The Mask

Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

Mulling over the words, shared below, to The Mask, a cycle of five poems selected by T.J. Anderson III and arranged by William Bolcom for voices and piano. I’ll be singing these with the Rhode Island Civic Chorale Chamber Choir this weekend and next. Here are the program notes:

Rhode Island Civic Chorale Chamber Choir
Intimate Songs of the Heart

Michael Kregler, Piano
Philip Martorella, Piano
Edward Markward, Conductor


Liebeslieder Walzer, op. 56 – Johannes Brahms
Chansons des Roses – Morten Lauridsen
The Mask – William Bolcom
Selected Madrigals

Sunday, April 27, 2014 3:00 PM, Redwood Library and Athenaeum: 50 Bellevue Avenue Newport, RI
Tickets are $12 at the door. Please call (401) 521-5670 to reserve.

Sunday, May 4, 2014 7:00 PM, First Baptist Church in America: 75 North Main Street Providence, RI
Donation by free will offering.


If you want to have a little listen to The Mask, head here. It’s incredible how Bolcom brings the text to life through his settings.


Photo: Study of Leslye. Taken in Paros, Greece. Caroline Goddard. November 2013



1. We Wear the Mask

By Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!



2. Heritage

By Gwendolyn B. Bennett

I want to see the slim palm-trees,
Pulling at the clouds
With little pointed fingers….

I want to see lithe Negro girls,
Etched dark against the sky
While sunset lingers.

I want to hear the silent sands,
Singing to the moon
Before the Sphinx-still face….

I want to hear the chanting
Around a heathen fire
Of a strange black race.

I want to breathe the Lotus flow’r,
Sighing to the stars
With tendrils drinking at the Nile….

I want to feel the surging
Of my sad people’s soul
Hidden by a minstrel-smile.



3. Shadow

By Richard Bruce

On the face of the moon
Am I.
A dark shadow in the light.
A silhouette am I
On the face of the moon
Lacking color
Or vivid brightness
But defined all the clearer
I am dark,
Black on the face of the moon.
A shadow am I
Growing in the light,
Not understood as in the day,
But more easily seen
I am a shadow in the light.



4. Worn Faces

By Charles Cyrus Thomas

Hills about the countryside,
Cold and bare, dissatisfied.
From the years of deep regret,
Laboring, paying on her debt,
On through life.

Deep the gullies scar her face
Where the waters run their race;
Once a smooth and sun-lit hill—
Now she’s ragged, worn and still—
Dead from strife.

Aged and worn, a human’s face
Where the tears in steady pace
Cut the youth to ragged forms
As it faces roughest storms
Seeking life.



5. Interlude for Natalie {for piano}



6. Portrait

By T.J. Anderson III

When woman picked up first stone,
made that rhythmic thud called fire,
Sun shone sheen on mountain.
The eland rubbed its twisted horns
against the black scab of a tree.

Fingers dip in an ivory thicket of keys.
The last ticket holder staggers in.
Black print programs fade to music.
Pastel crescent shadow rippling
on curtain waves of savanna grass.

Sing a song to the rain’s cool baptism
seeping through the flesh of ceremonial masks.
The percussive hammer strikes wire
—an arpeggio cradled in the arms of silence.

3 thoughts on “The Mask

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