• André Previn
  • Sallie Chisum Remembers Billy the Kid (1995)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • 222(bcl)2/2200/perc/str
  • Soprano and pf
  • soprano
  • 10 min
  • Michael Ondaatje, from a text by Walter Noble Burns

Programme Note

The soprano Barbara Booney happened to hear the CELLO SONATA that André Prvin had written for Yo-Yo Ma. Liking what she heard, and knowing that Previn had composed a song cycle for Kathleen Battle (HONEY & RUE) a Carnegie Hall centennial commission, she asked him if he would compose something for her. By way of suggesting subject matter, she mentioned the possibility that she might bea distant relative of the notorious Billy the Kid (William H. Bonney) and pointed Previn to a collection of poems that had been written about that colourful outlaw. As it turned out, he did not find the poems suitable as song texts, but he did come across a collection of memories of Billy the Kid by women who had loved him. One of these, Miss Sallie Chisum, expressed herself with such warmth and pungency that Previn was at once attracted to the character. Some of her comments were extremely short - barely a sentence or two in length. So, rather than compose a cycle of tiny songs, Previn decided to gather the texts into a group for a single, more substantial musical number, heard in its first performance, on August 24, 1994, at Tanglewood with the composer at the piano.

© Steven Ledbetter