As winner of the Organization of American Kodály Educators’ (OAKE) 2020 Ruth Boshkoff Composition Prize, I composed Redbirds in August/September of 2020 for a premiere at OAKE’s 2022 national conference, conducted by Ruth Dwyer. With the mission of OAKE and children’s choirs in general in mind, I wanted to choose a text for this piece that children might connect with easily. I was initially drawn to the Sara Teasdale poem for its lilting, song-like rhythm, but I quickly grew to find its lucid nostalgia to be rich in opportunities for musical storytelling.
In the poem, Teasdale vividly portrays a fond memory – cardinals singing and images of trees and hills overlooking the Mississippi River – only to end on a questioning, slightly melancholy note. The piece opens with the piano simulating the chirping of cardinals in the past, and the poem is set to a folk-like melody in the Mixolydian mode – neither happy nor sad.
I hope that children who perform Redbirds will find it thought-provoking and enjoyable.
Redbirds is now published by Colla Voce Music LLC and available here from Canticle Distributing.