• Nico Muhly
  • How Little You Are (2015)

  • St. Rose Music Publishing (World)

Commissioned by Texas Performing Arts at The University of Texas at Austin with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The first performance was given by Conspirare Company of Voices, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Dublin Guitar Quartet and Texas Guitar Quartet, conducted by Craig Hella Johnson, on 18 April 2015 at Bass Concert Hall, Austin, Texas, USA.

  • 3 Guitar Quartets
  • SATB divisi chorus
  • 40 min
  • Elinore Pruitt Stewart and Mary Alma Blankenship

Programme Note

The sun was just gilding the hilltops when we arose. Everything, even the barrenness, was beautiful. We have had frosts, and the quaking aspens were a trembling field of gold as far up the stream as we could see. We were 'way up above them and could look far across the valley.􀀃We could see the silvery gold of the willows, the russet and bronze of the currants, and patches of cheerful green showed where the pines were. A background of sober gray-green hills relieved the splendor, but even on them gay streaks and patches of yellow showed where rabbit-brush grew. We washed our faces at the spring,—the grasses that grew around the edge and dipped into the water were loaded with ice,—our rabbit was done to a turn, so I made some delicious coffee, Jerrine got herself a can of water, and we breakfasted.

Do you remember I wrote you of a little boy dying? That was my own little Jamie, our first little son. For a long time, my heart was crushed. He was such a sweet, beautiful boy. I wanted him so much. I held him in my arms until the last agony was over. Clyde is a carpenter; so I wanted him to make the little coffin. He did it every bit, and I lined it, padded it, trimmed it, and covered it. … It was a sad pleasure to do everything for our little first-born ourselves.

I can never describe to you the weird beauty of a moonlit night among the pines. When the snow is sparkling and gleaming, the deep silence unbroken by the snapping of a twig. We were about to go back to bed when we heard faintly a long-drawn wail as if all the suffering and sorrow on earth were bound up in that one sound. We couldn't tell where it came from; it seemed to vibrate through the air. …We went in, made up the fire, and sat in silence. Once or twice, that agonized cry came shivering through the cold moonlight.

It was springtime, nature smiled. The beautiful prairie flowers put up their heads beneath leaves of green. The Jessamine covered the lattice. The atmosphere convinced me of the future resurrection of the body after death. All was sublime. I was quite happy in my home with my husband and child, but suddenly doomed to be the reverse.
Elinore Pruitt Stewart

We had plenty of time to be still and know God. He was our nearest neighbor. Although the neighbor’s places were beginning to show up in the shimmering mirage of distance, as their trees began to tower above the new homes, we felt the absence of home folk. But when you get among such grandeur you get to feel how little you are, how foolish is human endeavour, except that which unites us with the almighty force called God.
Mary Alma Blankenship

I dozed off the sleep, but I couldn't stay asleep. I don’t think I was afraid, but I certainly was nervous. All nature seemed to be mourning something, happened or going to happen. Half a mile away the night herders were riding round the round the herd. One of them was singing—faint but distinct came his song: ‘O bury me not on the lone prairie.’—over and over he sang it. After a short silence he began again. This time it was, ‘I’m thinking of my dear old mother, ten thousand miles away.’
Elinore Pruitt Stewart

1. O bury me not on the lone prairie,
These words came low and mournfully
From the pallid lips of a youth who lay
On his dying bed at the close of day.

2. O bury me not on the lone prairie
Where the wile coyotes will howl o’er me,
In a narrow grave just six by three,
O bury me not on the lone prairie.

3. It matters not, I’ve oft been told,
Where the body lies when the heart grows cold;
Yes grant, O grant this wish to me,
O bury me not on the lone prairie.

4. Let my death slumber be where my mother’s prayer
And a sister’s tear will mingle there,
Where my friends can come and weep o’er me;
O bury me not on the lone prairie.

5. O we buried him there on the lone prairie
Where the wild rose blooms and the wind blows free,
O his pale young face nevermore to see,
For we buried him there on the lone prairie.