Provost’s Whitman-Inspired Work to Premiere

Jonathan Green

Dec. 17, 2015    

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— A Jan. 12 recital entitled Logogenesis featuring works composed by Illinois Wesleyan University Provost and Dean of the Faculty Jonathan D. Green will include the premiere of a piece inspired by a poem by Walt Whitman.

Green, a composer and conductor, said he’d thought of setting Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” to music for many years. Whitman wrote the poem in 1865 as an elegy to President Abraham Lincoln, celebrating and mourning him in following Lincoln’s cortège across the country. The poem is comprised of 206 lines of free verse organized into 16 cantos. Although Whitman did not consider the poem to be among his best writing, critics compare it to several masterpieces of English literature.

“The sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s death led me to begin the project in the spring of this year,” Green said. “I have treated each canto as an independent song in a set unified by recurring themes, accompanimental figures, and key relationships.” Green said the musical work, bearing the same title as Whitman’s poem, is dedicated to the memory of his father. Performers of the piece include California-based soprano Beth (Wade) Carter ’90, IWU School of Music faculty Vadim Mazo (violin), Lisa Nelson (viola) and Nancy Pounds (piano), and guest artists Amy Catron (cello) and Laura Hourt (violin).

Green noted Carter received portions of the piece as they were completed. “I am grateful for her ongoing encouragement and pleased that she is giving this first performance,” he said. Carter said that having previously performed Green’s song cycle “Come in Speaking Silence of a Dream,” she has been infatuated with Green’s vocal works as though they were written expressly for her. Carter is currently principal conductor of the Valley of the Moon Chamber Ensemble and soloist with the Consort Chorale of Marin in the San Francisco Bay area.

Another of Green’s works, “A Devil’s Abecedarium,” received its world premiere at Carnegie Hall in December 2013. The piece will be performed at the Jan. 12 recital by guest artists mezzo-soprano Hope Fairchild Thacker, trombonist Brian R. Thacker, percussionist Joshua D. Smith, and pianist Keith D. Herris. Another composition, “Amore cieco” will be performed by School of Music faculty members Justin Vickers (tenor) and R. Kent Cook (piano).

Green is the author of seven music-reference books and has received awards from ASCAP, the North Carolina Arts Council and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts for his compositions, which include numerous songs, choral works, three piano concertos and seven symphonies. He received degrees from the State University of New York Fredonia, the University of Massachusetts and the University of North Carolina.

The Jan. 12 recital will begin at 8 p.m. in Westbrook Auditorium and is a part of the University’s Nation(s) Divided? series of events. The recital is free and open to the public.