An original setting of the poem Monadnock in October by Edna Dean Proctor (1827-1923) for SATB chorus, tenor and baritone soloists, and chamber orchestra. The premiere performance of this new work by Vantine will take place on April 26 and 27 with the Monadnock Chorus in Peterborough, NH. This work was not only inspired by the poetry but by the beautiful visual landscape of Mount Monadnock, for which the poem was written about.
Edna Dean Proctor, a poet and lyricist who became well known during the Civil War and recognized by Abraham Lincoln, was most noted for her songs adopted and by Union soldiers as a vehicle for encouragement and hope. Her writing interests evolved soon after the war, and she endeavored to write pieces about foreign lands as she traveled the world: a Fodors or Frommers of the 1800s. She eventually settled in Henniker, New Hampshire (where she was originally born) and wrote numerous poems about nature and the surroundings throughout the area. This poem was published twice under two different titles: “Monadnock in October” and “Monadnock in Autumn.” The only noticeable difference (besides the titles) is the exchange of the word “temple” for “minster.” There is no documented reasoning behind this subtle difference, but the composer chose to use the word “temple” since “minster” is a bit antiquated.
The poem is a nocturne of sorts, a night piece where the poem progresses in such a way that the mountain and all its inhabitants are quieting down for the evening and going to sleep. The baritone soloist opens the piece, as if the mountain and all its “inhabitants” are gradually rising to greet the morning. A fanfare-like choral entrance with the full orchestra attempts to capture the grandeur and majesty of the mountain. The piece quickly blossoms into an energetic pulse as the poet investigates all the wildlife and its relationship with the mountain. Thus, the journey has begun.
The music is intended to support the poem’s progression from liveliness at the end of a blissful New England autumn day to the stillness of sleep as nature refreshes itself in the midst of “holy twilight.” In fact, toward the end of the piece listen for the quieting hush from the chorus as they sing, “the vast temple hushed its shrines in prayer.” Yet even in the quiet, the music often reflects the continuation of a pulse to remind us that while nature may appear to be asleep, there is still a deep sense of life percolating under the surface — especially on Monadnock! As the premiere mountain in the area, the “lesser heights” can do nothing but stand watch as God’s creation is magnified for all to see on this “glorious temple builded to the Lord!”
MONADNOCK IN OCTOBER
by Edna Dean Proctor
Uprose Monadnock in the northern blue,
A glorious temple builded to the Lord!
The setting sun his crimson radiance threw
On crest, and steep and wood, and valley sward,
Blending their myriad hues in rich accord,
Till like the wall of heaven it towered to view.
Along its slope, where russet ferns were strewn
And purple heaths, the scarlet maples flamed,
And reddening oaks and golden birches shone,
Resplendent oriels in the black pines framed,–
The pines that climb to woo the winds alone.
And down its cloisters blew the evening breeze,
Through courts and aisles ablaze with autumn bloom,
Till shrine and portal thrilled to harmonies,
Now soaring, dying now in glade and gloom.
And with the wind was heard the voice of streams,–
Ceaseless their Aves and Te Deums be,–
Lone Ashuelot murmuring down the lea,
And brooks that haste where shy Contoocook gleams
Through groves and meadows, broadening to the sea.
Then holy twilight fell on earth and air,
Above the dome the stars hung faint and fair,
And the vast temple hushed its shrines in prayer;
While all the lesser heights kept watch and ward
About Monadnock, builded to the Lord!