Windy Nights (2009)*
For Two-part Treble Chorus and piano
Premiere and recording source:
The Sixth-Grade All-County Chorus of Fairfax County, VA / Dr. Lynnel Joy Jenkins, conductor / Nancy Stowe, piano / 6th-grade students, soprano recorders
Mount Vernon High School, Alexandria, VA
April 24, 2010
Robert Louis Stevenson (1885)
Whenever the moon and stars are set,
Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?
Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
And ships are tossed at sea,
By, on the highway, low and loud,
By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then
By he comes back at the gallop again.
I composed this setting of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Windy Nights” because I was inspired by the evocative, suggestive, mysterious text. My original intention was to compose a set of settings of Stevenson poems, to be performed together, but only this one came out to my liking (to date). I used vocal ostinati – a technique with which our sixth-graders are familiar – gradual dynamic changes, and voice exchanges to highlight the spookiness of the words.
I was delighted with the premiere performance, with more than 900 of the finest sixth-grade singers in Fairfax County, VA, singing, under the direction of a wonderful conductor and with an outstandingly sensitive accompanist. Ten students also did an excellent job learning and performing the recorder descant. It was an honor and a privilege to be able to present my work to such a large group of developing musicians, and to have them sing it in a deeply musical way. I am grateful to them for their hard work.