Songs of Sac Prairie

An American song cycle for Mezzo-Soprano and Bass-Baritone
Ronald William Hill, composer
August Derleth, poet

This beautiful American song cycle written by Chicago composer Ronald William Hill is set to the poetry of August Derleth, one of Wisconsin's most famous and beloved writers.   

Audrey Johnson and Metropolitan Opera Bass-Baritone William Powers have been featured in numerous performances of this work, most notably, the premiere of the cycle in its  orchestrated form with the Wooster Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Jeffrey Lindberg in February of 2020.

Past recorded performances of the work featuring Audrey Johnson and Mr. Powers have received support from the Illiinois Arts Council and the Sanfilippo Foundation, and they were finalists for the Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music from The American Prize. 

Musical Selections

Snowy Night - Orchestral Preview

In rehearsal for the orchestral premiere performance
with the Wooster Symphony Orchestra
Maestro Jeffrey Lindberg conducting
Audrey Johnson, Mezzo-Soprano

Hushes in the stubbled corn,

Along the fence line,

Comes, windless, down on pasture’s edge,

The snow.

 

In the lit town the fine flakes sifting down

Make the streetlights show

as flowers, chrysanthemums.

Snow lies thickening white on boles, on fence posts,

And under lamplight bright as day.

 

The solitary walker on his lonely round

Hearing whispered, wordless voices all around,

Would not think anything so animate, so white,

Could come out of so dark a world as night.

Lifelong he thought first of hogs, cattle, sheep,

But failed to think that cutting trees

Made less for them to drink in pond and brook.

 

Anson Boggs cared for his creatures and his house

Killed wild things, bird and mouse.

If at first he prospered, he soon grew thin.

 

He did not understand how man can kill his land.

He worked it before dawn,

All morning, all afternoon, sometimes at dusk,

Yet every year, his crop grew less, and he knew fear.

 

He ploughed from edge of long-ploughed hill,

To the ploughed rim of neighboring wood,

And starved the land, until at last

The land starved him.

Dry Fields

Anson Boggs 

     William Powers, Bass-Baritone
       Ronald William Hill, piano

00:00 / 02:55

Every man sets out upon his own,

Begins alone, and ends alone.

Even a point like earth in space

Could be a dark and devious place.

 

And a man could go astray

For lack of signs along the way.

In search of his own Walden he could meet

Many inviting byways, many a primrose street,

Unless he had a guide to keep from getting lost:

Thoreau, or a book of poems by Robert Frost.

Coastline

Audrey Johnson, Mezzo-Soprano
    William Powers, Bass-Baritone
     Ronald William Hill, piano

00:00 / 01:33
Snow Covered Trees

Lily Manzer
    

Audrey Johnson, Mezzo-Soprano
Ronald William Hill, piano

00:00 / 02:40

Safe in her rind of life, shorn of her bloom,

Poor Lily sat in the window of her room,

Day and night, lost in the jungle of her mind.

 

Delicate, frail, the happy child she was

Had grown by priestly wickedness

Into this pale, weak-minded woman kept alone.

 

She lived in her dark, narrow room

Until she took a narrower, more dark.

In the weft and loom of life

She was early broken by all she trusted.

 

All her love unspoken, all her life held down,

All her dreams alone.

She is no lonelier beneath her stone.

A Book of Poems by Robert Frost