Prairie Songs

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SATB / piano (NO DIVISI)
Secular text in English, adapted by PC from Potato Blossom Songs by Carl Sandburg
Difficulty rating (1-5): 2


This piece was commissioned by Gordon Krauspe and The Hinsdale Chorale (Hinsdale, IL) and premiered April 25, 2009.

Gordon wanted something that would fit into a program theme of "Illinois Summer". So I decided to start looking for texts on this theme (or something close to it) by Illinois poets. I always try my best to make commissions special in some way or other, for instance, for a Santa Fe, NM commission I used poems by New Mexico poets.

As I looked through poems by Edgar Lee Master, Vachel Lindsay and other Illinoisans, I came across a volume of early Carl Sandburg. This poetry was far simpler than his later, more well known works, Much of it did seem like Vachel Lindsay's work-- there is that folk element to much of it, very simple and not intellectual at all. When I came across the poem Potato Blossom Songs I knew I had found my text. It was full of little vignettes of farm life, schoolboys ditching school a la Huck and Tom, a simpler life of yesteryear, and so on. Btw, I use the title Prairie Songs as I did not use the parts of the poem about potato blossoms, etc-- I focused more on extracting parts of the poem that spoke more about the prairie, farm life, etc. The poem is quite long and since it is so full of small, unrelated vignettes and also in the public domain I decided to edit for my uses.

Hehe- I also knew I had found my text when the giddy husband in the first section starts kidding around with his wife about "why did the Chicken cross the road"-- you know there can be some fun to be had with lines like those!

The musical setting is an admitted pastiche of the popular masters of the early 20th century American sound, especially unabashed is the opening piano part recalling Copland's Billy the Kid or just about any Elmer Bernstein western film score! Toward the end there is some Scott Joplinesque ragtime accompanying the truant schoolboys. All in all, I wanted to give Gordon something fun to conduct-- I'll write him a more serious piece some other day!

NEWSPAPER BLURB FOR THE PREMIERE: The Hinsdale Chorale will perform “Prairie Songs”, composed by Oak Park resident Paul Carey, at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 25, at The Community House, 415 W. 8th St., Hinsdale.

“Prairie Songs” is a world premiere of songs composed by Carey as part of “A Celebration of Art and Song in Illinois”, a performance of pieces written by Illinois composers.

The performance marks the 10th anniversary of the Hinsdale Chorale, and will be hosted by NBC 5’s Dick Johnson.

Images created by a group of Illinois artists also will be on display during the event, which will be followed by a wine and cheese reception.

Complete perusal score available upon request.



Rum, tiddy um,
Tiddy um,
Tiddy um tim tum.
My knees are loose-like,
my feet want to sling their selves.
I feel like tickling you under the chin--honey-- and
a-asking: Why Does a chicken cross the Road?
When the hens are a-laying eggs, and the rooster pluck-
pluck-put-akut and you-- honey-- put new potatoes
and gravy on the table, and there ain’t too much
rain or too little:
Say, why do I feel so gabby?
Why do I want to holler all over the place?

The roan horse is young and will learn: the roan horse
buckles into harness and feels the foam on the col-
lar at the end of a haul: the roan horse points four
legs to the sky and rolls in the red clover: the roan
horse has a rusty jag of hair between the ears hang-
ing to a white star between the eyes

Boys go running lickety-split
away from a school-room geography lesson
in April when the crawfishes come out
and the young frogs are calling
and the pussywillows and the cat-tails
know something about geography themselves




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