About this Recording
8.559815 - LEWIS, P.S.: 4 Cycles (The) (The New York Virtuoso Singers Quartet, Abraham, Narucki, P.S. Lewis)

Peter Scott Lewis (b. 1953)
The Four Cycles


Where the Heart Is Pure was completed on December 8, 1993, and is based on three poems by Robert Sund. It depicts a journey out to see him on at the mouth of the Skagit River, in Washington State, where he lived for years in a wonderfully converted net shack over the water next to Bald Island.

The poems included in the cycle are There Is No Exile Where the Heart Is Pure (for Pablo Casals), Night Along the Columbia, Day in Blewett Pass, Going Home and Spring Poem in the Skagit Valley.

The score was originally composed for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra or ensemble. The version with chamber ensemble was premièred by the principal players of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, Stephanie Friedman, soloist, and Laurent Pillot, conductor, on June 25, 1995. It was recorded soon after for a CD of the same name, produced by New Albion Records and released in 1996.

In 2013, I completed a duo version of the cycle featuring mezzo-soprano and piano. That is the version recorded here.

The Changing Light was commissioned by Conspirare, Craig Hella Johnson, conductor, and premièred in Austin, Texas, on January 21, 2012. The original score was composed for 24 singers and an instrumental quintet comprising vibraphone/marimba and string quartet. While it was successfully premièred, in 2013, I completely revised and rescored it for vocal quartet (SATB) and piano, since I’m convinced that a leaner sound works better with the poetry. That final version is recorded here.

The cycle is based on three Lawrence Ferlinghetti poems from his book How to Paint Sunlight (New Directions, 2001). They are The Changing Light, Big Sur Light, and Dictionaries of Light. Yet since Big Sur Light is an extended poem in eight parts, I’ve divided it at a logical break between parts 6 and 7, purely for musical reasons. Therefore, the cycle has a total of four songs.

Five Love Motets was completed in August of 2014. It is scored for vocal quartet (SATB) and is based on five of my poems.

Three Songs From Ish River was composed between 1976 and 1978. Going Out to Meet the Moon Whales (the middle song) was commissioned by Seattle’s Intiman Theater, as part of the music I composed for Barry Pritchard’s The Northwest Show, a multi-media play based on the history of the Pacific Northwest, while I was composer-in-residence there between 1976 and 1977. This song is a setting of a poem by Paule Barton.

I later added What Day Is It Now? and Once More the Round to complete the cycle. The first of these two poems was written by the distinguished Northwest poet Robert Sund (1929-2001), who was a close friend of mine for the last 30 years of his life. The latter is a setting of a Theodore Roethke poem, who was an important teacher and mentor to Robert Sund.

The word “Ish” in the title refers to the fact that the Northwest Indians called the coastal area of Washington State “Ish River Country.” I borrowed that idea from them and Robert Sund, who titled his second book Ish River.

Peter Lewis

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