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Anna Liffey

[Click image to view sample PDF score]

(mezzo-soprano and piano), text by Eavan Boland, 28 min., 1999. Premiered by Julia Bentley, mezzo-soprano, and Amy Briggs, piano, Chicago, IL.

Julia Bentley, mezzo soprano and Amy Briggs, piano, 1999

Upon first encountering the poem “Anna Liffey,” I knew that I would eventually set it. The poem, from Eavan Boland’s 1994 book In a Time of Violence, has an epic scope and personal focus that immediately suggested a song cycle. A year later I participated in a seminar on the analysis of song that focused on how music and words engage each other and how their juxtaposition shades and blends their individual meanings to create a song. With these tools in mind, I began to approach this piece, attempting to create a setting that would speak to the meaning of the text. In many ways, I was deeply afraid of setting this poem, for it speaks so well for itself; however, I found that these words left space for music.

Eavan Boland is an esteemed writer whose publications include eight books of poetry. Born in Dublin, Ireland, she currently teaches at Stanford University. She was awarded the 1994 Lannan Literary Award for Poetry.