Sandburg Poems, for chamber orchestra and folksinger (2013-14)
Text from Cornhuskers and Chicago Poems by Carl Sandburg

WINNER of a 2015 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award

folksinger, chamber orch. (1.1.2.0.2sax/1.2.1.1/3perc, hp, pno, cel/4.3.3.2.1)
14’
 
Sandburg’s poetry reflects what he saw as the spirit of America. Contrary to many cliched displays of patriotism, Sandburg was out to document his country truly. He wrote about everything he saw, and carried in his poetry laughter and tears, hard work and sweat, the joy of children and the desolation of death. He saw the full spectrum of America, and brought it to life through poetry. I can only hope to bring it to life again through music.

Sandburg Poems

In the poems selected here, Sandburg embodies several different characters. In the first, he gives thoughts to metal waiting to be shaped, and contemplates the structures it may become a part of. In the second he is a Chicago mobster hauled off to prison in a paddywagon, lamenting his last views of the world he knew and recognizing his love for the sights and sounds he had grown so familiar with. In the third he describes the regrowth that is inevitable following the destruction of war—the bittersweet springing of life that cannot help but be overshadowed by what has come before. Lastly, he takes on the mantle of us all, appealing to the unknown, facing and welcoming the coming of “dusk and dust and dreams”.

I. Prayers of Steel

LAY me on an anvil, O God.
Beat me and hammer me into a crowbar.
Let me pry loose old walls.
Let me lift and loosen old foundations.

Lay me on an anvil, O God.
Beat me and hammer me into a steel spike.
Drive me into the girders that hold a skyscraper together.
Take red-hot rivets and fasten me into the central girders.
Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper through blue nights into white
stars.

II. A Teamster’s Farewell
Sobs En Route to a Penitentiary

GOOD-BY now to the streets and the clash of wheels and locking
hubs,
The sun coming on the brass buckles and harness knobs.
The muscles of the horses sliding under their heavy haunches,
Good-by now to the traffic policeman and his whistle,
The smash of the iron hoof on the stones,
All the crazy wonderful slamming roar of the street—
O God, there’s noises I’m going to be hungry for.

III. New Feet

EMPTY battlefields keep their phantoms.
Grass crawls over old gun wheels
And a nodding Canada thistle flings a
purple
Into the summer’s southwest wind,
Wrapping a root in the rust of a bayonet,
Reaching a blossom in rust of shrapnel.

IV. Bringers

COVER me over
In dusk and dust and dreams.

Cover me over
And leave me alone.

Cover me over,
You tireless, great.

Hear me and cover me,
Bringers of dusk and dust and
dreams.

Recording:
Senior recital chamber orchestra

Tristan Roush, conductor, Evan Ingalls, folksinger, Kaitlyn O’Hara, flute/piccolo, Myriah Maxwell, oboe, David Kappele, clarinet, Marissa Brookhart, bass clarinet, Matt Birmingham, alto sax, Frank Vitolo, tenor sax, Nick Wees, trumpet, Daniel Rowe, trumpet, Logan Matz, horn, Chris Schultz, trombone, Emma Eliason, tuba, Derek Cheney, Jamie Ihler, Alan Schellenberger, percussion, Ruth Hook, harp, Daniel Chong, piano, Maria Anderson, Emily Pontén, Lea Fetterman, violin I, Naomi Karasawa, Josh Terry, Carlos Garcia, violin II, Hannah LaGassey, Leif Mitchell, Austin Schlichting, viola, Marie Johnston, Kyle Matson, cello, Zeke Hunter-Green, contrabass


If you are interested in performing this piece, or would like to request a perusal score, please contact me. Movements of this piece are performable separately.