work details

A Burden Far Beyond What Soul Can Cry

opera scene on poems of Redwing by Katharyn Howd Machan

  • Instrumentation: Version 1: soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, and 4 marimbas; Version 2: soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, and four-hand piano
  • Duration: 15 minutes
  • Texts: Katharyn Howd Machan (b. 1952) from Redwing
  • Audio:
  • Gallery:
    • Ben Henry-Moreland and Nicholas Hebert perform in A Burden Far Beyond with Juventas New Music Ensemble's production of unMET: Opera for the 21st Century; Photo Credit: Scott Bump
      February 2012

    • Maggie Finnegan is Abigail Moss in A Burden Far Beyond with Juventas New Music Ensemble's production of unMET: Opera for the 21st Century; Photo Credit: Scott Bump
      February 2012

  • Completed:

    October 2005, revised December 2011

  • Dedication:

    Four-hand piano version dedicated to Lidiya Yankovskaya

  • Synopsis:
    • Soprano: Abigail Moss recalls with melancholy and foreboding the story of her betrothal to Byron, a man who outwardly professes love, but alas has no genuine feelings for her.
    • Baritone: Samual Ward is guilt-stricken since eloping with Byron, and the conflicting emotions almost cause him to leave his wife Louisa, who he believes is none-the-wiser.
    • Tenor: Byron Moss feels no sense of shame in his affections, calmly leading on Abigail and confidently seducing Samual.
    • Mezzo-soprano: Louisa Ward knows full-well of Samual’s affair and his desires, but there is no one she trusts to share her revelation nor confide her “burden far beyond what soul can cry.”
  • Program Note:

    A Burden Far Beyond What Soul Can Cry was written in response to a project by my professors Dana Wilson and Gregory Woodward during my senior year of study at Ithaca College. We were challenged by writing department professor Katharyn Howd Machan to set some of the poems from her Redwingcollection to music. The collection is fascinating, as each poem is titled with the name of a person: thus, each of these poems gives a short glimpse into one emotional facet of these peoples’ lives. I have set the poems for Abigail Moss, Samual Ward, Byron Moss, and Louisa Ward. Rather than set them one-after-the-other, I have interwoven them, so that the four poems might more appropriately shed light on each other, giving a dramatic arch to these individual ruminations.

    The work was originally scored for four marimbas and premiered at Ithaca College in October 2005. The four-hand piano version is dedicated to Lidiya Yankovskaya, who premiered it with Boston’s Juventas New Music Ensemble in February 2012.

  • Performances:
    • February 28, 2006 (Version 1 Premiere)
      "Redwing Concert - The Poetry of Katharyn Howd Machan"
      Tiffany Desmond, soprano; Jessica Gadani, mezzo-soprano
      Andy McCullough, tenor; John Rozzoni, baritone
      Dominic Hartjes, conductor; Ithaca Marimba Quartet
      Ithaca College - Ithaca, NY
    • April 1, 2006
      "DiOrio Senior Composition Recital"
      Tiffany Desmond, soprano; Jessica Gadani, mezzo-soprano
      Andy McCullough, tenor; John Rozzoni, baritone
      Dominic Hartjes, conductor; Ithaca Marimba Quartet
      Ithaca College - Ithaca, NY
    • February 21, 2012 (Version 2 Premiere)
      unMET: Opera for the 21st Century
      Juventas New Music Ensemble
      Directed by Erin Huelskamp; Music Direction by Lidiya Yankovskaya and Julia Scott Carey
      Maggie Finnegan, soprano; Nicholas Hebert, tenor
      Ben Henry-Moreland, baritone; Sara Bielanski, mezzo-soprano
      Club Oberon - Cambridge, MA