Holy Crows
Commissioned by Cathie Apple
for high voice and chamber ensemble
Text by Duane Taylor
2004
7 minutes

performed by
Julie Cross, soprano
Cathie Apple, flute
Lisa Raschiatore, Eb clarinet
Bobby Streng, soprano saxophone
Austin Wulliman, violin
Hayes Bunch, marimba
Thomas Bandy, piano
with Marcin Bela conducting

Program Note: When Cathie Apple asked me to set some of her uncle's poetry, she gave me quite a stack from which to choose. What drew me to setting this particular poem was its simultaneous simplicity and complexity - a balance that exemplifies the finesse in Duane Taylor's writing. He creates an expansive atmosphere while focusing on small, seemingly ordinary details. There is a splendid trajectory of shifting perspective and tone, all the while dealing with deeply meaningful subject matter - being a part of something much larger than oneself - and reminding us of the basic goodness of human beings. Even in the darkest of times there is hope!

Holy Crows was commissioned by Cathie Apple for her final dissertation recital and sponsored by a grant from the Rackham Gradute School.

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Holy Crows - for Michael's forty-ninth Christmas

Nine days from Christmas
it's a crow day on the Farm
---hundreds work the still warm lawn
or rest on bare, wet branches.

Startled they fly, dark ash rising
from prairie fire, sounding in flight
---whispers of countless wings,
harsh crackle of their song---
scouting for the next unplucked field
falling for the easy glean and endless
stately jostling.

I watch the lingering high few,
when in the top flight I see six
honest-to-God white crows!
color of flat pearl and the flattened
early-winter Illinois sky
that tents them all.

Not brazen gulls mingling with the padres,
but crows , their pale primaries
moving the misty air like fingers,
beating a blessing behind the whole
busy congregation.

Of such is the One Spirit, Friend
who looks like us without our dark
plumage, its fresh linen snapping
out sheer joy.

Slow down a bit. Enjoy being
overtaken by the white ones
who lead us to the everfreshening
field where the kind old Fletcher
cradling his dyeing brush
paints us pure,

like the heart we've always had.

—Duane Taylor