© 2009 Martha Hill Duncan
Photograph by: Erin Matthias
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Poet and contralto Dr. Bonnie Cutsforth-Huber and I first met at a National Opera Association Convention in San Antonio, Texas, in January, 2011. I was thrilled with the possibility of composing for a singer who also happened to be the poet. This collaboration has been extremely rewarding for me and as a transplanted Texan living in Canada, I certainly feel a bit of nostalgia myself when I’ve experienced the big sky, vast landscape and friendly people of this beautiful prairie province. 1. Outside to Play on a Winter’s Day, 2. Bike Ride In the Country, 3. I Am A Farmer’s Daughter (with triangle), 4. Prairie Lily, 5. Saskatchewan Lessons. You can hear Bonnie and pianist Dr. Arlene Shrut below in #3 and #5. M.H. Duncan, 2014
Searching the Painted Sky
Music by Martha Hill Duncan
Story and Libretto by Janet Windeler Ryan
An original opera written for the Youth Opera of El Paso, Premiered in New York City, at the National Opera Convention, January, 2014
Check out the new collection of selected vocal solos from Searching the Painted Sky.
Imagine my thrill at being invited to write an opera for a youth opera company out of El Paso, Texas. Director Kimberley Wolfenbarger-Nakamoto had been using my Singing in the Northland art songs in her vocal studio and had a strong feeling that there was an opera somewhere in this composer. Yes, I thought so, too, but that would take a lot of courage, time and a great story. Enter my favourite poet (soon to be librettist) Janet Windeler Ryan. The highlight of this musical and creative journey was seeing this group travel to New York City and premiere it. Another great part of this journey was getting to work with these enthusiastic young people in El Paso, Texas. I got to conduct the group in several rehearsals, work with the leads individually, shaping their lines to suit each of them, meet their families, eat countless wonderful meals and tour their beautiful city. This composing gig is looking better and better. Below you can hear The Youth Opera of El Paso perform As Morning Opens. M.H. Duncan, 2014
Florals was written for Soprano Elizabeth McDonald while I was away with my husband in Cambridge, UK. Thanks to a keyboard donation from a London astronomer and Elizabeth’s e-mail comments, encouragements and careful warnings, I was off and running. Flowering, a tango of betrayal by my friend, poet and pianist Carla Hartsfield, Fire-Flowers, grief and joyous rebirth, Wild Asters, finished in Edinburgh – so an interesting mix of Canadian and Scottish landscape!, the crazy antics of a jealous gardener in Double-Red Daisies, poetry by Rennell Rodd and a miniature – The Daisy by poet Marjorie Pickthall. You can hear Fire-flowers and Flowering below.
I premiered this new work for piano at the Mmmm Concert in Stratford, Ontario, May 24, 2014. Zarzamora Suite is loosely based on 5 Spanish street names, that figured prominently in my life as a child and young adult in Austin and San Antonio, Texas. #3, Mariposa, was originally published in the Canadian National Conservatory’s series Northern Lights. The remaining four were written while my husband and I were away in Boulder, Colorado this past spring for part of his sabbatical. 1. Zarzamora, 2. Dolorosa, Mariposa, 4. Brazos, 5. . A big thank you to my dear friend, composer and graphic artist, Susan Griesdale, for her original art work and cover design. M.H. Duncan, 2014