Eldorado (2012)*


For Three-part Treble Chorus and piano


Published by Hal Leonard in the Henry Leck Creating Artistry Series

Commissioned by:
The Organization of American Kodály Educators (OAKE), for the 2012 OAKE National Conference in Phoenix, AZ, as part of the 2011-2012 Ruth Boshkoff Composition Prize

Premiere and recording source:
National Youth Choir (6th-8th grades) of the Organization of American Kodály Educators (OAKE), for the 2012 OAKE National Conference in Phoenix, AZ; Georg Stangelberger, conductor
Symphony Hall, Phoenix, AZ
Performed during the closing concert of the 2012 OAKE National Conference, March 17, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe (first published 1849)

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.
But he grew old,
This knight so bold,
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.
And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow;
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be,
This land of Eldorado?"
"Over the mountains
Of the moon,
Down the valley of the shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied -
"If you seek for Eldorado!"

Program notes:

This work is an original setting of Edgar Allan Poe's poem "Eldorado," for three-part treble chorus. This poem spoke to me as a reader and as a composer for one main reason - namely, that it was not unremittingly dark or "horrific," as much of Poe's other work often is, but that it ends on a purposefully vague note, leaving the reader to interpret for himself or herself what exactly is happening, and what the next step on the knight's journey might be. I have read that Poe wrote this poem as an unsubtle message to the miners and others who wanted to move West and "get rich quick" during the California Gold Rush of the mid-1800s; but personally, I prefer to interpret Poe's "Eldorado" not merely as a symbol of the fruitless pursuit of gold or riches, but rather, as a greater symbol of something worth questing and striving for. I believe that at the end, when the shadow shows the knight the way, the knight does reach his Eldorado (whatever that might look like), and does find fulfillment for his life's quest - and I hope that that hopefulness and sense of light, at the end of "the valley of the shadow," comes through in my setting of the text.

In my setting, I used harmonic and textural changes to highlight each occurrence of the word "shadow" in the poem. Just as Poe carefully redefines the word each time it recurs, I used different chord progressions (which lead momentarily away from the key center and back) each time. As tools to highlight the narrative's forward momentum, I also used several different "weaving" contrapuntal textures in the voice parts; a "galloping" piano accompaniment (perhaps representing the knight on his horse); and a couple of surprising modulations.

Eldorado was commissioned by the Organization of American Kodály Educators (OAKE) in July 2011 as part of the 2011-2012 Ruth Boshkoff Composition Prize. It was premiered on March 17, 2012 by the OAKE National Conference Youth Choir, composed of OAKE members' 6th-8th grade students who auditioned from across the nation, at the 2012 OAKE National Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.