Thoughts (text: Myra Viola Wilds) for soprano, cello, and harpsichord; 6' (2020)
commissioned by Carol Schroeder for Dean Schroeder on his 70th birthday
text: What kind of thoughts now, do you carry In your travels day by day Are they bright and lofty visions, Or neglected, gone astray? Matters not how great in fancy, Or what deeds of skill you’ve wrought; Man, though high may be his station, Is no better than his thoughts. Catch your thoughts and hold them tightly, Let each one an honor be; Purge them, scourge them, burnish brightly, Then in love set each one free.
composer’s note: Myra Viola Wilds was a Black woman born in Kentucky, who worked most of her life as a dressmaker. In 1911, she lost her eyesight, and spent a few years nearly incapacitated in bed. But then in 1914 she began writing poems, and published a whole book of them, "Thoughts of Idle Hours," in 1915.
When Carol Schroeder commissioned me to write something "in the style of Handel" for her husband Dean's birthday, this poem by Wilds struck me as a perfect choice. First, it's beautifully contemplative, and its form is remarkably similar to that of Handel's preferred aria texts. But second, I had been thinking about how Handel was reportedly involved in the slave trade, and how profoundly that sullies (for me and many others) his reputation... and it felt right to take his style as a jumping-off point, but combine it with the marvelously-written words of a free Black woman, to take some ideas from Handel but use them to collaborate with Wilds' text in a way that leaves his history in the dust & helps create a new one.