Donald Nally conducting The Crossing and the Jenks choir at the premiere (photo credit: Anthony B. Creamer III).


MayDayPage1My choral work for SATB and 2-part children’s choir, May Day, premiered Saturday April 18th, 2015 by The Crossing and a choir of 4th- and 5th-graders from the John Story Jenks School in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. It’s a 10-minute setting of a beautiful poem by Ryan Eckes.

They performed this in a special concert put together by the school, the Friends of Jenks, the Chestnut Hill Community Fund, and the Presser Foundation. Donald Nally conducted.

My thanks to them, managing director Steven Gearhart, Renee Warnick and Haviva Goldman of the Friends of Jenks, music teacher Steve Kell, and principal Mary Lynskey, who made this all happen.

Four singers from The Crossing—Steven Bradshaw, Maren Montalbano Brehm, Veronica Chapman-Smith, and Daniel Spratlan—worked with the students throughout the year; we could not have dome this without their hard work! Ryan and I met with the students at the end of last year a few times to open them up to our creative processes.

I had the children repeat the phrase “what will i eat,” with the SATB choir haltingly doling out the images. The highpoint of the piece comes at the phrase that struck me the first time I read the poem: “i will eat from your hands.”

I’ll be arranging this for a divided SATB choir, also. Let me know if you’d like to see the entire score.

may day
Ryan Eckes

what is may day
          bail paid in limes
behind wal-mart
the cat colony
jukes broken tracks
                    rolling in mud
small wolves
in chernobyl
woven awake
in marsh
     lush green
their crib an old 
potato cellar
their mother looks out 
of your house
          what is change
          what is change
without erasing yourself
          what will i eat
i will eat from your hands
where villages once stood
i will eat from the ground
your bison’s last breath
i will trace the cold earth
i will trace the cold earth