Commissioned by the Young People's Chorus of New York City for Transient Glory

  • mba
  • SSA
  • 7 min
  • e.e. cummings
  • English

Programme Note

little tree consists of three short choral settings of poems by e.e.cummings, with a total duration of around 6 minutes. The first song ‘little tree’ is in three voices(SSA); the next movement ‘i carry your heart with me’ progresses into four voices; the final song ‘now is a ship’ opens briefly with two solo voices, but ends in 6 vocal parts. Accompanying all three pieces is a simple marimba part which acts as a continuo instrument. In the opening movement, it simply doubles the lowest vocal part; in the later pieces, it provides a simple basis for the choral harmony.

littletree was written in 2003 for the Young People’s Chorus of New York City and its musical director, Francisco Nunez. The choir has for some time commissioned new work from living composers in its ‘Transient Glory’ series, which has the laudable aims of building the repertoire for upper voice choirs, and introducing contemporary composers and young singers to each other. It was during the Transient Glory series in April 2004 that little tree was first performed.

1. little tree

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away ?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would, [add comma at end of this line]
only don't be afraid

look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy


then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

2. i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

3. now is a ship

now is a ship

which captain am
sails out of sleep

steering for dream



Little Tree: I. Little Tree
Little Tree: II. I Carry Your Heart with Me
Little Tree: III. Now Is a Ship