Jennifer Higdon's 'Dooryard Bloom' Jennifer Higdon's Dooryard Bloom derives its title from Walt Whitman's poem on the death of Lincoln. Her work was commissioned by the Brooklyn Philharmonic, which gave the premiere with vocalist Nmon Ford last year.
NPR logo Jennifer Higdon's 'Dooryard Bloom'

Jennifer Higdon's 'Dooryard Bloom'

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Jennifer Higdon...

...came to widespread notice with the Philadelphia Orchestra's premiere of her Concerto for Orchestra in 2002. Robert Spano and the ASO commissioned her City Scape and premiered it later that year, but audiences had already begun to discover her colorful and refreshingly accessible musical style through performances of her 1999 work blue cathedral.

Born in Brooklyn, Higdon grew up in Atlanta and attended her first orchestra concerts in the Woodruff Arts Center. She teaches at the Curtis Institute for Music in Philadelphia and leads a professional career as a flutist and conductor.

Nmon Ford...

...has performed throughout the Americas, Europe and Japan, most recently covering in the role of Amfortas in Robert Wilson's production of Wagner's Parsifal with Los Angeles Opera, starring Placido Domingo and conducted by Kent Nagano.

Future engagements include Mahler's Symphony No. 8 with the National Symphony conducted by Leonard Slatkin, the title role of Billy Budd at the Hamburg Opera and the title role in Don Giovanni with the Spoleto Festival USA conducted by Emmanuel Villaume.

Composer Jennifer Higdon. hide caption

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Soloist Nmon Ford. hide caption

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Jennifer Higdon's Dooryard Bloom derives its title from Walt Whitman's poem (also set for soloists, chorus and orchestra in the 1940s by Paul Hindemith). Her work was commissioned by the Brooklyn Philharmonic, which gave the premiere with Nmon Ford last year.

The composer has published her thoughts on the piece:

"A near impossible task, to write about this piece of music which sets Walt Whitman's 'When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd.' Normally, for a composer, the explanation of a piece is a much more straightforward affair. In this particular case, it is extremely difficult, maybe not even possible, for the text discusses and explores so many aspects of grief and loss. As a composer, I am hesitant to tread in this area with words (because Whitman did it so masterfully); I feel that only the musical notes that I write can do so in an appropriate manner. I can tell you, however, that I was moved by all of the stages of grief that Whitman examines in this poem, and that I was struck by the fact that he captures the extreme range of emotions that we all must face at some point.

My title, Dooryard Bloom, is a play of words on Whitman's title. A dooryard is defined as the yard next to the door of a house... which in this poem could mean many things... Is the yard the hereafter? Or is it a place leading to a passage? What is the bloom? The growth of a flower or a view of light? The lilacs blooming... are they representative of death or of life? Or of growth? Or of time passing... lilacs last. The beauty of music is the power to suggest things that even words might not convey. Therefore, take your own meaning from this piece, literally or emotionally or metaphorically... let it be your own dooryard."

All text courtesy program notes for 'A King Celebration' from the Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta, Ga.

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd

The text of Walt Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd."