The Two Songs on American Poems were composed in late May and early June of 2011 by candlelight at my rustic waterfront cabin on a remote island off the northwest coast of Washington State. It was in this locale that I have completed a number of works over the years, including the Lux Aeterna, O Magnum Mysterium, Nocturnes, Canticle/O Vos Omnes and others.
Prayer was written in memory of Michael Jasper Gioia, Dana and Mary Gioia's infant son, whose brief life was tragically ended by SIDS.Mr. Gioia served as Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003-2010 and has authored several books of poems, numerous anthologies, articles, essays and two opera libretti. Among his many awards are the American Book Award and Presidential Citizens Medal. He currently holds the Judge Widney Chair of Poetry and Public Policy at the University of Southern California.
Sure on this Shining Night was originally composed as a choral piece, the third movement of my Nocturnes on poems by Rilke, Neruda and Agee. Rod Gilfry, an international star of opera, recital and musical theater, premiered the mixed duet version with his daughter, Carin, in 2009. He is Professor of Vocal Studies at the USC Thornton School of Music. Both he and Mr. Gioia are national treasures.
The Two Songs are designed as a pair but may be sung independently; when paired, Sure On This Shining Night should begin immediatelyfollowing the final, sustained chord of Prayer with no break in between the songs. Both of these songs, premiered by Mr. Gilfry accompanied by the composer at a USC Visions & Voices tribute to Dana Gioia on September 27, 2011, have their roots in the American musical theater and should be sung as such.