little tree

Published by Santa Barbara Music Press as part of
the Mary Alice Stollak Choral Series

Catalog # SBMP614


Treble (SA) / piano
Secular Christmas text in English by E. E. Cummings
Difficulty rating (1-5): 3
Duration: 4:24

 listen to Little Tree

erformed by the Michigan State Univeristy Treble Choir,
Mary Alice Stollak, director

This piece was commissioned by the very talented Mary Alice Stollak, director emeritus of the
Michigan State University Children's Choir.

Since I was given free rein on this piece, there were a few givens in my mind:
1) I knew I could write music that would challenge if I cared to
2) I also knew their pianist, Judy Kabodian, is phenomenal and could handle anything I cared to write in the piano part. So the real task was to find a truly special holiday, or Christmas, text.

Having grown a bit tired of the usual fare of Baby Jesus in the cradle, the animals in the stable, and so on, I came across E.E. Cummings delightful little tree. Told from the point of view of perhaps an eight or ten year old, the text is a whilrwind of holiday excitement, with moments of tenderness interspersed. With this gem of a text, I decided to create the feel of holiday hustle and bustle and paint the excitement of children during the holiday season by writing a very busy, clangy, polytonal piano part, with a shimmer of half-pedalling, along with choral stretto passages bouncing about. When I first heard Mary Alice perform this piece (with her high school select treble group) at the 2005 Michigan ACDA Fall Convention, the Allegro sections felt like the rush of riding a roller coaster about to careen off the tracks. I think she actually took an even quicker tempo than marked and the result was fabulous. And of course the slower, lyrical passages were caressed lovingly as is always the case with Mary Alice's choirs (can you tell I am a big fan of hers?).

When we showed the piece to Barbara Harlow at Santa Barbara Music Publishing, she gave it a very quick stamp of approval. I hope this piece can find its way into the repertoire of treble choirs looking for something new and exciting for their holiday concerts.


little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss you cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"noel noel"



Eric Whitacre



Click to See pdf Score
(score excerpt)

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