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The Creatures
a bestiary retold

for two voices and piano (or Pierrot ensemble) (2016-2017)

Duration: 18 minutes

Text: English
Poetry by Jeffery Beam from An Elizabethan Bestiary: Retold published by Horse and Buggy Press, Durham, NC, 1999. Used with the kind permission of the author.

1. Prologue: Creatures of the deep

2. The Camel

3. The Manticore

4. The Beaver

5. The Unicorn

6. The Salamander

7. The Whale

8. Epilogue: Nameless and names

Program Note:

The text of The Creatures is a quirky mix of “scientific” observation, Christian theology, and pagan mysticism from medieval scholars that is reinterpreted by poet Jeffery. In responding musically to these poems, I was drawn to the many facets of each beast: the Beaver with its sweet, playful persona is also a creature of mystery that is hidden by water and night—the Manticore is a dangerous, man-eating beast who has a radiant voice. These songs are playful and thoughtful in illustrating these beasts. They also interact with the rich repertoire of music by other composers who composed beast songs like Maurice Ravel’s Histoire naturelles, Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Unicorn, the Gorgon, and the Manticore, and Litany for the Whale by John Cage. I utilized cues from these works and others by Poulenc, Barber, and even the dragon motive from Wagner’s Ring Cycle makes itself heard in these songs.

The Creatures: a bestiary retold was written at the request of soprano Maureen Broy Papovich for a fundraiser for the Autism Society of Central Texas.

Premiere (Voices and Piano Version):

One Ounce Opera’s Fresh Squeezed Ounce of Art Song
Maureen Broy Papovich, soprano; Chelsea DeLorenz, mezzo-soprano; Tyler Mabry, piano

Westminster Presbyterian Church, Austin, Texas

November 3, 20017

Premiere (Voices and Chamber Ensemble Version):

Maureen Broy Papovich, soprano; Chelsea DeLorenz, mezzo-soprano; Hayley Miller, flute/piccolo; Timothy Yung, clarinet/bass clarinet; James Zabawa-Martinez, violin; Matthew Armbruster, cello; Andrew Q Langman, piano

Bates Recital Hall, University of Texas at Austin

April 27, 20018

"Adam Naming the Animals" from the Northumberland Bestiary (1250-1260) The bestiary—a collection of descriptions and images of real and imaginary animals intended to provide readers with moral lessons—was one of the most important traditions to emerge from medieval England. Although bestiaries were a kind of medieval encyclopedia of animals, they explored the world of animals primarily in order to explain their significance within the Christian worldview. Male lions were seen as worthy reflections of the God the Father, for example, while the dragon was understood as a representative of Satan on earth.


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