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That Life Should Be! (Three Settings of American Women Poets)

(SSAA, piano) 9'00"



The smell of earth and grass, a singing bird, the rising and leaping and bursting of life and love . . . These three settings of 19th century American women poets inspire wonder for the amazing world we live in. Also available individually. Level: Advanced.


The following audio links feature Cantala of Lawrence University, Appleton, WI; Phillip Swan conducting:


Listen: I. The Grass So Little Has To Do (mp3, 5 MB)


Listen: II. The Wonder of It (mp3, 2.93 MB)


Listen: III. A Birthday (mp3, 3.6 MB)


View PDF: I. The Grass So Little Has To Do


View PDF: II. The Wonder of It


View PDF: III. A Birthday



Choral Score: $3.90 Add to Cart



Listen and View: Livestream performance of the work's premiere at Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin, on November 9, 2012 by their fine women's chorus, Cantala, under the direction of Phillip Swan. Scroll 31:30 into the performance.


Composer's Notes:

These settings were commissioned in 2011 by a consortium of intermediate and advanced treble choirs across the country. The individual titles (also available separately) are: The Grass So Little Has To Do (text by Emily Dickinson), The Wonder of It (text by Harriet Monroe), and A Birthday (text by Christina Rossetti).





The grass so little has to do, --
A sphere of simple green,
With only butterflies to brood,
And bees to entertain,

And stir all day to pretty tunes
The breezes fetch along,
And hold the sunshine in its lap
And bow to everything;

And thread the dews all night, like pearls,
And make itself so fine, --
A duchess were too common
For such a noticing.

And even when it dies, to pass
In odors so divine,
As lowly spices gone to sleep,
Or amulets of pine.

And then to dwell in sovereign barns,
And dream the days away, --
The grass so little has to do,
I wish I were the hay!


Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)



How wild, how witch-like weird that life should be!
That the insensate rock dared dream of me,
And take to bursting out and burgeoning --
  Oh, long ago -- yo ho! --
And wearing green! How stark and strange a thing
That life should be!

Oh, mystic mad, a rigadoon of glee,
That dust should rise, and leap alive, and flee
A-foot, a-wing, and shake the deeps with cries --
  Oh far away -- yo-hay!
What moony masque, what arrogant disguise
That life should be!


Harriet Monroe (1860-1936)




My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water'd shoot
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these,
Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)