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Program Notes by Casey Ackerman

The Mountains are Dancing 

John Duke (1899-1984) was an American composer, pianist, and teacher. At the age of 16, he studied piano and composition at the Peabody Conservatory. Although his main instrument was the piano, Duke is most known for his contribution to American art-song literature having written over 260 art songs for voice and piano.

The Mountains are Dancing is one of the many art songs that Duke composed throughout his lifetime. Set to the poem “When faces called flowers float out of the ground by e.e. Cummings (1894-1962), this song is a joyous celebration of spring.

The Mountains are Dancing

When faces called flowers float out of the ground, and breathing is wishing, and wishing is having, but keeping is downward and doubting and never, it’s April, yes, April, my darling it’s Spring!Yes, the pretty birds frolic as spry as can fly, yes, the little fish gambol as glad as can be, yes the mountains are dancing together. When every leaf opens without any sound, and wishing is having, and having is giving, but keeping is dotting and nothing and nonsense, alive, we’re alive, dear, it’s kiss me now spring! Now the pretty birds hover, so she and so he, now the little fish quiver, so you and so I, now the mountains are dancing, the mountains. When more than was lost has been found, has been found, and having is giving, and giving is living, but keeping is darkness and winter and cringing, it’s spring all our night becomes day. O, it’s spring! All the pretty birds dive to the heart of the sky, all the little fish climb through the mind of the sea, all the Mountains are dancing, all the mountains are dancing, are dancing.

A Prayer to St. Catherine

Virgil Thomson (1896-1989) was not only a prominent American composer of the 20th century, but also a successful music critic and author having published articles in several newspapers, magazines, and a book titled The State of Music in 1939. Thomson composed over three hundred musical works ranging from opera to various orchestral, vocal, and instrumental works. Perhaps his most famous work is his choral “Alleluia.” With over eighty vocal works for solo voice, Thomson wrote many songs set to a variety of different English texts.

In 1959, Thomson set four Kenneth Koch (1925-2002) poems to music in his song cycle Mostly About Love for solo voice and piano. The last song of the cycle, A Prayer to St. Catherine, is a heartfelt plea directed to St. Catherine of Sienna to cure the singer of chronic heartache and shyness.

A Prayer to St. Catherine

If I am to be preserved from heartache and shyness
By Saint Catherine of Sienna,
I am praying to her that she will hear my prayer
And treat me in every way with kindness.
I went to Sienna to Saint Catherine’s own church
(It is impossible to deny this)
To pray to her to cure me of my heartache and shyness.
Which she can do, because she is a great saint.
Other saints would regard my prayer as foolish.
Saint Nicolas, for example, he would chuckle,
“God helps those who help themselves,
Rouse yourself! Get out there and do something about it!”
Or Saint Joanna. She would say, “It is not shyness,
That bothers you. It is sin. Pray to Catherine of Sienna.”
But that is what I have done. And that is why I have come here
to cure my heartache.
Saint Catherine of Sienna, If this song pleases you,
then be good enough to answer the prayer it contains.
Make the person that sings this song less shy than that person is,
And give that person some joy in that person’s heart.

On Music 

American composer Ben Moore (b. 1960) has written numerous musical works including art song, opera, chamber music, choral music, and musical theatre. Moore’s work has been referred to as “brilliant” and “gorgeously lyrical” by the New York Times.

In 2006, Moore released a volume of 14 art songs for voice and piano including On Music. This song is a true appreciation of music that encapsulates the value of music itself and celebrates the joy that music can bring to our lives.

On Music

When the winter rushes in and darkness reigns,

Or while basking in a gleaming sun,

There is music to attend both joys and pains.

For both the lover and the loveless one.

Fill your days with music, With clear and joyful song.

Dream your dreams to music you’ll help your dreams along.

Makes no difference who you are or where you’re from,

There will always be a song to sing.

Sing the clamor of the city with its ceaseless hum,

Sing the coming of another spring.

Fill your days with music,

with clear and powerful song.

Find your way through music,

You’ll find you can’t go wrong,

For there within a simple anthem,

a glimpse of life beyond our eyeslike water mirroring the skies.

So let the melody start,

Let music fill your heart.


La Courte Paille (The Short Straw)

While Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) is among the greatest French composers of the 20th century, the unpredictable quality of his music sets him apart from the rest. Poulenc never confined himself to a specific theory when he wrote his music, which allowed for his compositions to be unique unto itself. Poulenc’s musical works consist of a wide variety of genres including piano music, chamber music, orchestral music, opera, choral music, ballet, film score, and vocal music.

La Courte Paille is said to be Poulenc’s final composition published in 1960. This work is a set of seven songs that Poulenc dedicated to his collaborator and friend Denise Duval to sing to her young son. Utilizing the poetry of Maurice Carême, these charming songs contain the perfect balance between beauty and nonsense for children’s stories.

Le Sommeil

Le Sommeil est en village

Mon Dieu! Où est il parti?

J’ai beau bercer mon petit;

Il pleure dans son lit cage,

Il pleure depuis midi.

Où le sommeil a t’il mis

son sable et ses rêves sages?

J’ai beau bercer mon petit

Il se tourne tout en nage,

Il sanglote dans son lit.

Ah! Reviens, reviens sommeil,

sur ton beau cheval de course!

Dans le ciel noir, la Grande Ourse

A enterré le soleil

Et rallumé ses abeilles.

Si l’enfant ne dort pas bien, Il ne dira pas bonjour,

Il ne dira rien demain

A ses doigts, au lait, au pain

Qui l’accueillent dans le jour.



Sleep is on a trip,
My God! Where has it all gone?
I have rocked my little one in vain,
He is crying in his crib,
He has been crying since noon.
Where has sleep put/ its sand and its gentle dreams?
I have rocked my little one in vain,
He tosses and turns perspiring, He sobs in his bed.
Ah come back, come back sleep,
On your beautiful race horse!
In the dark sky, the Great Bear
Has buried the sun and rekindled his bees.
If the child does not sleep well,
He will not say hello,
He will not say anything tomorrow
To his fingers, to the milk, to the bread
That greet him in the morning.

Quelle Adventure

Une puce, dans sa voiture,
Tirait un petit éléphant
En regardant les devantures
Où scintillaient les diamants.
Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! Quelle Adventure!
Qui va me croire s’il m’entend?
L’éléphanteau, d’un air absent
Suçait un pot de confiture.
Mais la puce n’en avait cure,
Elle tirait en souriant.
Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! Que cela dure
Et je vais me croire démant!
le long d’une clôture
La puce fondit dans le vent
Et je vis le jeune éléphant
se sauver en fendant les murs
Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! La chose est sure,
Mais comment le dire à maman?

What’s Going On?

A flea in its wagon,
Pulled a small elephant
While watching the shop windows
Where the diamonds sparkled.
My God! My God! What is going on!
Who will believe me if he hears me?
The elephant was absent mindedly
sucking on a pot of jam.
But the flea did not care,
She kept pulling on with a smile.
My God! My God! If this goes on
am going to believe myself crazy!
Suddenly, along a fence
The flea disappeared in the wind
And I saw the young elephant
Escaping through the cracks in the walls
My God! My God! It is sure,
But how to tell mama?

La reine de coeur

Mollement accoudé
à ses vitres de lune
La reine vous salue/ d’une fleur d’amandier.
C’est la reine de coeur.
Elle peut, s’il lui plait,
Vous mener en secret
Vers d’étranges demeures
Où il n’est plus de portes,
De salles ni de tours
Et où les jeunes mortes
Viennent parler d’amour.
La reine vous salue;
Hâtez-vous de la suivre
Dans son château de givre
Aux doux vitraux de lune.

The Queen of Hearts

The queen of hearts
Softly leaning/ on her moon windows
The queen waves to you/ with an almond flower.
It is the queen of hearts.
She can, if she wishes,
Lead you in secret
towards strange mansions
Where there are no doors,
Or rooms or towers
And where the young dead
Come to talk of love.
The queen waves to you;
Hurry to follow her
Into her castle of frost
With sweet windows of the moon.

Ba, Be, Bi, Bo, Bu 

Ba, Be, Bi, Bo, Bu Bé
Le chat a mis ses bottes,
Il va de porte en porte
Jouer, danser, danser, chanter
Pou, chou, genou, hibou.
Tu dois apprendre à lire,
A compter, à écrire,
Lui crie-t-ón de partout.
Mais rikketikketau,
Le chat de s’esclaffer
En rentrant au château:
Il est le Chat botté!

Ba, Be, Bi, Bo, Bu

Ba, Be, Bi, Bo, Bu Be
The cat has put on his boots,
He goes from door to door
Playing, dancing, dancing, singing
Lice, cabbage, knee, owl/ You must learn to read,
To count, to write, People call to him everywhere.
But rikketikketau,
The cat laughs
On his way back to the castle:
He is the Puss in Boots!

Les anges musiciens

Sur les fils de la pluie,
Les anges du jeudi
Jouent longtemps de la harpe.
Et sous leur doigts, Mozart
Tinte, délicieux,
En goutes de joie bleue
Car c’est toujours Mozart
Que reprennent sans fin
Les anges musiciens Qui, au long du jeudi,
Font chanter sur la harpe
La douceur de la pluie.

The Angel Musicians

On the threads of rain,
The angels of Thursday
Play the harp for a long time.
And under their fingers, Mozart
Rings deliciously,
In drops of blue joy.
For it is always Mozart
That repeats endlessly
The angel musicians
Who all day long on Thursday,
Sing on the harp
The sweetness of the rain.

Le Carafon

“Pourquoi, se plaignant la carafe,
N’aurais  je pas un carafon?
Au zoo, madame la Girafe N’a-t-elle pas un girafon?”
Un sorcier qui passait par là,
A cheval sur un phonographe, Enregistra la belle voix
De soprano de la carafe/ Et la fit entendre à Merlin.
Fort bien, dit celui-ci, fort bien!/
Il frappe trois fois dans les mains
Et la dame de la maison
Se demande encore pourquoi
Elle trouva, ce matin là,
Un joli petit carafon
Blotti tous contre la carafe
Ainsi qu’au zoo, le girafon
Pose son cou fragile et long
Sur le flanc clair de la girafe.

The Carafe

“Why, the carafe complained,
Shouldn’t I have a baby carafe?
At the zoo, madame giraffe
Doesn’t she have a little giraffe?”
A sorcerer who passed by there,
Carried a phonograph,
And recorded the beautiful
Soprano voice of the carafe/ And let Merlin hear it.
Very, well he said of this, very well!
He clapped three times with his hands
And the lady of the house/ Is still wondering why
She found, that morning,
A pretty little carafe
Nestled up against the carafe Just as in the zoo, the giraffe
Rests her fragile and long neck
On the light side of the giraffe.

Lune d’Avril 

Lune, belle lune, lune d’Avril
Faites-moi voir en mon dormant
Le pêcher au coeur de safran,
Le poisson qui rit du grésil,
L’oiseau qui, lointain comme un cor,
Doucement réveille les morts
Et surtout, surtout le pays
Où il fait joie, où fait clair,
Où, soleilleux de primevères,
On a brisé tous les fusils.
Lune, belle lune, lune d’Avril.

Moon of April

Moon, beautiful moon, moon of April
Let me see in my sleep
The peach with the heart of saffron,
The fish who laughs at sleet,
The bird who is distant as a horn,
Sweetly wake up the dead
And above all, above the land
Where it is joyful, where it is clear, Where sunny with primoroses,
We have broken all the guns
Moon, beautiful moon, moon of April.

Translations by Alissa Deeter and Robert Peavler


Monica’s Waltz

Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007) was an Italian-born American composer, librettist, and director best remembered for his operas. The Medium was Menotti’s first opera to become an international success, with over 200 performances in 1947 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway. The opera follows the story of Madame Flora, a false medium, along with her daughter Monica and mute servant boy Toby. Together, they put on fake séances for money  to trick parents who have lost their children.

Throughout the opera, Monica and Toby become noticeably close. The aria Monica’s Waltz takes place directly after Toby has put on a puppet show for Monica. Monica applauds Toby’s puppet show and starts to dance. Amidst all of the fun Monica realizes that Toby is trying to tell her that he loves her, and because he cannot speak she says it for him.

Monica’s Waltz

Bravo! And after the theater,
supper and dance.
Music! Um-pa-pa, um-pa-pa,
Up in the sky
someone is playing a trombone and a guitar.
Red is your tie, and in your velvetine coat you hide a star.
Monica, Monica, dance the waltz,
Monica, Monica, dance the waltz,
Follow me, moon and sun,
Keep time with me, one two three one.
If you’re not shy, pin up my hair with your star,
and buckle my shoe./ And when you fly,
please hold on tight to my waist,
I’m flying with you.

O, Monica, Monica dance the waltz.
Monica, Monica, dance the waltz.
Follow me, moon and sun,
Follow me, follow, follow me,
Follow me, follow, follow, me.
What is the matter Toby?
What is it you want to tell me?
Kneel down before me,
and now, tell me.
Monica, Monica, can’t you see,
that my heart is bleeding, bleeding for you?
I loved you, Monica, all my life,
with all my breath, with all my blood.
You haunt the mirror of my sleep, You are my night.
You are my light and the jailer of my day.

How dare you scoundrel, talk to me like that!
Don’t you know who I am? I’m the queen of Aroundel!
I shall have you put in chains!
You are my princess, you are my queen,
and I’m only Toby, one of your slaves,
and still I love you and always loved you
with all my breath, with all my blood.
I love your laughter, I love your hair,
I love your deep and nocturnal eyes.
I love your soft hands, so white and winged,
I love the slender branch of your throat.
Toby, don’t speak to me like that!
You make my head swim. Monica, Monica, fold me in your satin gown.
Monica, Monica, give me your mouth,
Monica, Monica, fall in my arms.
Why Toby! You’re not crying are you?
Toby, I want you to know
that you have the most beautiful voice in the world!


Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D. 965

Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) is most known for his influential contributions to the German Lied, or individual song, during the late classical and early romantic eras. Schubert reimagined the German Lied to focus on both the text and musical components, resulting in vocal music with an elevated element of expression that didn’t quite exist before. Over the course of his lifetime, Schubert composed over 660 musical settings to hundreds of different texts for solo voice, duets, trios, and quartets.

Just a few months before his death in 1828, Schubert composed a Lied for soprano voice, clarinet, and piano called Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock). In three sections, the work reflects the progression of a lonesome shepherd on a rock. In the first section, the Shepherd sings to himself listening to his own echo. Hearing his own echo reminds the shepherd of his loneliness and the second section becomes much darker as the shepherd struggles with sadness. The final section accelerates with joy as the shepherd realizes that spring is coming and he will be reunited with his love in no time.

Der Hirt auf dem Felsen

Wenn auf dem höchsten Fels ich steh;
In’stiefe Thal hernieder seh;
und singe, und singe,
fern aus dem tiefen, dunkeln thal
Schwingt sich empor der Widerhall
Der Wiederhall der Klüfte.
Je weiter meine Stimme dringt,
Je heller sie mir widerklingt,
von unten, von unten
Mein Liebchen wohnt so weit von mir,
drum sehn’ ich mich so heiß nach ihr
hinüber, hinüber.
In tiefem Gram verzehr’ ich mich,
mir ist die Freude hin,
auf Erden mir die Hoffnung wich,
Ich hier so einsam bin,
Ich hier so einsam bin.
So sehnend klang im Wald das Lied,
so sehnend klang es durch die Nacht,
die Herzen es zum Himmel zieht
mit wunderbarer Macht.

Der Frühling will kommen,
der Frühling meine Freud,
Nun mach’ ich mich fertig zum Wandern bereit.

The Shepherd on the Rock

When I stand on the highest rock
I look down into the deep valley,
And sing.
Far away out of the deep dark valley,
There soars up an echo
From the ravines.

The further my voice carries,
The clearer it resounds to me,
From below.
My beloved lives so far from me,
So I feel such longing for her,
Over there!

I am consumed in deep grief,
All my joy has fled!
On earth I have lost all hope,
I am so lonely here!

The song sounded so longing in the forest,
It sounded so longing through the night!
That it draws our hearts to heaven
With wondrous power.

The spring will come,
Spring, my joy,
Now I am ready to make the journey.

Translation by Malcom Wren