
With the Heather and Small Birds, a celebratory overture for chamber orchestra, takes its title from a translation of a poem by Welsh Bard, John Ceiriog Hughes (1833-1897) -- in Welsh, "efo'r grug a'r adar man" from Nant y Mynydd. The last stanza reads "Son of the mountain am I/ Far from home making my song/ But my heart is in the mountain/ With the heather and small birds." For the composer, the image is of the high plateau of central Wales, within walking distance of the coal-mining valley of her childhood. It is a place of freedom, ancientness, and song (songs of the valley, and song of the skylark). – HT
The piece was commissioned by the 1994 Cardiff Festival, with funds provided by the Welsh Arts Council. It was premiered, September 17, 1994, in Cardiff, Wales, by the European Women's Orchestra conducted by Odaline de la Martinez; it received its US premiere, March 1 1997, in San Francisco, California, with the Women’s Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Karla Lemon.