The Figured Wheel is a cycle of four songs for soprano, oboe/English horn, bassoon and piano written in 1987-88 for the Fiati Chamber Players. The title alludes to the ancient “wheel of fate” and more specifically to the inexorable passage of time. The work begins with a poem by Pablo Neruda titled “Slow Lament” which deals with the death of a friend. Notice the line, “The thick wheel of the earth its tire moist with oblivion spins, cutting time into inaccessible halves.” The next poem, “How Gently You Rock My Child To Sleep” by Pedro Salinas, is a tender, spiritual lullaby that expresses the deep desire of most of us to create and protect life. The third poem is “The Birthday” by Philip Dacey. Here we have a young woman celebrating her thirtieth birthday with her husband and son, as she contemplates past dreams, present reality and future “wishes”. The last poem is “Nocturne” by Eugenio Florit and is a poignant portrait of one poet’s imagined death. We end the cycle as we began with a solo voice, this time the poet’s own.
THE BIRTHDAY for soprano, oboe, cello and harp was written in 1981 for Carolann Page and members of the Pittsburgh Symphony. The text by Philip Dacey is a poignant portrayal of a woman reaching her thirtieth birthday and examining where her life has been and where she sees it taking her. She senses a deep change growing within her. But, instead of fear, she longs to experience what the “dark stranger” or the future has prepared for her. It is so new that words often elude her and as she struggles, wishes that she could at least express to her husband what she is going through. It is all a wonderfully mysterious sensual metamorphosis.
“Our Fathers’ Road”: A Cantata for New Sweden for Soprano, Oboe/English Horn, Violoncello, Percussion and Piano is a cycle of five songs in Swedish and the Lenni Lenape language translated into English. It was commissioned and premiered by the Vinland Duo in 1989.