Poem for Soprano and Chamber Ensemble
The Poem for Soprano and Chamber Ensemble was commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts through a consortium grant with Capitol Chamber Artists. It was completed in the summer of 1986. the Capitol Chamber Artists presented the premiere of the work on February 8, 1987. The theatrical performance of the Poem, reviewed by B.A. Nilsson in the Schenectady Gazette, was pronounced a "masterpiece... a devastating work, deserving greater attention." The work is scored for flute, clarinet in B flat, violin, cello, harp or guitar, harpsichord, piano and a large percussion section. In addition to the solo soprano part, a bass and a light soprano are used.
Three divisions of the musical setting of The Hollow Men by T. S. Eliot encompass the five sections of the text. A brief percussion cadenza utilizing xylophone, tom-toms, vibraphone, snare drum and maracas is introduced in the third section of the text. A fragment of the hymn, At the River, by the Rev. Robert Lowry, is quoted in the fourth section. A transformation of the instrumental introduction that follows the opening preface appears in the middle of the fifth section. The work closes as the bass intones, "A penny for the Old Guy."