Putting Frost to music for a school's bicentennial

Union Leader Correspondent
March 27. 2014 7:57PM
Composer Andrew Boyson Jr. listens to Pinkerton Academy students sing during a recent visit to the school. (HUNTER McGEE/Union Leader Correspondent)

DERRY — For some composers, using lyrics from a Robert Frost poem in a musical piece can be a daunting task.

But one Granite State composer, Andrew Boyson Jr., is willing to take on the challenge for Pinkerton Academy’s 200th anniversary this year.

Boyson, a professor of music at the University of New Hampshire, has been commissioned to compose a custom piece using lyrics from Frost’s “A Prayer in Spring” for the celebration.

“This is a very, very exciting happening here to have a composer write a piece of music specifically for us,” said Thomas Quigley, director of the Fine Arts Department.

The finished piece will be performed by the Wind Ensemble and Choir on June 1. Several grants are funding the work, said Chip Underhill, executive director of public relations and external affairs.

Boyson visited the school earlier this month to listen to choral students sing. He wanted to get a sense of what the chorus is like as he writes his piece and to know what he’s working with when it’s finally performed, Underhill said.

After the students finished singing some warm-ups, Boyson spoke to them and discussed the composing process and what it’s like working with Frost’s poem.

Early in the process, Boyson said he was somewhat nervous since he’d heard of other composers having trouble using Frost’s poetry for lyrics. He still remembers several of Frost’s poems from high school but wasn’t that familiar with the poet’s overall body of work.

To get more comfortable with the poetry, Boyson began to read more about Frost’s poems and delve into “A Prayer in Spring.” He told the students the work is about enjoying the present moment.

“The message behind it is to kind of stop and appreciate what’s going on around you right now,” Boyson said.

He told the students he has children of his own who are in school and are constantly thinking about the future and what’s coming next for them.

“And you never really stop and just say, ‘This is pretty cool right where I am right now,’” said Boyson.

“So that’s kind of where the poem is coming from,” he said. “I’m sure Robert Frost wasn’t thinking about that specifically when he wrote the poem.”

Boyson then discussed some of the process.

“When I’m dealing with text, it’s a lot different than the process when I’m just writing for an instrumental alone because so much of the text defines what the piece is going to be,” Boyson said.


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