top of page

BROWSE & LISTEN

Chamber Music (Vocal) for Higher Voices

Click on a title to jump to information and recordings about the work, browse the catalogue subsections

Temptress Helen: Greek Legend Verse Excerpts (2022) | 30'

   Soprano & Viola

texts by Christian Bök

Lost Daughter: Songs on the Myth of Persephone (2020-2021) | 29'

   Soprano, Flute, Viola, Harp

texts by Oscar Wilde, Rita Dove, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Alfred Lord Tennyson (adapted by Peter Dayton), and Louise Glück

Entwine Our Tongues: Sapphic Fragments (2019) | 11'

   Soprano, 2 Oboes (#2 d. English Horn), and 2 Clarinets in B-Flat (#2 d. Bass Clarinet)

texts by Jordi Alonso (after Sappho)

Desiderata: Ten Pieces of Wisdom (2020) | 8'50"

   Soprano & Alto Saxophone

text by Max Ehrmann

Wilde Colours (2020) | 9'45"

   Soprano & Celesta (or Vibraphone, or Piano)

texts by Oscar Wilde

Si Solamente: Tres Canciones (2017) | 22'

   Soprano & Violoncello

texts by Pablo Neruda

Botticellian Trees: Four Tree Songs (2015) | 13'

   Soprano & Violin

texts by William Carlos Williams

All in the Sound (2017) | 3'15"

   Soprano & Piano

texts by William Carlos Williams

If They Delight (2015/2017) | 7'

   Soprano & Piano

text by Gertrude Stein

Like a Red, Red Rose (2020) | 2'50"

   Soprano & Harp

text by Robert Burns

Beyond Dimension (2018) | 1'

   Soprano & Harp

text by Vicki Hearne

TemptressHelen

Temptress Helen: Greek Legend Verse Excerpts (2022)

Texts by Christian Bök

Soprano & Viola

Nine-movement work
I. “Westerners revere Greek legends…”
II. “Whenever Helen feels these stresses…”
III. “Whenever Helen dresses herself en fête…”
IV. “Hermes the messenger tells her the news…”
V. “Whenever Helen sleeps…”
VI. “Mermen help these helmsmen…”
VII. “Greek schemers respect shrewdness…”
VIII. “Bells knell when the keel gets levelled…”
IX. “When Vermeer sketches les belles femmes de Delft…”

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $20.00

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button

This piece continues several different threads in the tapestry of my recent creative activity: the majority of my creative output of the past several years has been shaped by my creative collaborative relationships with soprano Katie Procell and with violist/composer Christopher Lowry. In the hopes that these two might someday perform my music together, I offer this piece as just such a pretext, as well as further thanks for their dedication to my music. Temptress Helen also expands my catalogue of substantial duo song cycles for soprano and stringed instruments, this piece joining works for soprano and violin and for soprano and cello. Finally, this piece increases my song cycles inspired by Classical antiquity to a trilogy, joining my Sappho and Persephone song sets. Poet Christian Bök’s idiosyncratic, labyrinthine texts (from which these were selected) that loosely retell Homer’s Iliad only using words that contain the vowel ‘e’ made this piece a new challenge in text setting and storytelling. With a special emphasis on Helen’s viewpoint and role in the story, the narrative periodically shifts between portraits of Helen in her Trojan captivity (both negative and positive) and the progress of the Myceneans in laying siege to Troy and retrieving her. The final movement and text abandon Homer’s story to examine Helen as a symbol of beauty and temptation, and to ruminate on the possibilities of other artists capturing Helen’s likeness in their own manner, even as Bök himself has done in these finely sculptural, textual gems.

Texts from EUNOIA by Christian Bök, published by Coach House Books (2009). Used with permission of the author. All rights reserved.

LostDaughter

Lost Daughter, Songs on the Myth of Persephone (2020-2021)

Soprano, Flute, Viola, Harp

Texts by Oscar Wilde, Rita Dove, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Louise Glück

Total duration ca. 29'

Five movement work

I. Requiescat (text by Oscar Wilde)

II. Persephone, Falling (text by Rita Dove)

III. Prayer to Persephone (text by Edna St. Vincent Millay)

IV. Demeter & (text by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, edited and arranged by Peter Dayton)

V. Persephone, the Wanderer (text by Louise Glück)

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $20

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button
Preview recordings on Spotify
Stories Out of Cherry Stems (ad image).jpg

Lost Daughter: Songs on the Myth of Persephone is featured on the Navona Records CD "Stories Out of Cherry Stems" (NV6424). Performed by Katie Procell, Erin Baker, Amanda Dame, and Eric D'Alessandro

Listen to recordings on YouTube

Video performances, April 30, 2022 at Clifton Mansion, Baltimore, MD, by Katie Procell, Erin Baker, Amanda Dame, and Eric D'Alessandro

This song cycle was composed at the request of the marvelous Hong Kong-based soprano Jessica Ng, whom I met in 2019. We considered multiple ideas for a collaboration based upon themes of family dynamics for more than a year before decision emerged to create songs based upon Persephone myth as a meditation on grief and maternal love. The first four movements of the work explore different aspects of Demeter’s experience of loss with the final movement using Louise Glück’s more forensic, analytical approach to the myth as a kind of coda. Oscar Wilde’s Requiescat, composed to mourn the death of his sister when she was still a child, illustrates a wintry visit to a gravesite, reminiscing on a loved one lost. Rita Dove’s Persephone, Falling relives the tragedy of Persephone’s abduction as a cautionary tale, creating meaning out of the senselessness of loss. Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Prayer to Persephone is a kind of bargaining scene, in which Demeter projects her own lost motherhood onto Persephone and the child she will have with Hades. Demeter & (a text which I created by deleting words from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem Demeter and Persephone to create a new poem) gives voice to Demeter’s rage in her loss and the externalization of her own world crumbling around Persephone’s absence. Louise Glück’s Persephone the Wanderer telescopes back out from the first-person presentation of these poems through Demeter’s voice and addresses the myth of Persephone as a text, as a myth, as an examination of tragedy from outside the lens of those it directly touches. In addition to this work’s dedication to Jessica Ng, I owe my deepest gratitude to Amy Nam and to Garrett Groesbeck for their consultation on harp idioms in the composition of this piece. I hope that, in a time of catastrophic loss, this work can serve a purpose in processing our individual and collective experience.

 

The final movement can be performed without narration, if so, it should be presented in programs/liner notes as “Meditation on Louise Glück’s Persephone the Wanderer.”

  • Requiescat from “Poems” (1881) by Oscar Wilde. This poem is in the Public Domain.

  • Persephone, Falling from “Mother Love,” W.W. Norton, New York, Ó 1995 by Rita Dove. Used by Permission of the Author.

  • Hymn to Persephone from “Second April” (1921) by Edna St. Vincent Millay. This poem is in the Public Domain.

  • Demeter and Persephone from “Demeter, and Other Poems” by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1889). This poem is in the Public Domain. Text adapted and arranged by Peter Dayton

  • Persephone, the Wanderer” by Louise Glück. Copyright 2006 by Louise Glück, used by permission of The Wylie Agency LLC.

Entwine

Entwine Our Tongues: Sapphic Fragments (2019)

Soprano, 2 Oboes (#2 d. English Horn), 2 Clarinets in B-flat (#2 d. Bass Clarinet)

Texts by Jordi Alonso, after Sappho

Total duration ca. 11'

Six movement work

I. (Fragment 32)

II. (Fragment 27)

III. (Fragment 51)

IV. (Fragment 169)

V. (Fragment 96) –

VI. (Fragment 149)

Premiered on August 2, 2019

In Baltimore, MD

by Katie Procell (Soprano), Andrea Copland (Oboe 1), Garrett Hale (Oboe 2 / English Horn), Brian Tracey (Clarinet 1), and Jennifer Hughson (Clarinet 2 / Bass Clarinet)

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $20

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button
Preview recordings on Spotify
Listen to recordings on YouTube
Stories Out of Cherry Stems (ad image).jpg

Entwine Our Tongues: Sapphic Fragments is featured on the Navona Records CD "Stories Out of Cherry Stems" (NV6424). Performed by Katie Procell, Erin Baker, Amanda Dame, and Eric D'Alessandro

Video performance, August 2, 2019 in Baltimore, MD, by Katie Procell, Andrea Morris (née Copland), Garrett Hale, Brian Tracey, and Jennifer Hughson

Translation can be a tricky matter. The challenge is compounded by orders of magnitude when the sum total material one has to translate is a single word or phrase. Yet this is the state in which most of Sappho’s poetry exists. The vast majority of translations of Sappho’s words, then, are executed by a mixture of scholarly inference and poetic license, tentatively guessing at intentions. I imagine that tentative feeling is similar to the nervous energy of attraction, of trying to sense mutual chemistry, the age-old binary question. Alonso’s translations (from Greek and transubstantiations from single words and fragments to stanzas) are clean, concise, and unadorned. In plain, unaffected language they convey the feelings of the speaker, the images, the scene. Who is the speaker? Possibly Sappho, though in Fragment 32, she almost completely renounces her own agency as a creator, instead serving as a conduit for and at the pleasure of the inspiring gods and muses. This was a common ancient conception of artistry and inspiration and, I think, a good way to conceive of the singer in this song cycle. Who are the I’s of the songs? I think of each one as an emotional state or attitude, inspired and enacted by desire: pride, modesty (possibly false), selfish possessiveness, flirtatiousness, rumination, tenderness. The singer is the conduit for the states illustrated in the texts, providing one further translation in this series, of text into song, bringing these poems closer to the original Sapphic fragments by their delivery, if not their language.

 

Honeyvoiced poems by Jordi Alonso (2014) are used with permission of the author and the publisher, XOXOX Press of Gambier, Ohio.

Honeyvoiced (ISBN 978-1880977-37-8) is distributed globally through Ingram and is available through independent bookstores and at Amazon, as well as other online booksellers.  

Desiderata: Ten Pieces of Wisdom (2020)

Soprano & Alto Saxophone

Text Max Ehrmann

Total duration ca. 8'50

Ten-movement work

I. Go placidly amid the noise and haste…

II. Speak your truth quietly and clearly…

III. Avoid loud and aggressive persons…

IV. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans…

V. Exercise caution in your business affairs…

VI. Be yourself…

VII. Take kindly the counsel of the years…

VIII. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you… –

IX. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle… –

X. And whether or not it is clear to you…

Premiered on April 30, 2022

In Baltimore, MD

by Katie Procell & Kyle Blake Jones

Preview recordings on Spotify

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $20

Stories Out of Cherry Stems (ad image).jpg

Desiderata: Ten Pieces of Wisdom is featured on the Navona Records CD "Stories Out of Cherry Stems" (NV6424). Performed by Katie Procell & Kyle Blake Jones

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button
Desiderata
Listen to recordings on YouTube

Video performance, April 30, 2022 at Clifton Mansion, Baltimore, MD, by Katie Procell & Kyle Blake Jones

The text of this work was requested by Katie Procell as a possible poem that I could set for her and saxophonist Kyle Blake Jones. The simple, plainspoken text of the poem sets forth author Max Ehrmann’s precepts of a happy life. Desiderata’s gentle simplicity and epigrammatic form made for a surprising challenge in my text-setting process. Though Katie and Kyle approached me about the work in 2019, it was not until March of 2020 that I began to compose the piece; splitting the text up into a series of miniatures, I attempted to compose one miniature per day as a way to maintain my creative practice during the COVID-19 period of social-distancing. The simple statements have served as important reminders in a time when so much has been disrupted and seem to have a kind of timeless applicability (with the exception of IV, whose final clause must have rung hollow even shortly after its composition, with the Great Depression only two years away. For this reason, that musical passage can be hummed instead of sung). While I do not compose pieces about tragedies or larger events in the world, the creation of this work is inextricably bound up with the 2019-2020 global pandemic. I hope that the quiet tone of the text brings some comfort and reflection to audiences, during our current time and beyond.

 

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, 1927. Originally published in “The Poems of Max Ehrmann”, 1948. Per US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit - 536 F.2d 164 (7th Cir. 1976), this poem is in the public domain.

Wilde Colours (2020)

Soprano & 5 Octave Celesta (or Vibraphone, or Piano)

Texts by Oscar Wilde

Total duration ca. 9'45" 

Three-movement work

I. Red, White, Yellow, Gold

II. Grey, Black, Brown

III. Blue, Gold, Grey, Ochre, Yellow

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $10

WildeColours
PayPal ButtonPayPal Button

After working with her on multiple projects, I was honored when soprano Arianna Arnold reached out to me about creating some new text settings for her to sing. Inclined towards Gothic poetry, she suggested several options of poems by Edgar Allan Poe. I began setting Poe’s The Valley of Unrest, but lost control of the piece and ended up composing a work for mixed chorus! While that work is also, rightfully dedicated to Arianna, I still had the mission of completing a solo text setting she could sing in front of me. Staying in a similar dramatic register, I decided on three Gothic, sensual, atmospheric poems by Oscar Wilde, that seemed to capture a similar ethos to Poe’s poems. Unlike in The Valley of Unrest, humans are present in these panoramas, but we only glimpse them and speculate on their stories. In an analogy to James Whistler’s tonalist paintings, these texts are about evocation, not argument. Each poem explores a different vista: a pastoral, coastal, and urban landscape respectively, with the piece progressing from morning to evening back around to morning again. I hope that these contrasts bring a sense of forward movement to this song set of suspended moments. While the texts are compact, they are luxuriations in the hues of Wilde’s pen. They are dedicated to Arianna with gratitude and apology.

 

Note: The work was conceived for soprano and five-octave celesta. Since access to any may be rare, the piece can also be performed with vibraphone. Least ideally, it may be performed with piano, though the more mysterious timbres of either other option are preferable.

 

Texts Le Reveillon, Impressions du Matin, and Les Silhouettes by Oscar Wilde are in the public domain.

SiSolamente

Si Solamente: Tres Canciones (2017)

Soprano & Violoncello

Texts by Pablo Neruda

Total duration ca. 22’

Three-movement work

I. A todos, a vosotros…

II. Barcarola

III. Me gustas cuando callas

Preview recordings on Spotify

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $20

Stories Out of Cherry Stems (ad image).jpg

Si Solamente is featured on the Navona Records CD "Stories Out of Cherry Stems" (NV6424). Performed by Katie Procell & LAVENA

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button

These settings of Pablo Neruda’s poetry represent my first foray into non-English text setting in nearly a decade. Now, however, with these settings commissioned by Lauren Van Den Broek and Robert Kaufman, I have finally ventured into the rich poetry of South America. Neruda’s poetry ranges from the pastoral to the romantic and evocative, encompassing worlds in his apostrophes and images. The first poem, from Neruda’s “Canto General,” serves as a fitting opening to the song cycle. Address everyone “a todos, a vosotros,” earthly beings and spirits of the night, Neruda describes a universe of addressees for his songs, natural and human. The barcarolle, from “Residencia en la Tierra,” is a melancholy sea-scape of deeply romantic tone, mixing the desire of an unknown speaker who seems herself a sea-spirit, personifying loneliness and isolation in the setting of a desolate shore. The final poem, “Me gustas cuando callas,” is written in a rhyming, strophic manner that suggests, if not outright demands, a ballad-like setting. Starting with the unexpected premise that the poet likes it best when his beloved is quiet because they then seem absent, the ballad expands on the idea of desire and longing being predicated on distance, that the quietude of the lover fills the poet with the gratitude of being in love.

Texts by Pablo Neruda, permission granted by Fundación Pablo Neruda, represented by the Sociedad Chilena de Autores e Intérpretes Musicales (SCD). All Rights Reserved

  • “El Fugitivo XII” originally included in “Canto General” (1950)

  • “Barcarola” originally included in “Residencia en el Tierra, II” (1931)

  • “Me gustas cuando callas” originally included in “Viente poemas de amor y una canción desesperada” (1924)

BotticellianTrees

Botticellian Trees: Four Tree Songs (2015)

Soprano & Violin

Texts by William Carlos Williams

Total duration ca. 10' 

Four-movement work

I. The Locust Tree in Flower (first version)

II. The Botticellian Trees

III. Winter Trees

IV. The Locust Tree in Flower (second version)

Premiered on October 21, 2015

in Baltimore, MD

by Sara C. Woodward and Ledah Finck 

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $20

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button
Listen to a recordings on YouTube

Video performances, April 12, 2018 at An Die Musik in Baltimore, MD, by Katie Procell & Sarah Jane Thomas

Not technically a four seasons piece, the text’s (and music’s) transformation between the first and last movements gives the group of songs both a cyclic sense, and a forward progression. The piece was composed in the spring of 2015 at the request of Ledah Finck and Natanya Washer.

Texts by William Carlos Williams, from THE COLLECTED POEMS: VOLUME I, 1909-1939, copyright ©1938 by New Directions Publishing Corp. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.        

All in the Sound: Two Songs (2017)

Soprano & Piano

Texts by William Carlos Williams

Total duration ca. 3'15 

Two-movement work

I. The Shadow

II. The Poem

Premiered on April 12, 2018

at An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD

by Katie Procell & Valerie Hsu

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $15

Allinthesound
PayPal ButtonPayPal Button
Listen to a recordings on YouTube

Video performances, April 12, 2018 at An Die Musik in Baltimore, MD, by Katie Procell & Valerie Hsu

This song set was commissioned by soprano Katie Procell for a concert of American songs. Selected by Procell, these two concise poems sum up the nature of Williams's poetry: empathic, mystical descriptions of nature, a concern for the form and substance of poetry, an elevation of everyday objects, and a celebration of human sexuality. All of those aspects are present in these two small poems, a tiny window into Williams's vast world. This work is dedicated with gratitude to Katie.

''The Shadow'' by William Carlos Williams, from THE COLLECTED POEMS: VOLUME I, 1909-1939, copyright ©1938 by New Directions Publishing Corp. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
''The Poem (It’s all in)'' by William Carlos Williams, from THE COLLECTED POEMS: VOLUME II, 1939-1962, copyright ©1953 by William Carlos Williams. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

IfTheyDelight

If They Delight (2015/2017)

Soprano/Mezzo & Piano

Text by Gertrude Stein, "Stanza XV" from Stanzas in Meditation

Total duration ca. 7'

Three movement work

1. Brightly "Should they may be..."

2. Spacious "In one direction there is sun..."

3. Playfully "Now only think three times roses green and blue..."

Premiered in April 2018

in Baltimore, MD by Katie Procell and Valerie Hsu

Listen to a recording on YouTube

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $15

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button

Recorded performance, August 2, 2019, Baltimore, MD by Katie Procell & Valerie Hsu

The Stanzas in Meditation, a long multi-part poem, contains some of Stein’s clearest and most beautiful combinations of words in her hermetic style. This musical work sets Stanza XV from Part 2 of the Stanzas in Meditation, a text that dwells on “they,” on others, their delight, their contemplation, the way that they look and speak. The text is lovingly observational, and, like music, gestures at emotion through sound, symbol, and color, leaving the exact meaning to the listener alone. This piece was begun in advance of composing my opera on Gertrude Stein’s first love affair, MAY SHE | SHE MAY, musical moments of which appear in the opera.

 

Text by Gertrude Stein, Stanza XV from Stanzas in Meditation and Other Poems (Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1994). Reprinted with the permission of Mr. Stanford Gann Jr., Levin & Gann, P.A., Literary Executor of the Estate of Gertrude Stein. All Rights Reserved.

LikeARedRedRose

Like a Red, Red Rose (2020)

Soprano & Harp

Text by Robert Burns

Single-movement work

Premiered on August 20, 2021

in Stillwater, MN

by Gina Hanzlik & Amy Nam

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $5

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button

This short song is dedicated to my friends Jeffrey and Jane – Jeffrey, being one of my oldest friends and dating Jane, who has hosted an annual Burns Nicht for years. I was able to attend some of the Baltimore Burns Nichts and had the pleasure of reciting this poem. On the occasion of Jane moving away from Baltimore amid the COVID-19 crisis, I composed this as a small gift and a hope that these two remarkable people can be reunited in a better future.

Text Like a Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns (1794). This a poem in the public domain.

BeyondDimension

Beyond Dimension (2018)

Soprano & Harp

Text by Vicki Hearne

Total duration ca. 1' 

Single-movement work

 

Premiered on August 20, 2021

in Stillwater, MN

by Gina Hanzlik & Amy Nam

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $5

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button

This tiny work came about thanks to a personal correspondence with Robert Tragesser, the husband of the late poet Vicki Hearne. I created a setting of her mystical poem "The Tree That Plucks Fruit" for chorus, and in the course of acquiring permission to set that text from the estate of Vicki Hearne, Tragesser shared with me an unpublished, handwritten fragment by Hearne, which describes a room at night, and the wonder of looking at the stars. It was composed for Katie Procell in gratitude for her otherworldly musical ability.

Text from an unpublished fragment by Vicki Hearne, used with permission by the Literary Estate of Vicki Hearne

bottom of page