Icefield Sonnets Hawley & Jalbert

I went to the premiere of Icefield Sonnets yesterday, a work composed by Pierre Jalbert based on three gorgeous sonnets by Anthony Hawley, whom I know and like a lot. The sonnets are called “Cold is a cell,” “Glass is a place,” and “North is a notion.” They are fourteen narrow lines each and each one has a stark, gorgeous beauty to it. Best of all, the lovely wintry music of Jalbert (composed for soprano, baritone, violin, cello, piano, and percussion—mostly marimba as far as I could tell) brought out the resonances and ambiguities of the poems—playing with line breaks and enjambments in ways that enriched my understanding. Clearly these two young men—Hawley was born in 1977; Jalbert was born in 1967—understand and admire each other; it’s a happy pairing in which the poetry is enhanced by a composer who loves words but loves music, too. A truly collaborative and moving result.

Of course, it was a great and lovely pleasure just to get out. My husband was working and couldn’t join me, so, in a first (but not a last), I got a sitter to go out solo on a Sunday afternoon. She was a full forty minutes late. I was near tears. Then, track work diverted the 2/3 so I hopped on a C—which turned out to be the train I should have taken all along and, after all that, I emerged from the subway only a half block from the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, the venue of the Brooklyn Friends of Chamber Music at 3:05. Only five minutes late. And, of course, chamber music concerts in churches don’t begin on the dot of three. I got in line for tickets, far from the last to arrive. I spotted Anthony, in town from Nebraska where he’s now a professor. He was clutching an advance copy of his book, so that was exciting to catch a glimpse of, too. I was so delighted and amused to be amidst so many fellow travelers: Whole Foods tote bags, natural fibers, young folks in cargo pants, old black women in pigtails and floppy hats, a few pretentious men of a certain age, in suits, with beaming female companions (“Look! I’ve got a boyfriend! Look! Doesn’t he look like a cross between Seiji Ozawa and Edward Said?”). About 200 folks in all. With lots of Perrier and Pepperidge Farms cookies at intermission. And two hours of lovely music—of which the “Icefield Sonnets” piece was the highlight—for only $15. What a deal!