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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)

Program Notes

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.

October 2015

New York City

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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)

i.   Schwanenlied                                                                                           

ii.  Wanderlied

iii. Warum sind denn die Rosen so blass

iv. Maienlied             

v.  Morgenständchen

vi. Gondelied                                                                       

 

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

v.  Fleurs                                                                               

 

Three Cowboy Songs                                          Libby Larsen (b. 1950)

i.   Bucking bronco                                                                                      ii.  Lift me into heaven slowly

iii. Billy the Kid