Just A Leaf (2019)

Tenor & Piano

Texts by Paul Blackburn & William Bronk

Total duration ca. 8'35" 

Three-movement work

I. Invitation Standing (text by Paul Blackburn)

II. Winter Vocative (text by William Bronk)

III. Evening (text – “To Praise the Music” – by William Bronk)

Premiered in February 2020

in Baltimore, MD by Peter Dayton and Valerie Hsu

Watch a performance of the work on YouTube

Video Performance, February 22, 2020 in Baltimore, MD

Peter Dayton, Tenor

Valerie Hsu, Piano

Purchase this score and parts from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $15.00

This set of songs explore contrasting moods and emotions, using the imagery of leaves, trees, and branches as its conduit. In each of the songs, the natural vegetation is treated both literally and symbolically, reflecting and amplifying the emotions that the tone of each poem establishes. In the breathless excitement of Invitation Standing, the leaf becomes a kind of passkey, a necessary token of vitality and the entrance of spring (“an April leaf”) – to whom the invitation is addressed is ambiguous, possibly the reader, possibly the season of Spring itself, in either case the leaf is a symbol of joyous growth, no matter the conditions. Winter Vocative presents a perverse opposite, wishing for an elongation of the leafless trees reflected in the broken mirror of winter, until we ache to know what growth and life look like again (contextualizing the first movement’s eagerness in retrospect). The final movement, at the end of the winter, examines the trees through the lens of wonder. Hesitating, doubling back, struggling to clarify a mystical, ineffable idea of the beauty of nature itself being an act of praise, the poetry becomes a kind of fractal of gratitude, praise of praise, ending the piece with a different kind of breathlessness, that of ecstasy.


Credit Lines:

  • Invitation Standing: Text by Paul Blackburn, "Invitation Standing" used by permission of Joan Blackburn.

  • Winter Vocative & To Praise the Music: William Bronk’s “Winter Vocative” and “To Praise the Musice” used with permission of the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York.