Gossamer Noons

The Orchestral Music of Robert HELPS

Gossamer Noons (1974) [soprano and full orchestra] — Helps was a close friend, ardent admirer, and long-time Brooklyn Heights neighbor of the great American author James Purdy. His library was stocked full of double and triple copies of this genius writer’s novels allowing him to share his passion with interested friends and students. After successfully setting Purdy’s intense and eccentric poetry (alas, impossible to find in print!) in The Running Sun, Helps explores the same sources for one of his most important and impressive works, entitled Gossamer Noons, after a particularly evocative line from the collection Sunshine is an Only Child. The composer lavishes this rich set of songs with a particularly marvelous orchestral palette, ingeniously accompanying the strange and naive natural world Purdy portrays in his poems. The vocal writing invokes the sumptuous gifts of its major interpreter: the fearless soprano Bethany Beardslee.

Duration: 20 minutes.

I – March
(“Let all footed hearts then parade”)
II – Moderato: a bit clumsily
(“Wicked sounds haunt the glen tonight”)
III – Fast
(“All along the meadow & all along the stream”)
IV – Slow but flowing
(“over green leaves that stretch to the sea”)

Listen to Gossamer Noons, movement no. II

Photo: James Purdy, American novelist, quoted in 1996 as saying: “Robert Helps’ genius as a composer and pianist is only equalled “by his inexhaustible enthusiasm for life.”
Sound clip - Gossamer Noons

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