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(Photograph of Gwyneth Walker with pianist/coordinator Evan Roider and the musicians in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the premiere of this work)
The poems for "Songs of Noah and his animals" are taken from Prayers from the Ark by Carmen Bernos de Gasztold (translated by Rumer Godden). This collection was begun during the Second World War, at the time of the German occupation of France. After the war, the poet, in poor health, took refuge at the Benedictine Abbaye Saint Louis du Temple. It is here that the poems were completed and published.
These are short sacred texts, perhaps best described as lamentations, celebrations, self-portraits and offerings. Each creature has a unique voice and a unique request in prayer: a worm for the bird, water for the ducks, a saucer of milk for the cat. Noah's request is the most general - less noise from the animals!
The musical setting takes the form of a mini-opera, with ten short scenes. Each creature (solo voice, or, occasionally an ensemble) takes center stage to present a message. The music is often in free meter, in recitative style. The more established rhythmical sections are created to allow the animals to dance!
The poems selected for these songs were chosen for their charm, humor, wit and sincerity. The variety of expression from one creature to the next is appealing for dramatic presentation. Yet, the underlying spirit of prayer unites the individual scenes. As Noah releases the dove as a gesture of hope, so too do all of the creatures lift up their prayers for salvation. Amen!
Performance notes: The singers should be prepared to move and act, as specified in the score. Singers who are not comfortable acting (portraying animals) or moving on the stage would not be well-suited to this dramatic work.
Notes by the composer