for SOPRANO and instrumental sextet

Written: 2016
Duration: 21'
Instrumentation: soprano and sextet (flute, B-flat cl., vln., cello, perc. [vibraphone (motor needed), orchestra bells, crotales (high and low sets), med. sus. cym., med. or low tam tam, med. and small triangles, Mark Tree], piano).
Commissioned by The ASCAP Foundation via the Charles Kingsford Fund, for Marnie Breckenridge and the American Modern Ensemble
World PremiereAmerican Modern Ensemble, Marnie Breckenridge, soprano, Merkin Hall, New York, NY, May 26, 2016.
PublisherBill Holab Music

View Score | Buy Sheet Music
Note: a version for soprano and piano is also available.


There is a seemingly endless supply of poems about summer. After writing Winter Songs for bass-baritone and chamber ensemble or piano, I realized that I had inadvertently only set poems by male poets, so I decided to restrict myself to female poets for this cycle. I am well-aware that this could emphasize a potential cliché: woman can be viewed as more "summery" and men more "wintery,” but more than anything, this is merely a way to offer a course correction, so to speak, or even a yin and yang, as well as a way to create a balance between these two works.

Summer Songs begins with a setting of Summer Music by May Sarton, a light, happy, playfully musical poem filled with allusions to nature. The second movement is a setting of The Kite by Anne Sexton, a poem about honoring and enjoying the moment, and the simple things in life such as flying kites with children. Childhood, the third movement, is a setting of a poem by Sharan Strange about children capturing fireflies. The fourth movement, Moths, is a setting of a poem by Jennifer O’Grady about moths, but relating to late night conversation on a front porch. The cycle ends with a setting of Summer Night, Riverside, by Sara Teasdale, a passionate, warm, optimistic poem that muses on the timelessness of summer.

Summer Songs was commissioned by The ASCAP Foundation via the Charles Kingsford Fund, for Marnie Breckenridge and the American Modern Ensemble. Special thanks to Marnie Breckenridge for her assistance in selecting the poems for this cycle.