Prayers of Steel
for baritone and piano (1998)

Duration
3 min.

Premiere
5 December 1995
Mel Ulrich, baritone / Susan Caldwell Nelson, piano
Reisinger Concert Hall, Sarah Lawrence College
Bronxville, NY

Text
Carl Sandburg (from Harvest Poems, 1910-1960)

Range
B2 – F#4

Publisher
Biscardi Music Press No. B48-98-1
Classical Vocal Reprints No. CVR3621: Print / Digital
Theodore Front Musical Literature, Inc.

Notes
Prayers of Steel was written in the fall of 1998 at the MacDowell Colony. Sandburg's strong, sinuous, athletic poetry inspired a vocal line which is agile, with an edge, and at the same time conveys a great deal of warmth, and, at the end, transcendence.

PRAYERS OF STEEL
Lay me on an anvil, O God.
Beat me and hammer me into a crowbar.
Let me pry loose old walls.
Let me lift and loosen old foundations.

Lay me on an anvil, O God.
Beat me and hammer me into a steel spike.
Drive me into the girders that hold a skyscraper together.
Take red-hot rivets and fasten me into the central girders.
Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper through blue
   nights into white stars.
Carl Sandburg, from Harvest Poems (1910-1960)

Press
Carl Sandburg's muscular poem that uses construction imagery as metaphor for the work of the soul - "Lay me on an anvil, O God./Beat and hammer me into a crowbar" to loosen old walls and foundations, "into a steel spike" that holds girders together; "Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper through blue nights into white stars" - is given complementary musical treatment. The song is dynamically forceful until the final poetic line, which is set more softly as the vocal line soars to a quietly sustained E4 and F#4 at the end.
Judith Carman, "New Songs by American Composers: Chester Biscardi," Music Reviews, Journal of Singing, Jacksonville, Florida, September/October 2008, pp. 111-112


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