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
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.