Heliand Consort Performs Jenni Brandon’s “Wild Rose & Butterfly from the Wildflower Trio” and “Wood Song”

          wildflower trio

Heliand Consort performs Jenni Brandon’s Wild Rose & Butterfly from the Wildflower Trio and Wood Song for solo oboe, in concert, as follows:

Universe in a Sparkle*

June 30, 2021, at 7:30 pm

Upright Steeple Society,

York Street Meeting House, Lyndon, Vermont

July 1, 2021, at 7:30 pm

Rochester Chamber Music Society,

Rochester Federated Church, Rochester, Vermont

July 2, 2021, at 7:30 pm

First: Earth Summer Series,

Isham Family Farm, Williston, Vermont

Heliand Consorta Vermont-based chamber music ensemble, performs chamber music and songs inspired by the natural world, from the oceans to the creatures, to the verdant green which surrounds us.

Wood Song for solo oboe (2019) – (Jenni Brandon Music – JB 160) was inspired by the Sara Teasdale (1884-1933) poem of the same name. I was particularly drawn to this poem for both the reference to the wood thrush bird as well as the poet’s honesty of kissing life “scars and all”. The colors of the oboe lend themselves to creating this bird’s ethereal and mysterious sounds, and of telling the journey of a soul through poem and music.

Wood Song

by Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

I heard a wood-thrush in the dusk

Twirl three notes and make a star –

My heart that walked with bitterness

Came back from very far.

Three shining notes were all he had,

And yet they made a starry call –

I caught life back against my breast

And kissed it, scars and all.

From the poetry book “Love Songs”, Interlude: Songs out of Sorrow (VI. Wood Song). The Macmillan Company, 1917. Poem is in the public domain. This collection of poems won the 1918 Pulitzer Prize.

Among the many unique sounds made by this bird includes the “pit volley”. This sound is represented in the work by five quick repeated notes in a row punctuating the moment as the wood-thrush does in the forest. Variations on other unique sounds from the wood thrush’s repertoire are represented by both timbral and regular trills, fast rhythmic leaping lines, and, at times, the lyrical singing of a lone bird in the woods. In remaining true to both the bird’s call as well as the poet’s description of it, the very opening of the work begins with a transcription of one of these birds’ songs “twirling three notes”. Throughout the work there is much freedom given to the oboist to explore creating the song of the wood thrush.  Listen for variations and interpretations on their unique song.

It was a joy to work on this piece with Dr. Lindabeth Binkley, who commissioned the work, and whose beautiful, lyrical playing allowed me to explore writing for the many colors of the oboe. Her precision in rhythm and ability to play quickly and precisely also allowed me to explore faster rhythmic aspects of the bird’s song. The result is a work that will hopefully remind us all to take time to walk outside and listen to the birds sing.

This work was commissioned by Dr. Lindabeth Binkley with a Faculty Research and Creative Endeavors Grant from Central Michigan University. It appears on her CD FROM EARTH AND SKY: MUSIC OF JENNI BRANDON on the Blue Griffin Recording label.

The Wildflower Trio, for oboe, bassoon, and piano, was commissioned in 2004 by the College of Fine Arts of the University of Texas at Austin to honor and celebrate the life and environmental work of Lady Bird Johnson. The inspiration for the piece came from a poetry book written by one of Mrs. Johnson’s friends, Bette Woolsey Castro. Her book, The Wildflower, was inspired by the opening of Lady Bird’s Wildflower Research Center in Austin, Texas, and contains a collection of poems about wildflowers and nature.

The five movements of The Wildflower Trio for oboe, bassoon, and piano (oboe, bassoon, piano sheet music) are based on the imagery from several of these poems. The beautiful combination of the oboe, bassoon, and piano lend themselves to creating distinct colors and sounds that represent the wildflowers, hummingbirds, and summer afternoons in quiet gardens.

I had the honor and privilege of composing this piece for two fine musicians to premiere. Rebecca Henderson-oboe, and Kristin Wolfe Jensen-bassoon, have performed this piece around the world with a variety of pianists, including at the International Double Reed Society Conference in Melbourne, Australia in June 2004 as well as for Mrs. Johnson at her Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

  •  Wildflowers
  •  Wild Rose and Butterfly
  • The Hummingbird
  • Indian Paintbrush
  • Summer Garden

This work has been recorded on two albums:
Gobo: Commissions and Premieres for Oboe – Rebecca Henderson-oboe, Kristin Wolfe Jensen-bassoon, Robert Freeman. Longhorn Music, 2013.

Summer Garden – Sundance Trio (oboist Geralyn Giovannetti, bassoonist Christian Smith, and pianist Jed Moss)

Both of these works are available for purchase at JenniBrandon.com.

The program for the performances is:


Poem: Goldfinches Mary Oliver (1935-2019)

Hermit Thrush at Morn, op. 92 no. 2 Amy Beach (1867-1944)

arr. Katie Oprea

Song of the Bees Padma Newsome (b. 1961)

Poem: Wood Song Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

Wood Song Jenni Brandon (b. 1977)

Cortège from ‘Trois Morceaux pour Piano’ Lili Boulanger (1893-1918)

Poem: Blue Sky Madeleine May Kunin (b. 1933)

Meditation on the wind Berta Frank (b. 1960)

Prelude and Dance from ‘Four Sketches’ Peter Hope (b. 1930)


Wondrous Cool Thou Woodland Quiet Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Wildflowers from ‘The Wildflower Trio’ Jenni Brandon

Serenade to the Stars Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944)

Poem: May we raise children Nicolette Sowder

To Bastion Point Padma Newsome

In the Ocean

Molto vivace from ‘String Quartet, Op. 96’ Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904)

(‘The American’) arr. Katie Oprea


Berta Frank, flute and Native American flute

Katie Oprea, oboe and English horn

Rachael Elliott, bassoon

Cynthia Huard, piano

Program Note

Heliand Consort’s summer program, “Universe in a Sparkle” includes an array of chamber music and songs inspired by our natural world to honor diligent doers who move us toward greater awareness of, and harmony with, nature. The concert features music of Australian composer and community activist, Padma Newsome, whose songs speak to the fragile coastal ecosystem of his hometown of Mallacoota, still healing from the devastating 2019/2020 bushfires. We pay musical tribute to the oceans, the bees, the butterflies, and the verdant green which surrounds us.

Our featured Vermont artist this summer is Caroline Tavelli-Abar, whose “the Universe in a sparkle” (2017) inspires the theme of this program and speaks to the impossible mystery and beauty of our existence and the transience of our human moment within it. For more on Caroline and her work, please visit www.carolinetavelli-abar.com .

Thank you for supporting our concerts! For information on upcoming programs, or to become a sponsor of Heliand Consort, please visit https://www.heliandconsort.org .