for soprano and piano (Eb4 - Ab5)
texts by Chris O'Dell
Approximate duration: ca. 2'20"
Commissioned by Laura Strickling
as part of the "40@40" project
Premiere: March 22, 2022
Bronx Community College / CUNY
Fans of new concert music, and art song in particular, will be familiar with the luminous soprano, Laura Strickling, a great champion of working with living composers, particularly in the New York City and Chicago areas. With her 40th birthday looming on the horizon, she decided to celebrate it by commissioning 40 different U.S.-based composers to write one art song each. Thus was born her “40@40” project, and in 2018 she invited me to be one of them.
The opening words of C.L.O’dell’s Peony - “I am ready for the next thing” - seemed almost as if written for this occasion, with Laura celebrating where she was in life and her career and where the road might take her. Chris describes the thoughts behind the poem as
“...spring’s arrival, and the rush of life it brings; how it can be uplifting and also overwhelming to the senses. Winter has a stillness that allows the mind to wander quietly in its landscape, as spring tends to disrupt this sort of earthly meditation. I feel that I can exist both indoors and outside simultaneously during the colder months. This poem is my way of saying that, yes, I am excited for new beginnings, but also take pleasure in nature’s pause.”
Peony was serendipitously the first piece of music I wrote (in February 2021) following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the U.S. Both the calamitous toll of the pandemic itself, and the seismic social justice eruptions throughout the country in its wake - especially the George Floyd murder - left me paralyzed in more ways than just creatively. Escaping into the etherea of the song was manna to my very battered psyche.