MARGARET SONGS


Subtitle:
Three Songs of Willa Cather

Movements:
I. Bright Rails II. So Little There III. Beneath the Hawthorne Tree

Instrumentation:
Soprano, piano

Text: Willa Cather, Libby Larsen

Duration: 7 minutes

Premiere:
October 17, 1996 by Karen Wickland, soprano, and James Johnson, piano, at Fuhr Hall of Music, Perkins Recital Hall, Hastings College, Hastings, NE as a preview concert for the opera Eric Hermannson's Soul

Available From:
Oxford University Press, distributed by Edition Peters

Composer's Notes:
Margaret Songs are three songs of Margaret Elliot, a character in Libby Larsen’s chamber opera, Eric Hermannson's Soul, based on a short story of Willa Cather. In the opera, Eric Hermannson, a young Norwegian with a deep love for music and dance, converts to Gospellism. He is forced to give away his violin and cease to dance, devoting his life to fundamentalism. The beautiful and refined Margaret Elliot visits from the East Coast. Quietly, Margaret and Eric fall in love. Margaret learns that love brings joy to life, even if only for a moment. Eric learns that love is a greater truth than fear. Margaret leaves. Eric plays and dances again.
 
A mesmerizing accompaniment evoking the wheels of a train frames the song "Bright Rails," based on a poem of Willa Cather. In this song Margaret sings of "going home." While the train takes its passengers to their homes, it is also a metaphor for Margaret's personal journey of the heart.
 
In "So Little There," Margaret sings of the social gestures which make up the fabric of her life as an upper-crust Victorian New Yorker: teas and dances, invitations, gloves and gossip. The great plains of Nebraska have given her a profound and disturbing new perspective on herself. She ponders "When everything else is so small, why should I expect love to be great?"
 
Margaret tells her brother Willis of the night she spent with Eric Hermannson. With Eric she has found her "one great moment." "Beneath the Hawthorne Tree" expresses the joy and rapture of that encounter.

Score Errata:
Movement III: Beneath the Hawthorne Tree; tempo indication should be dotted quarter equals 50.