Another mother poem: sustenance
Another mother poem: taste

Music about mothers on my first Mother's Day

When I first discovered that I was pregnant, I began working on a series of poems which took the form of letters to the baby. I meant to write nine of them, and had vague notions of maybe someday making a single-edition chapbook to give to my son when he was old enough to appreciate them. As it turned out, I only wrote eight. Since I started the series long before we had a name in mind, I called them "Letters to Little Bean."

Two of those poems have been set to music by the composer Michael Veloso, who is a dear friend of mine. They'll have their world premiere at a Mother's Day concert by Cantilena, a women's chorale dedicated to performing music written for women's voices. Cantilena is directed by Allegra Martin, also a dear friend.

Longtime readers of this blog may remember Through, the collection of poems I wrote about my miscarriage a few months before Drew's conception. My anxiety about having a second miscarriage sparked the beginning of my first poem to Drew, which begins:

I don't like to cough too hard,
to move too fast.
Something twinges
and I'm afraid I'll shake you loose,
little bean...

That's the first poem for which Mike composed music. On his website, Mike writes:

I'd like to call attention to the first poem, Little Bean, written during the early weeks of Rachel's pregnancy, which is about her constant fear of miscarriage in the first trimester; many, many babies never make it past the first months, and I found her poem particularly moving in how it captures the fragility of that time, the daily terror of waking up and wondering if your baby is still alive. It's something that few people talk about -- miscarriage is, of course, an intensely personal and private trauma -- and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to bring something normally kept silent out into the open.

The second poem that Mike set to music -- one of the later poems in the Little Bean series -- is about getting the nursery ready for Drew's arrival and hoping that I, too, was as ready as I could be. It begins, "Less than a month now / until we meet face to face, / skin to skin..." I've seen the sheet music for his compositions, and I'm really looking forward to hearing them performed!

The concert will also feature settings of Ave Maria by Fauré and Poulenc, Duruflé's Tota Pulchra Es, Irving Fine's Caroline Million (which Allegra describes as "raucous and malicious!"), and several other pieces as well -- quite a remarkable range of music about motherhood.

The concert is at 7pm, which is Drew's bedtime. After much reflection, I've come to the conclusion that bringing him to the concert would not be kind to anyone (not the audience, not the singers, and especially not him.) I'm planning to buzz the dress rehearsal on Saturday in order to introduce him to the singers who've been rehearsing music about him for months, and on the night of Mother's Day will put him to bed at my sister's house and then tiptoe out to hear the concert by myself.

If you're in the Boston area and this kind of thing appeals to you, please come! (And hey, if you'd like to see Drew, though I can't offer you the chance to ooh and ahh over him in person, you can always enjoy his flickr stream, which is updated every few days...) Here's the scoop about the show:

Music About Mothers: From the Divine to the Deranged

Performed by Cantilena

Allegra Martin, Director

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 7 PM

First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church
630 Massachusetts Avenue (corner of Mass Ave and Route 60)
Arlington Center, MA
(This venue is handicapped accessible)

Hope to see you there!