Live Oak Song Cycle Image

Image provided by John Langley of Elon University

In the late summer of 2010, Tim Hill approached me to write a short group of songs. As I began to write Tim’s songs, Randal Turner also commissioned a brief set of songs. While writing, I started to consider the two groups together as a larger cycle. When I began to write this song cycle for Tim (a bass-baritone) and Randal (a baritone), I was freshly out of a three-year relationship. I knew this piece would be cathartic and it would be a setting of my beloved Walt Whitman. All the poems in the cycle (except That Shadow, My Likeness) are taken from the Live Oak, With Moss sequence in Leaves of Grass. The poems are hidden in the Calamus section, and are about the different stages of a love affair. The first half of the song cycle, A Live Oak Growing captures the moment in my life where I was healing to the point of being ready for love again. The second half is not only about appreciating how important love is, but also how vital it is to be a self-sustaining individual. The only song not about romantic love is I Dreamed in a Dream, which was written in honor of the gay youths who were committing suicide at the time it was written.

Randal’s portion of the cycle was premiered on December 6, 2010 at the historic Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco, CA. Tim premiered his portion on August 3rd, 2011 at CAP21 in New York City. The entire cycle was performed at Elon University in NC by Tim on March 5, 2013. Songs from the cycle are featured on Randal Turner’s CD Living American Composers, and were performed at the U.S. embassy in Sweden, the National Opera Center in NYC, and many other venues throughout the United States. Recently A Live Oak Growing won a Boston Metro Opera festival award and will be a part of the Boston Comtempo festival in May 2013.