Sweet Briar Songs


three songs for voice and piano (2007)

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Denton Tobenski, tenor
Katherine Wiegandt, piano


May 18, 2007
Tobenski-Algera Concert Series
Rob Frankenberry, tenor / Marc Peloquin, piano
Church of St. Matthew & St. Timothy / NYC


commissioned by Rob Frankenberry


G3–G5 or G2–G4 (transpositions available upon request)


1. Moore’s Garden
2. Looking for Bivalve
3. Fall Semester: First Frost

Program Notes

I wrote the Sweet Briar Songs in April/May 2007, after having returned from a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Amherst VA, where I had met poet/writer Patricia Valdata. Pat had given me a copy of her chapbook Looking for Bivalve, and I was instantly drawn to the three poems used in this set of songs.

“Moore’s Garden” is a quasi-recitative that opens reflectively with a meditation on a beautiful garden setting, accompanied by delicate, harp-like arpeggios. As the text and music become more lyrical, the song is interrupted at the words “but for the toad”, where the voice is suddenly alone, and is only joined by a sickly accompaniment at the words “bleeding, in the snake’s mouth.” The descending-scale vocal line of the phrase “fully imaginary” become a unifying motive throughout the entire set.

“Looking for Bivalve” is a short, silly song. The singer is reciting absurd roadside landmarks and map markings. The triplet accompaniment suggests a car in motion on side roads, periodically slowing or stopping to check the map, which we discover at the end, isn’t quite as accurate as our traveler had hoped.

“Fall Semester: First Frost” closes the cycle lyrically, describing the changing of the leaves and the season on a college campus. A little slice of life, the song ends with a quiet moment: “Through the window / pigeons watch ‘ my students take their exam.”

Performance History

May 18, 2007Rob Frankenberry, tenor; Marc Peloquin, piano
Tobenski-Algera Concert Series
Bloomingdale School of MusicNew York, NY
November 3, 2007Denton Tobenski, tenor; Katherine Wiegandt, piano
Denton Tobenski Senior Voice Recital
Kemp Recital Hall, Illinois State UniversityNormal, IL
August 29, 2012Dennis Tobenski, tenor; Marc Peloquin, piano
Conspiracy: The Music of Dennis Tobenski & Nick Norton
(excerpts: Looking for Bivalve; Fall Semester: First Frost)
The DuplexNew York, NY

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