It was a joy composing ‘Tis You, a setting of Amy Lowell’s poem, Listening, for the Voorhees Choir of Douglass College conducted by Brandon Williams. They premiered it on 12/3/17, at 4:45 p.m. during the traditional Yule Log Ceremony at the Voorhees Chapel on the Douglass College campus, as part of the Centennial celebrations of the College. Finding a text that inspires a musical response is always a challenge, and here even more so for a specific occasion. I searched far and wide, and considered a multitude of options. After months of research, I looked at An Anthology of Great U.S. Women Poets 1850-1990, edited and with notes by Glenn Richard Ruihley. After discussing the project with Jacquelyn Litt, Dean of the Douglass Residential College, I returned to this book, which I had already perused, and by chance opened it to the Lowell poem. The first line is ‘Tis you that are the music, not your song.’ I love the way the poem speaks of the internal music of our beings, the meaning of our individual contributions, and also our role in the larger ocean of life. I had finally found the text! Brandon Williams, the conductor of the Voorhees Choir, requested a version for treble chorus, string quartet and piano; I have also made one for treble chorus and piano.
My education at Douglass College, and in particular my music studies with Professors Robert Lincoln and James Scott at Douglass, and composer Robert Moevs at Rutgers College, started me on my path as a composer. As a senior, after much discussion, I was given permission to present a senior composition recital, the first in the history of the school. I was required, in addition to composing multiple pieces, to perform one of my piano compositions, to find all of the performers, organize rehearsals, and present the recital. It was an inspiring experience, that confirmed me in my strong, if naïve, desire to pursue composition as my life’s work. I was pleased to return to Douglass College in 1990, for induction into the Douglass Society, and to recall the importance of this institution for myself and the many thousands of fellow alumnae who were inspired by the education that helped them move along their own life paths.