Green Sneakers

For Baritone and String Quartet

Ricky Ian Gordon

Rental
Performing Ensemble: Voice and Instrument
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

In May 2007, I was in Salt Lake City presiding over the second production of my opera The Grapes Of Wrath. Genie Zukerman had invited me to be the composer-in-residence at Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, and I was pondering what I might write for them. As these things happen sometimes, I saw a picture on a stage? an empty chair, a string quartet, a baritone? and I remembered a set of poems I had written which suddenly called out to be heard.
On August 1, 1996, my late partner, Jeffrey Grossi, passed away. There was a day when I was staring into our closet from the vast desolation of our bed, and his sad little green sneakers suggested to me, a text, about the day we bought them together, which seemed to pour out of me. What ended up being a cycle of poems, tell the story of that day, and the period after, leading all the way up to his death. They end with my journey to Provincetown, a pilgrimage to a place where I hoped I might find others, who had gone through what I had just gone through, and could empathize.
In musicalizing the text, my instinct, because of the intimacy of the story, was to couch it in a "classical" way, a prologue, an epilogue, interludes throughout? not only to give the listener time to think and reflect, but to give the performer the space to gear up for the next event. Even the use of a string quartet felt like a slightly distancing formal device. The inspiration for this type of piece is perhaps Handel?s cantata Lucretia, or later on, Britten?s Phaedra, pieces where one singer is both telling the story and living the story. I felt I was doing a similar thing in my own Orpheus and Euridice, only in that piece, I tell my story metaphorically, through a myth. Here, there is no veil. It is simply what happened and how it felt, at least at that time.
I have questioned myself, about whether this was the right thing to do, tell a story this baldly, expose myself and my life with Jeffrey this way. My explanation for such an act is this. After Jeffrey died, I sought solace in reading everything I could find about grief. I was grateful to those who were generous enough to reveal, in great detail, the ways in which they endured loss and bore their own tragedies. So maybe there is a sense of mission for me here. Perhaps someone else has gone through what I went through, and this might bring them some peace, identification, or understanding.
When I wrote the poems, they ended with the sequence that is called "Provincetown," but as I was working on the piece, I had the idea to include, as the epilogue, a poem I had written for Jeffrey as a birthday present, "Sleep."
I suppose I wanted to end the piece with not only a lullaby, but a celebration of what we had together.

Available on Rental

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned for the 2008 Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival
Composition Date 2008
Duration 01:00:00
Orchestration Solo Bar.; 2Vln. Vla. Vcl.
Premiere July 15, 2008. Jesse Blumberg, baritone, Miami String Quartet; dir. Ricky Ian Gordon; Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek, CO.