The Little Ghost
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
I knew her for a little ghost
That in my garden walked;
The wall is high—higher than most—
And the green gate was locked.
And yet I did not think of that
Till after she was gone—
I knew her by the broad white hat,
All ruffled, she had on.
By the dear ruffles round her feet,
By her small hands that hung
In their lace mitts, austere and sweet,
Her gown's white folds among.
I watched to see if she would stay,
What she would do—and oh!
She looked as if she liked the way
I let my garden grow!
She bent above my favourite mint
With conscious garden grace,
She smiled and smiled—there was no hint
Of sadness in her face.
She held her gown on either side
To let her slippers show,
And up the walk she went with pride,
The way great ladies go.
And where the wall is built in new
And is of ivy bare
She paused—then opened and passed through
A gate that once was there.
Originally published in Renascence and Other Poems (Mitchell Kennerley, 1917)
The art song recital, with its infinite programming possibilities, is a dynamic musical form, continually creating new spaces for musical works to inhabit. By providing different contexts and juxtapositions for these works, some of which are rarely performed, both audience and performer expose themselves to new and challenging perspectives.
I conceived of this program, The Little Ghost, as a means of doing just that: highlighting and examining women’s viewpoints in song, be it through the voice of the composer, the poet, or the performer of the song itself. I hope to create a mosaic of women’s creative contributions and opinions, which cross time period and musical style, from the early Baroque to the 20th Century. By exploring the musical works of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Libby Larsen, the poetry of Louise Lévêque de Vilmorin, and the lives of Restoration-era performers Anne Bracegirdle and Mary Hodgson, I wish to reveal the timeless, universal stories expressed so powerfully through music, as well as the evolution of female expression throughout the centuries, a topic that I find fascinating, relevant, and sadly, underrepresented. By exploring
My title, “The Little Ghost,” refers to an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem of the same name, written in 1917 from Renascence and Other Poems, in which the poet observes the ghost of the former owner of her home as she walks through the garden. Millay shares a certain intimacy with the ghost; they have inhabited the same space, although at very different times of their lives. While she can see this apparition clearly from her window, there is much that divides these two women. The ghost cannot be completely “known” or understood by Millay; in fact, she inhabits another time, in which the wall of the garden was once a gate. Through this program, I hope to situate myself and my audience in the divide between Millay and her ghost, finding ways to give voice and deepen our understanding of the lives, stories, and musical contributions of women of the past and the present.
New York City
The Little Ghost
Noelle McMurtry soprano
Christopher Baum, lute
Joseph Yungen, piano
Love’s but the frailty of the mind John Eccles (1668-1735)
I burn, my brain consumes to ashes from Three Mad Songs (1704)
Sechs Lieder, Op.1 Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805-1847)
iii. Warum sind denn die Rosen so blass
Fiançailles pour rire, FP 101 Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
i. La Dame d’André ii. Dans l’herbe
iii. Il vole
iv. Mon cadavre est doux comme un gant
Three Cowboy Songs Libby Larsen (b. 1950)
i. Bucking bronco ii. Lift me into heaven slowly
iii. Billy the Kid