The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

Spring Revels

Three spring songs full of vitality, generosity, and love

Words by Langston Hughes, e. e. cummings, Carl Sandburg

Three evocative songs full of the gentleness and unpredictability of spring. The words of Langston Hughes, e. e. cummings and Carl Sandburg are spun into music brimming with humor, imagination and a few fiddle-dee-dees.

The individual movements may also be performed as standalone songs:
I. April Rain Song
II. when faces called flowers float out of the ground
III. Spring Grass

Details and Ordering Information

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

Because April Rain Song is, in Langston Hughes’ words, a “sleep-song,” the word “lullaby” is used as a vocal accompaniment for the text. At first, this texture suggests a gentle rain; later the layered voices create a shifting, slumberous atmosphere.

In the second movement, I took my cue from e. e. cummings’ images of “floating”and “flying,” shaping melodies which sometimes hang in mid-air, and sometimes to soar. The whimsical phrase “the mountains are dancing” is sung first in unison, later as a duet, and finally as a four part canon.

Whenever my piano student Erica mastered a new song she would dance gleefully into my studio singing her favorite sound bite. So when I wrote Spring Grass I threw in some “doodahs” and “fiddle-dee-dees” just for her, skipping along just like her young feet. Unlike my sprightly earlier setting of this same poem for solo voice, this choral setting contains an earnest plea for the long-awaited grass.

Text

Spring Revels

I. April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.

The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night.

And I love the rain.

Langston Hughes
© 1932 by Alfred A. Knopf. Renewed in 1960 by Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates Inc., as agents for the Estate of Langston Hughes.

II. when faces called flowers float out of the ground

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 doting 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;are dancing)

e. e. cummings
From Xaipe, © 1950 by e. e. cummings, and Complete Poems, 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage, published by Liveright Publishing Corporation. Used by permission of the publisher

III. Spring Grass

Spring grass, there is a dance to be danced for you.
Come up, spring grass, if only for young feet.
Come up, spring grass, young feet ask you.

Smell of the young spring grass,
You’re a mascot riding on the wind horses.
You came to my nose and spiffed me.
This is your lucky year.

Young spring grass just after the winter,
Shoots of the big green whisper of the year,
Come up, if only for young feet.
Come up, young feet ask you.

Carl Sandburg
© 1928, 1956, by Carl Sandburg. Reprinted by permission of Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, Inc.

Performers

Performers

Spring Revels (complete work)
Premiere: Cayuga Vocal Ensemble / G. Roberts Kolb (Ithaca, NY)
Broadmoor Chamber Singers / Rebecca Kenneally (Natick, MA)
Brookline Chorus / William Cutter (Brookline, MA)
Cayuga Vocal Ensemble / Carl Johengen. 5th Annual Poetry and Song Concert (Ithaca, NY)
Chamber Singers of Iowa City / Martin Dicke (Iowa City, IA)
CoroAllegro / Jack Warren Burnam (Wilmington, DE)
Hamilton College Choir / Rob Kolb (Rochester and Buffalo, NY; Cincinnati and Cleveland Heights, OH; Evanston and Kenilworth, IL)
Harmonium Choral Society / Ann Matlack
Harmonium Choral Society / Ann Matlack (Madison, NJ; Geraldine R Dodge Poetry Festival in Waterloo Village, NJ)
Lively Experiment of University of Rhode Island / Mark Conley (Kingston, RI)
South Bend Chamber Singers / Nancy Menk (South Bend, IN)

I. April Rain Song
From Age to Age / Peter Durow (Anoka, MN)
Lesbian and Gay Chorus of Washington D.C. / C Paul Heins (Washington, DC)
Oriana Choir / Dominic Peckham. Bir Miftuħ International Music Festival (Gudja, MALTA)
Oriana Choir / Dominic Peckham. Sammy Ofer Gallery, Cutty Sark, Greenwich (London, ENGLAND)
Southern Nazarene University Chorale / Brent Ballweg (Okalahoma City, OK)
Festival Choir of Madison / Bryson Mortenson (Madison, WI)
VocalEssence / Philip Brunelle. Annual Witness Concert (Minneapolis, MN)

II. when faces called flowers float out of the ground
College Hill Singers / G Roberts Kolb (Clinton, NY)
Minnesota Oratorio Society / George Chu (St. Paul, MN)

III. Spring Grass
Premiere: Festival Choir of Madison / Eric Townell (Madison, WI)
CoroAllegro / Jeffrey Dokken (Wilmington, DE)