It’s not often that Modern Farmer is the magazine of choice for a preview article about an opera, yet there’s no question but that Payne Hollow, composed by Kentucky-born Shawn Jaeger, was an excellent fit. The opera is based on a verse play by Kentucky poet Wendell Berry about Harlan and Anna Hubbard who, for thirty-five years, lived lightly on the land in their small home along the Ohio River. In keeping with the subject matter of the opera, Berry responded by handwritten letter to Jaeger’s request for permission to use the story and handed Jaeger a completed libretto while they sat together on Berry’s front porch.
Payne Hollow tells a quiet story, limning two quiet lives. The Hubbards lived at once alone and together, alone in their solitary worlds, and together to play Brahms, she on piano, he on violin. There is no powerful dramatic arc. Rather, the story flows along like a river, with occasional turbulence, but also with a steadiness akin to that of companionable lives well lived.
Read more at Prufrock's Dilemma
In order to gain permission to perform an opera at the Bard College Conservatory of Music based on Berry’s short verse play, “Sonata at Payne Hollow,” Jaeger wrote a letter to Berry, who was initially reluctant to participate.
“I thought there was no way he’d be involved in the project,” says Jaeger, “but he wrote back and his letters were handwritten, which we don’t see much anymore. It was really fun to correspond with him in that way.” Encouraged but still pessimistic, Jaeger made “what felt like a pilgrimage” to the Berry homestead in Henry County, Kentucky. While sitting on Berry’s porch — adorned with bird feeders and overlooking the Kentucky River — the writer revealed to Jaeger that he had already adapted his work into a libretto, as requested.
via Modern Farmer
Three poems by Wendell Berry will be sung by members of the University Chorale to music composed by William Campbell, PhD, associate professor and Music Department chair, in a concert intended to celebrate the 2014 St. Ambrose University project theme of Sustainability.
SAU's Chamber Singers and the Bee Sharp men's vocal ensemble also will perform in the concert that will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 2, in the Galvin Fine Arts Center.
"Wendell Berry is well known for his writings and poems that express the relationship between humans and nature," Campbell said. "My compositions are settings of three of his Sabbath poems from A Timbered Choir: The Clearing Rests in Song and Shade, I Go Among the Trees and Sit Still and All the Earth Shall Sing.
Bard College Conservatory of Music will be presenting Payne Hollow, an opera by Shawn Jaeger with a libretto from Wendell Berry's Sonata at Payne Hollow. Two performances are scheduled: Friday, March 14 and Sunday, March 16. The opera will be a world premiere in conjunction with a performance of Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw. Go HERE for more information.
I stumbled onto this information via this delightful Twitter conversation:
This is the second time Pickens and Voces Novae have worked together on a Wendell Berry performance. Pickens calls these collaborations “a love affair of music and words.”
“Wendell’s sensibility to the miracle of being a human being and the connection with the divine, and connection with family and earth and land and all that is something that inspires me deeply,” he says.
Now entering its 21st season, Louisville’s Voces Novae is a semi-professional community choir dedicated to performing music by living American composers. Heller says working with living American composers like Pickens on original work helps the group evolve along with the contemporary musical landscape.
The Louisville choral group Voces Novae will perform poems of Wendell Berry set to music by Harry Pickens. This will take place in Louisville at The Church of the Ascension, 3:00 pm on Sunday 24 November.
Here is a preview:
The cycle, setting poems by Jaeger’s fellow Kentuckian, the environmental activist, poet and farmer Wendell Berry, was accompanied by violin, mandolin, clarinet and double bass. It opened with harsh pizzicato notes on the violin — an overly familiar world of dissonance.
The most lyrical moment was accompanied by violin, mandolin and bass used as percussion instruments. Moments of Appalachian folk music, played on the mandolin, only emphasized the overall lack of melody.
"Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music" took seven years to make, which means Maxfield, 32, has devoted much of his young life to commemorating Berry’s legacy as an American treasure. A man of letters and environmental activism, Berry has influenced numerous Utah writers from Terry Tempest Williams to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner. The latter was also Berry’s mentor.
"[Berry] had a disproportionately large impact on my professional development," said the soft-spoken Maxfield, whose spectacles partially obscure the gleaming curiosity in his eyes. "Though I’m not the first person to write music about him, this is the first project of its kind in its scope."
It didn’t take long for Utah-based composer, Andrew Maxfield, to fall in love with the poetry of Wendell Berry.
However, it did take 6-years to figure out exactly how he could turn those words into a piece of music.
The journey led to him through the roots of Kentucky music and to a collaboration with both Berry and blues musician Eric Bibb.