In the Almost Evening

In the Almost Evening (A Nocturne for Soprano, Clarinet and Piano) was composed in 1982 and is based on the poetry of Canadian poet, Joy Kogawa. One of Canada’s most acclaimed and prize-winning writers, I became attracted to Ms. Kogawa’s profound and lyrical poetry in the early ‘80’s. When asked by clarinetist, Esther Lamneck, to compose a piece for her Saturn Trio’s 1983 performance at the International Chamber Music Festival in Key West, Florida, I turned to three of Joy’s poems from two of her poetry collections, A Choice of Dreams (1974) and Jericho Road (1977). Though conceived as a one-movement work, the three poems divide the composition into three primary sections. While the middle section (i.e. Snake Dance) is a “slippery” dance for soprano and clarinet alone, the outer sections (i.e. In the Almost Evening and Breezes) involve all three members of the trio. Here the reverberant and rippling piano provides a tapestry on which the sections rest. Above the piano, the soprano – as both a traditional singer of texts and as a textless instrument – and clarinet interweave as all three instruments express Joy Kogawa’s poignant contemporary words. Though the outer poems come from two different poetry collections, they, nonetheless, have parallel qualities of style and meaning. Musically this allows the third section to function as a recapitulation of the first. Themes of loneliness and rejection are apparent in all three poems, but so, too, is beauty. The poetry of Joy Kogawa is clearly a voice for our times and it has been my distinct privilege to set her words.

Dan Locklair
Winston-Salem, NC

I. In the Almost Evening

In the almost evening loneliest time of day
I looked out the window and could see sky
and I said “Sky, what can you give me?”
and sky said, “I can give you sunset.” So I
looked at sunset with moon and star
and said “Sunset, what can you give me?”
and sunset said, “We can give you skyline.”
And I looked at skyline with bright lights
and I said “What can you give me” and
skyline said “We’ll give you people” and
I said to people, “People, give me love.”
And people said, “Too busy.”
So in the almost evening loneliest time of day
I took to listening feverishly.

Originally from Jericho Road, 1977,
McClelland and Stewart Limited +

II. Snake Dance

a semantic dance, the
politeness pulses along
scales slippery with speech

from the slow long
dwarf star centre
gravitational pull of
submerged need the
body’s coils recoil on
the skin of our lies

we smile the theatrical
smiles that mask our
moving, our minds are
almost mesmerized
into belief

Originally from Jericho Road +

III. Breezes

The weeping willow sways low
In the breeze it seems to brush
The tops of those distant bushes
Sensuously in my one dimensional
Perception. Once I imagined
I knew so well the meaning
Of your careful words brushing
My mind gently with a nearness
Now I see how distant
The bushes are I still
Would paint them touching.

Originally from A Choice of Dreams, 1974, McClelland and Stewart Limited +

+Though Jericho Road and A Choice of Dreams are now out of print, all three poems are reprinted in the volume, A Garden of Anchors – Selected Poems (2003, Mosaic Press) by Joy Kogawa. All three poems are used and reprinted here with the kind permission of the copyright holder, Joy Kogawa.