Photo: Amy Boehm

Photo: Amy Boehm

Five New England Songs

(SATB, organ, piano, percussion [2 players]) [28 min.]

Colorful and dramatic choral work using texts by 5 New England poets. Commissioned by The Chorus of Westerly, Rhode Island (Andrew Howell, music director) to honor its founder, George Kent.

To purchase sheet music for Five New England Songs, please contact Peter Niedmann.

Five New England Songs

 1. One musician is sure

One musician is sure,

His wisdom will not fail,

He has not tasted wine impure,

Nor bent to passion frail.


Age cannot cloud his memory,

Nor grief untune his voice,

Ranging down the ruled scale

From tone of joy to inward wail,

Tempering the pitch of all,

In his windy cave.


He renders all his lore

In numbers wild as dreams,

Modulating all extremes,

What the spangled meadow saith

To the children who have faith;


Only to children children sing,

Only to youth will spring be spring.

Who is the Bard thus magnified?

When did he sing? And where abide?

Chief of song where poets feast

In the wind harp which thou seest

In the casement at my side.


Aeolian harp how strangely wise thy strain!

Gay for youth, gay for youth,

Sweet is art, but sweeter truth,

In the hall at summer eve

Fate and beauty skilled to weave.

From the eager opening strings

Rung loud and bold the song.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)


 2. At dawn of the year

At dawn of the year, wrapped in her blanket of dark

And of white, the land lies asleep for a time –

Each stitch a crystal, each crystal a spark

Of promise that winter’s end will come.


The cold mist lifts—she cradles her newborn—

The green leaf, the flower, the scampering feet.

Mountains emerge to shelter and fawn

Over children of spring, her new life to meet.


Lake waters, alive as anything known,

Change face in an instant from fierce to serene...

Lake skies, summer’s breathing and changeable crown,

Bring clouds, then sun, a rainbow’s bright gleam.


But welcome warmth soon sneaks away –

Days wane, nights reign – a gust shakes the leaves

Into a floating, fluttering play

Of copper and gold – fall’s opulent feast.


Then comes the crystal white again,

Round the year goes: dawn, noon, evening, night –

A wondrous, rich and unending refrain.

We sing of the seasons – New England’s delight!

Sandra Niles (b. 1956)


3. New England’s annoyances

New England’s annoyances you that would know them,

Pray ponder these verses which briefly doth show them.

The place where we live is a wilderness wood,

Where grass is much wanting that’s fruitful and good.


From the end of November till three months are gone,

The ground is all frozen as hard as a stone.

Our mountains and hills and vallies below,

Being commonly covered with ice and with snow.


And when the northwester with violence blows,

Then every man pulls his cap over his nose;

But if any’s so hardy and will it withstand,

He forfeits a finger, a foot, or a hand.


When the ground opens we then take the hoe,

And make the ground ready to plant and to sow;

Our corn being planted and seed being sown,

The worms destroy much before it is grown.


While it is growing much spoil there is made,

By birds and by squirrels that pluck up the blade;

Even when it is grown to full corn in the ear,

It’s apt to be spoil’d by hog, raccoon, and deer.


If flesh meat be wanting to fill up our dish,

We have carrots and pumpkins and turnips and fish;

And when we have a mind for a delicate dish,

We repair to the clam banks and there we catch fish.


And of our green corn stalks we make our best beer,

We put in it barrels to drink all the year:

Yet I am as healthy, I verily think,

Who make the spring water my commonest drink.


For such like annoyance we’ve many mad fellows

Find fault with our apples before they are mellow;

And they are for England, they will not stay here,

But meet with a lion in shunning a bear.


But you who the Lord intends hither to bring,

Forsake not the honey for fear of the sting.

But bring both a quiet and contented mind,

And all the needful blessing you surely shall find.

Edward Johnson (1598 - 1672)


4. Solace he finds in the sea

Solace he find in the sea, no doubt.

To catch the ebb he is up and away.

I see him silently pushing out.

On the broad bright gleam at break of day;

And watch his lessening dory toss

On the purple crests as he pulls across,

Round reefs where silvery surges leap,

And meets with the dawn

On the rosy deep.


He makes for the floats that mark the spots,

And rises and falls on the sweeping swells,

Ships oars, and pulls his lobster pots,

And tumbles the tangled claws and shells

In the leaky bottom; and bails his skiff;

While the slow waves thunder along the cliff,

And foam far away where sun

and mist all the region with amethyst.


I watch him, and fancy how,

A boy, round these same reefs,

In the rising sun,

He rowed and rocked, and shouted for joy,

As over the boat side one by one

He lifted and launched his lobster traps,

And reckoned his gains,

And dreamed, perhaps,

of a future as glorious, vast and bright

As the ocean unrolled in the morning light.


His soul, is it open to sea and sky?

His spirit, alive to sound and sight?

What wondrous tints on the water lie

Wild, wavering, liquid realm of light!

Between two glories looms the shape

of the woodcrested, cool green cape,

Sloping all round to foamlaced ledge,

And cavern and cove, at the bright sea’s edge.

John Townsend Trowbridge (1827 - 1916)


5. Where is the Master of Music?

Where is the Master of Music, and how has he vanished away?

Where is the work that he wrought with his wonderful art in the air?

Gone, -- it is gone like the glow on the cloud at the close of the day!

The Master has finished his work, and the glory of music is -- where?


Once, at the wave of his wand, all the billows of musical sound

Followed his will, as the sea was ruled by the prophet of old:

Now that his hand is relaxed, and his rod has dropped to the ground,

Silent and dark are the shores where the marvellous harmonies rolled!


Nay, but not silent the hearts that were filled by that life-giving sea;

Deeper and purer forever the tides of their being will roll,

Grateful and joyful, O Master, because they have listened to thee, --

The glory of music endures in the depths of the human soul.

Henry van Dyke (1852 - 1933)