First Person, Second Person, Third Person Singular 2021

for voice and piano

Song album in Two Volumes

Co-conceived with Roberta Gumbel, Professor of Practice in Voice, University of Kansas School of Music. Her guidance has been invaluable.

Medium Voice versions guided and edited by Keith Phares, Assistant Professor of Voice, Bowling Green State University School of Music.



Heartfelt thanks to the six singers and six pianists in six cities who safely and bravely made these demos during the Time of Covid-19 (in order of appearance):

Keith Phares and Kevin Bylsma

Nathan Granner and Catherine Miller

Roberta Gumbel and Ellen Sommers

Jessica Petrus and Lee Dionne

Summer Hassan and Michael Sherman

John Taylor Ward and Scott Lykins


Composer’s Note:


First person, second person, third person singular.  What do I mean? Loosely, the categories can be defined as 1) things that happened/are happening to me; 2) things that happened/are happening between you and me; 3) things that happen. The first and second person songs musicalize texts that place the poet/singer in intimate relationship with something else highly specific: a person, a bird, a bug, a whole social edifice. These songs challenge the performer to instantaneously construct and deliver a complete dramatic scene–often in less than two minutes. Third person songs, though their texts are not expressly interpersonal, still require the performer to create and inhabit a character and deliver a perspective. (I have counted The Garten Mother’s Lullaby and Full Fathom Five as third person, though I allow it is debatable in both cases. Feel free to think differently about them.)


The poetry I turned to for texts, written between the early 17th century and today, tends to create visceral scenes, flesh and blood speakers living through specific moments, scenes that express a panoply of human experience: raw and uncontrolled, gentle, distant and nuanced, and everything in between.


This collection is also intended to provide voice students with repertoire that demands techniques often encountered in 20th and 21st century music. I consulted along the way with voice faculty members, aiming to create songs that will take a student through their years of vocal study and into their professional career. Singers today, in addition to making beautiful vocal sounds and lines, need to be equipped

  • to read and sing intervallically;
  • to find and be secure in their pitches outside the comfort of a scale or key;
  • to navigate changing meters and complex rhythms;
  • to make non-singing vocal sounds;
  • to turn sharp emotional corners within a very short space of time;
  • to inhabit and deliver text in English with immediacy, dramatic conviction, and clear diction in order to create a dynamic, intimate personal relationship with the audience.


I encourage you to mix and match these songs in different ways, creating a changing variety of sets for distinctly personal concert programming.