Front Porch Poems (Tales from the Keniston Woods)
Listen to an excerpt from the Albany Records release New People, tracks 14–16.
When I wrote Front Porch Poems, I had been living in the small town of Plymouth, NH, for almost 13 years. One of the most important events in the artistic life of Plymouth during that time has been the arrival of Eva Nagorka and Rodger Ellsworth—both successful musicians living and working in Washington, DC, when Rodger’s great aunt, Rachel Keniston, passed away.
The Keniston family homestead stands on a hill overlooking the town of Plymouth. Rachel was born there, and lived her entire life there with her sister, Miriam, who died in 1982. Miriam left behind many poems describing the passing of the seasons in northern New England, and the inspiring views from the homestead’s graceful front porch.
Upon Rachel’s death, the Keniston homestead passed to Rodger Ellsworth. Rather than let it leave the family’s hands, he and Eva decided to leave the nation’s capital and make their home in New Hampshire. Their work here as performers and teachers continues to have a significant impact on the cultural life of the region.
Upon receiving the 2006 Composer of the Year commission from the New Hampshire Music Teachers Association, I immediately thought of writing a piece for Rodger and Eva to perform together, and asked them to suggest texts for me to set. They responded with the Miriam Keniston poems set in the first two movements of this work. The third poem, my contribution to the set, is my response to Rodger and Eva’s request for a tango that they could perform together. I hope that the entire work stands as a tribute to Rodger, Eva, their lives together in the Keniston homestead, and the many ways their neighbors are enriched by their presence among us.
I. Fairies on My Hilltop
There are fairies on my hilltop.
The sunbeams gaily dancing
I gaze in wonder at the sight,
Each sprite in gossamer and lace
Oh, there are fairies on my hilltop,
II. A Winter Night
The moon rides high in the wintry sky
He blusters and roars and pounds at the doors,
And the moon shines on 'til the coming of dawn,
III. Tango Violistico
The very next time that you’re watching your local orchestra,
But in the middle lies the noblest of all the instruments,
he man can play viola,
The man can play viola
Too long I loitered all alone in romance’s waiting room
But then I heard him, and I knew there was no more waiting game,
The man can play viola,
The man can play viola,
How’d this violist get so?
“Fairies on My Hilltop” and “A Winter Night” are used here by permission of the Estate of Miriam Keniston.
Key words: chamber, chamber music, viola, mezzo, piano, victorian, nature, sex, sexy, funny, humor, dramatic, virtuoso, music, modern, contemporary, classical, composition