Life With Horace

poetry & essays


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The right note

Tomorrow might have been fifty-two
not just thirteen since thirty-nine
Aligned with family and gratitude
the day always reflected joy,
the heat of our love folded into stuffing
The missing of him has gotten harder
but it seems he knows. I came upon
the sound of his small gasp
that wrapped me up each time
in beauty gauze, when finally ready
I presented myself to his gaze
before our evenings out
Deliciousness itself, just knowing
that he would when I did
that he always meant it.
And I can smile now, the memory
a pitch perfect gift

.

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Audio: Read by the author.


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the piano duo

My godmother, Anne Hull (left) and grandmother, Mary Howe, about 1920. They were both pianists and composers, and performed together as a piano duo from 1912 until 1935. They met at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore in 1905, when my grandmother was studying piano with Ernest Hutchinson. She later returned to the Peabody (with the full support of her husband) to study composition with Gustav Strube, gaining her diploma in 1922. She was active musically until the early 1960s, an internationally recognized composer, and a founder of the National Symphony.

Anne was studying for an Artist’s Diploma and Teaching Certificate. She had a rich musical life, never married, teaching first at The Institute of Musical Art in New York, and later The Juilliard Graduate School, retiring in 1968 at the age of 80!

Friends for the rest of their lives, they did extraordinary things in a world that sometimes considered them dilettantes (they weren’t) and not to be taken seriously (they were).

My grandmother’s unequivocal take on being a woman composer, circa 1950:

“Women composers should be played more than they are. I don’t think conductors have a prejudice against women composers now. But no one puts women writers or women painters in a class any more and they still do with women composers. I know I considered it a handicap to be a woman when I started composing. I’m not a feminist. But I think I would have gotten along faster if I’d been a man.”

I generally admire her pieces, and think her art songs were her strongest. She knew many poets, and read poetry voraciously. Her friendship with the poet Elinor Wylie, whom she met at the MacDowell Colony, is a story in itself. A particular favorite of mine is her setting of Wylie’s poem “When I Died in Berners Street”. I have been working on it with my voice teacher, and like to think she would appreciate the effort, if not the result!