Aaron Copland: The Tender Land








Aaron Copland

The Tender Land

The University of Kentucky Opera Theatre • Everett McCorvey, Artistic Director

Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra

Kirk Trevor, Conductor


Laurie Moss Andrea Jones

Ma Moss Dawn Coon

Beth Moss Mary Hawkins

Grandpa Moss Benjamin Smolder

Martin Judson Perry

Top Michael Turay

Mr. Splinters Shederick Whipple

Mrs. Splinters Sherri K. Phelps

Mr. Jenks Eli Griggs

Mrs. Jenks Charis Strange

Party Guests Stacia Brock

Julia Gilreath

Lindsay Hathaway

Margaret Anne Shelton

Tara Anderson


Producer Everett McCorvey

Music Director Tedrin Blair Lindsay

Stage Director Patricia Heuermann

Production Manager Tara Anderson

Stage Manager Josiah George

Set & Properties Designer Patricia Sineath

Costume Designer Jennifer Coleman

Lighting Designer Maria Jimena Bertschi

Choreographer Peggy Stamps

Set Construction Tim Sineath

Aaron Copland

The Tender Land

Disc One

1 Prelude, Act 1 [1:39]

2 Ma Moss: Two little bits of metal…[3:04]

3 Beth:The package from Chicago…[5:18]

4 Beth: Did you ever have a dress…[3:20]

5 Laurie:Laurie's Song [5:18]

6 Laurie: Remember the boy…[3:20]

7 Top:Do you suppose they're makin' food…[4:11]

8 Martin:We've been north…[2:13]

9 Grandpa Moss:Halloo halloo…[1:29]

10 Grandpa Moss:I need a couple of men…[5:58]

11 The Promise of Living… [4:56]

Total Time = 41:04

Disc Two

1 Act 2, Scene 1 [1:14]

2 Grandpa Moss: Try makin' peace…[1:57]

3 Laurie:Thank you. Thank you all…[3:08]

4 Ma: We've been at this table long enough…[:39]

5 All:Stomp your foot upon the floor… [5:17]

6 Martin: O there you are, Missus Moss…[4:48]

7 Martin:The world seems still tonight.…[:54]

8 Martin:Laurie…you know,…[3:08]

9 Laurie:In love?in love?…[4:20]

10 Grandpa Moss:Hey! Bums!…[1:16]

11 Mr. Splinters:I hurried right back.…[3:01]

12 Guests:Goodnight, goodnight.…[2:33]

13 Introduction, Act 3[1:56]

14 Martin:Laurie, Laurie…[7:11]

15 Martin:Daybreak will come…[2:23]

16 Martin:Laurie, I love you, I love you.…[1:15]

17 Top:That's carzy!…[4:38]

18 Laurie:The sun is coming up…[2:23]

19 Laurie:Martin, it's daybreak…[1:11]

20 Laurie:No, I must leave now!…[1:22]

21 Laurie:Perhaps I did love!…[3:15]

22 Ma:All thinking's done…[4:36]

Total Time = 62:38

The Tender Land

Virgil Thomson once called Aaron Copland “the dean of American music,” a status confirmed by the worldwide celebration of Copland's centennial in 2000. Even his less familiar works received overdue attention, perhaps his opera The TenderLand most of all. As Copland's last work in his American populist style, The Tender Land offers an accessible music setting of a simple coming-of-age story. Its modest production requirements attracted many smaller opera theatres, especially in colleges and universities, to present the work as their contribution to the Copland centenary. Consequently, a generation of operatic artists will have cut their teeth on it. Copland, whose lifelong passion for teaching was an organic extension of his music, would surely have been pleased by the life his opera has found.

By the early 1950s, Copland had become a skilled composer of dramatic music for stage and screen, with five ballets and seven film scores to his credit. Of the ballets, his “big three” - Billy the Kid, Rodeo, and Appalachian Spring - had already achieved the status of classics, the USA's answer to Stravinsky's trilogy of Firebird, Petrushka, and Rite of Spring. Copland's scores were critically acclaimed and enjoyed popularity in concert halls as orchestral suites. He even won the 1950 Academy Award for Best Musical Score for The Heiress after several previous nominations. In fact, Copland judged his film work to have been “excellent preparation for operatic writing…. At the time I was composing for films, I believed that it was a new form of dramatic music, related to opera, ballet, and theatre music, and that it should be explored for its own unique possibilities.”1 Copland had even tried his hand at a small-scale opera, The Second Hurricane (1936), a work intended for high-school performers.

Thus, all the elements were in place for Copland's consideration of a commission offered him by the League of Composers in 1952. They were seeking to follow up the enormous success of Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors on NBC Television Theatre during the 1951 Christmas holidays with another television opera, again to be produced and broadcast by NBC.

Copland did not immediately accept this opportunity. He recognized that “opera is an enormous challenge for a composer! All those notes … and that awful bugaboo, dialogue.”2 But he also had a hunch that his friend and personal secretary Erik Johns could provide the right words for his populist style.

From the beginning, Copland wanted an original story, rather than a play adaptation. Other than that, he only guided his librettist in two directions. One was the distribution of voices, as Johns recounts: “You need a baritone, a bass, a tenor, a soprano, and a mezzo soprano. Aaron had clued me in on all that. In essence, he said, `We need all these vocal types,' so I drew up a character for each one.”3

The second guidance Copland offered was more topical. He had been moved by James Agee's Now Praise We Famous Men, and particularly by two photographs taken by Walker Evans who illustrated Agee's work. The pictures were of two sharecroppers, one a care-worn middle-aged woman, the other a fresh young girl with a quizzical expression. From these ideas and images, Johns created a libretto by “drawing on the background I had … and the characters I knew and thought about that were just percolating through, and just happened to be American.”4

So Johns developed the story of Laurie Moss, a Midwestern farm girl on the eve of her high school graduation, who desires to go off and experience life in “the world so wide.” Her Ma is sympathetic, but has never experienced much of the world herself, a condition exacerbated by Grandpa, well-meaning but overly protective. Into their small domain come Martin and Top, migrant workers whom Grandpa hires despite his misgivings that “you can't trust strangers.” At Laurie's graduation party, Grandpa drunkenly overreacts when he finds Laurie and Martin kissing. The young people decide to elope, but Top successfully urges Martin to reconsider leading Laurie into the life of a hobo, and the two boys skip town. At daybreak, Laurie discovers the boys' flight and resolves to leave anyway, in search of her own destiny, despite the protestations of Ma and Laurie's kid sister Beth. The opera ends with Ma facing a new day and turning to Beth as a receptacle for her hopes and dreams.

When the opera was finished, NBC reneged on the production without offering any substantive reasons, and the completed opera, nearly two years in the making, would have lain unperformed had not New York City Opera (NYCO) decided to present the premiere of this prominent composer's work. However, the cavernous space of City Center dwarfed the intimate television opera, which was presented on a double bill with Amahl, a jarring juxtaposition at best.

The result was a lukewarm initial response from the critics and the crowds. Basically, the music was praised and the libretto was criticized. Copland tried to take a philosophical attitude, but suffered some writer's block in the wake of the disappointment, occasioning his wonderful witticism that for him opera was “la forme fatale.”5 Years later, he wrote, “I have often thought that opera companies should copy Broadway, with out-of-town openings and previews in New York before critics are allowed to get their hands on a piece.”6

Johns, however, felt that the disservice done to his drama by the ineffective premiere production had robbed Copland's music of the hearing it deserved, and he convinced the composer to participate in revising it for performances at Tanglewood in August 1954. The revisions consisted entirely of expansion. All characters were more fully developed, and the love story gained more prominence. The original second act ballooned into two separate acts, with the big party scene in the middle balancing the outer acts in which only the principals take part. Further nips and tucks sought to enhance the opera's appearance at Oberlin College in 1955.

With this college production, The Tender Land finally moved past its turbulent birthing pains and began, quietly at first, to find a life and an audience. Boosey & Hawkes had been Copland's exclusive publisher since the late 1930s, and as a matter of course published the score with a cover illustration by Johns. Copland himself rendered a beautiful piano reduction and sanctioned its use in performance should an orchestra not be available, a populist gesture aimed at encouraging performances on any scale. Furthermore, three numbers were published separately and became well-known independently from the whole work - “The Promise of Living” quintet that ends Act I, the square dance “Stomp Your Foot,” and most of all, “Laurie's Song,” a ubiquitous aria in young sopranos' repertoire. In 1958, Copland arranged an orchestral suite from the opera's highlights, giving broader exposure to the score's musical merits.

Familiarity with the music has gradually encouraged more and more performances of the entire opera through the years, again accelerating rapidly during the Copland centennial. These performances are almost exclusively the domain of small companies, three of which have found their way to the recording studio: the professional productions by Ordway Music Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota; Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut; and the present production by the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre.

The scope of this opera is perfect for smaller budgets and budding talents. Copland himself acknowledged that a college production is perhaps the most congenial atmosphere for this opera:

In writing The Tender Land I was trying to give young American singers material that they do not often get in the opera house; that is, material that would be natural for them to sing and perform. I deliberately tried to combine the use of traditional operatic set pieces… with a natural language that would not be too complex for young singers at opera workshops throughout the country. I wanted simple rhetoric and a musical style to match. The result was closer to musical comedy than grand opera.7

Whereas he may have underrated the result, the fact remains that America's great populist composer saw fit to provide an American opera not for elite audiences in glittering opera houses, but rather for young people learning their craft all over the country.

In November 1999, as a prelude to the Copland Centennial, the company gave several performances under the stage direction of Hofstra University's Patricia Heuermann and the musical direction of UK's Tedrin Blair Lindsay. The National Opera Association subsequently invited the production to present Act II in its entirety as the anchor of an afternoon of opera scenes at its 2000 convention in Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, Dr. McCorvey, had set plans in motion for the singers' artistic education of a lifetime. His friend Maestro Kirk Trevor of the Knoxville Symphony engaged the company to reprise The Tender Land in concert performances with his European orchestra, the Bohuslav Martinu Symphony in Zlin, Czech Republic, to culminate in a full-length recording. After further vocal coaching by UK's Cliff Jackson, the company did indeed travel to the Czech Republic in June 2000 to fulfill this extraordinary experience. This recording is the result of this performance and recording collaboration.

—Tedrin Blair Lindsay

1 Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland Since 1943 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989), 107.

2 Ibid., 211, 216.

3 Erik Johns and Tedrin Blair Lindsay, Personal Interview (Carmel, New York, 27 February 2001), 12. The page numbers refer to the transcription of the tape-recorded interview.

4 Ibid., 17.

5 Copland/Perlis, 211.

6 Ibid., 223.

7 Ibid., 220.

Tender Land



Act One

Scene 1

A middle-west farm house and yard. The child, Beth, is dancing by herself, acknowledging a doll as a partner. Ma Moss is seated on the porch rocker and is sewing.

BETH - When I grow up will you take me

to live in a big house? With a big lawn?

I'd like a big fountain and a pool.

A pool with lots of carrot-fish.

I'd like that, Daniel.

We'll sit in a big swing, like's in the order catalogue, and swing, and

swing, and swing, and swing…

The daydream once again sets her to dancing.

MA MOSS - Two little bits of metal,

my needle and my thimble,

a woman has to sew her fam'ly's clothes

against the cold, cold weather.

Two larger bits of metal,

my wood-stove and my kettle,

a woman has to stew her fam'ly's food

against the cold, cold weather.

BETH - I'll race you to the porch.

She rushes up the steps.

Look, Danny…

Did you ever see such green grass?

Such cool water?

Looking out towards the horizon she suddenly sees something that breaks her make-believe mood.

Mama, the postman! There's dust way off on the road.

It's Mr. Splinters' old car, I'm sure I can see it.

Will he bring Laurie's dress? Will he?

MA - Easy now, Beth. Easy.

Maybe it's only the wind blowin' the dust.

BETH - Oh no, it is his car. Danny, look at the steam.

It's boilin' like an old tea kettle.

Mother, look and see!

MA - Yes, it is Mister Splinters!

Go see if he's bringing us something.

Beth rushes off to meet the postman.

For as long as two girls are growing,

are feeling and are knowing,

one cannot always bear a daughter's cares.

For when the child grows older,

and when the wind blows colder,

a woman sometimes knows that doors won't close

against the cold, cold weather.

Beth runs in, pulling Mr. Splinters by the hand.

BETH - The package from Chicago, it's here!

It's Laurie's dress that's come.

SPLINTERS - Goodday Missus Moss.

Here's the box you've been pesterin' me for so long.

These catalogue orders used to come quicker;

the post was fast twenty years ago,

or so it seemed when I was younger —

maybe it's me that's gettin' slow.

BETH - Let's open it, mom! Can we open it?

MA - Go now a minute, Beth.

to Mr. Splinters

We're havin' a little party tonight

for Laurie's graduation tomorrow.

Could you and Missus Splinters come?

And `course bring your fiddle!

BETH - And bring your fiddle too,

and bring your fiddle too!

Oh bring your fiddle too, bring your fiddle too!

SPLINTERS - I'll bring my wife,

and I'll bring my fiddle too.

What two things more could a fellow want

to bring to an eatin' party.

And we'll dance, won't we Beth?

We'll dance, won't we, Beth?

Beth takes his hands and they do a turn around the yard. He is quickly winded and playfully eludes Beth.

Funny to think of Laurie all grown up and graduatin'.

Why she wasn't no bigger'n Beth here

a year or two ago…

MA - No, no bigger'n Beth here… year or two ago.

SPLINTERS - … year or two ago.

Got to be gettin' off, Missus Moss.

Got to deliver a letter to Missus Gray.

Did you hear the news?

MA - News?

MR. SPLINTERS - About what happened to Missus Gray's girl last night?

MA - No… no….

MR. SPLINTERS - Seems she met

with a feller in the fields.

A strange feller here abouts they say.

Poor girl's shook up for a spell.

She got an awful fright.

MA - Heaven, help us!

Beth, go see if the kettle's boilin' over.

Beth goes.

Did they catch him?

MR. SPLINTERS - Nope, but they will.

Sheriff's got a gang out lookin' for `em.

There's s'pposed to be two of `em travellin' together.

Wouldn't be surprised if they turned out to be the one

that set on Jessie Kane two month ago.

MA - I heard about that.

MR. SPLINTERS - Poor kid. Gonna have a young `un they say.

MA - Bums, driftin' bums.

Can't they let peaceful folk be?

If that ever happened to Laurie

and Grandpa Moss found out,

it's terrible to think what he'd do.

MR. SPLINTERS - That kind of thinkin' don't bring no good, Missus Moss.

Be seein' you tonight.

Beth returns.

MA - Yes, tonight, don't forget. We're all so proud

so make the music nice and loud.

BETH - Don't forget! Don't forget!

MR. SPLINTERS - I won't forget.

BETH, MA - And bring your fiddle too! Bring your fiddle too!

Mr. Splinters leaves.

Scene 2

BETH - jumping up and down

Open it quick, Mama. I can't wait!

MA - Up on the porch. We mustn't get it in the dirt.

We mustn't hurt it.

BETH - Hurry, hurry!

Will I never grow up and graduate?

Will I have a graduation dress?

Ma opens the package.

MA - Oh, it is pretty.

BETH - It's pretty, pretty…

MA - Girls are made for such dresses.

Once I had slender arms and could have worn it.

BETH - Did you ever have a dress like this?

MA - Like this… like this.

This is like the dress I never had.

The pretty, velvet bows…

Oh heaven knows how much I've missed.

The years have gone so fast

and now my own sweet child will wear the dress

that yesterday I might have worn.

It seems as if she just was born

where all the years have gone I'll never know.

My own sweet child, my own sweet child

her face is like my mirror long ago.

The light has dimmed, it is late afternoon.

Goodness! It's getting late.

Laurie will be getting home.

Grandpa will be coming in.

We have work to do.

Have you forgotten the party?

BETH - I couldn't forget the party.

Can Daniel come? Can he?

MA - Silly, silly. Of course he can come.

If he combs his hair…

BETH - If he combs his hair…

MA - if he washes his face,

BETH - if he washes his face,

MA - if he shines his shoes,

BETH - if he shines his shoes.

MA, BETH - If he combs his hair,

If he washes his face,

If he shines his shoes,

If he puts on a clean shirt, clean shirt, clean shirt.

MA - Silly, silly. We've work to do.

Go tell the Jenks about the party

tell `em it's tonight. We're expecting them to come.

We're going to celebrate.

Hurry up, hurry up, it's getting late.

Go tell the Jenks about the party.

Then hurry right back… right back.

Beth starts off, but pauses to look back as Ma holds up the dress.

Oh how pretty Laurie will look tonight.

She goes into the house.

BETH - Come on Daniel! Let's go.

She skips once more around the yard excitedly, then she races off.

Scene 3

Laurie comes in with her books in a strap. She lays them on the steps and walks around the yard eyeing all the familiar things in a new way.

LAURIE - Once I thought I'd never grow

tall as this fence.

Time dragged heavy and slow.

But April came and August went

before I knew just what they meant,

and little by little I grew.

And as I grew, I came to know

how fast the time could go.

Once I thought I'd never go outside this fence.

This space was plenty for me.

But I walked down the road one day,

and just what happened I can't say.

But little by little it came to be

that line between the earth and sky

came beckoning to me.

Now the time has grown so short;

the world has grown so wide

I'll be graduated soon.

Why am I strange inside?

What makes me think I'd like to try

to go down all those roads beyond that line

above the earth and `neath the sky?

Tomorrow when I sit upon

that graduation platform stand,

I know my hand will shake when I reach out

to take that paper with the ribboned band.

Now that all the learning's done,

oh who knows what will now begin?

Oh it's so strange, I'm strange inside.

The time has grown so short, the world so wide.

Laurie picks up her books and heads towards the house.

MA - That you? Laurie?

She comes out of the house.

Why are you so late?

Grandpa's almost home. You know how mad he gets

when you're not here on time.

LAURIE - Please, Mother, it was such a

summer afternoon

MA - You've been getting very dreamy lately.

There's better use for your time

than dreaming it away.

LAURIE - But sometimes, don't you wish

that you could get away

that you could leave us all behind

for just a summer's day?

MA - You're just as bad as Beth.

LAURIE - For just a summer's day?

MA - Just don't let Grandpa catch you dawdlin' `long the road.

LAURIE - I don't care what Grandpa thinks anymore.

MA - For shame, Laurie!

He's done so much to see you through school.

LAURIE - I know all he's done and

all you've done too.

But both of you make such a fuss.

MA - If only I'd had the chances you'd had…

LAURIE - Grandpa loves me

but he doesn't understand.

He treats me as if I was still a little girl,

like I don't have a life of my own.

MA - He loves you so.

LAURIE - Remember the boy that used to call

that worked at the store in town?

That boy that meant so much to me

that might have been my own.

Ma, I might have learned to love him.

I hoped and prayed that Grandpa could learn

to see the things that meant so much to me.

But when I showed my heart that day,

he turned and sent the boy away.

He turned and sent him away.

Oh I was so ashamed!

MA - But Laurie, that happened months ago.

Did it mean so much? Grandpa couldn't know.

LAURIE - I'll never forgive him!

MA - Forgive him. He's old.

You're all that he has. Be kind to him.

After tomorrow you'll have your own life

I promise.

LAURIE - As long as I live here,

I'll never have my own life

no matter what you promise.

MA - I'll see to it myself.

LAURIE - You couldn't get him to see.

MA - I'll talk to him.

LAURIE - He wouldn't understand you.

MA - Why do you say that when I've promised?

LAURIE - I know you'll keep your promise,

but you couldn't make him understand

when you yourself don't understand.

MA - But I do, I do!

LAURIE - No you don't, you don't!

How could you when you've never had your own life?

Ma slaps Laurie, then recoils.

MA - crying

I'm sorry, sorry.

Please, Laurie

don't upset your Grandpa tonight.

Be ours for just tonight and tomorrow.

Promise me. Won't you, Laurie?

Laurie goes to embrace her.

LAURIE - I promise, I promise.

I want to do right.

Ma turns and goes into the house. Laurie goes to follow, but hearing the approach of two strangers, she hides.

Scene 4

Martin and Top enter. They have small bundles and wear old work clothes. Top leans on the fence and sniffs the air.

TOP - Do you suppose they're makin' food in there?

He sniffs again.

Don't know if I'd recognize food ev'n if I smelled it.

Ah! If I close my eyes,

I can almost smell my ex-wife's stew a boilin' away.

Damn my wife and damn my belly for bein' hungry!

MARTIN - The day's agoin', our money's gone.

Look at those fields.

There's a harvest that's waitin' to be gathered in.

TOP - Always work, work!

I'd rather eat and after eatin' work at lovin'.

MARTIN - I've seen you work to eat.

You're not as shiftless as you talk.

Leastaways where your belly's concerned.

TOP - Yeah? All I know is it's easier

to my nature bein' shiftless.

It's hard bein' other ways.

That time I was in jail.

Ha! That was a life.

Eatin' and doing nothin'…

except for missin' the air outside.

Damn my belly for bein' hungry!

Might as well try to work here as anywhere else.

MARTIN - It won't be so bad for a few days

A sleep, a sleep, a soft, sound sleep and then

harvest in we'll shove off on our way again.

They enter the gate. Laurie stays hidden.

TOP - Hey, Martin,

someone's over there, behind the porch.

MARTIN - That someone's wearin' a gingham skir.

Hello! Miss? Madam?

Laurie shyly comes from behind the porch.


They make low bows.

MARTIN - Do you live here?


MARTIN - Your men folk home?


TOP - Will they be home soon?


Martin and Top look at each other and then begin to laugh.

Just why are you laughing?

MARTIN - We thought a cat had your tongue.

LAURIE - Well you're strangers, aren't you?


LAURIE - We don't see many strangers `round here.

Grandpa doesn't like me to talk to strangers.

He says to be skeptical.

MARTIN - Well, are you skeptical now?


MARTIN - Then you've done right by your Grandpa.

I'm Martin, this here's Top.

We're not strangers to you now

so you don't have to be skeptical anymore.

LAURIE - I guess you're right.

MARTIN - But now we're skeptical.

You know our names, we don't know yours.

LAURIE - Mine's Laurie. Laurie Moss.

MARTIN - Howdy!

TOP - Howdy Laurie!

MARTIN - Howdy!

MARTIN, TOP - Miss Laurie Moss!

They make another low bow and engage in high jinks.

LAURIE - Where are you from? Where are you going?

MARTIN - We've been north,

TOP - we've been south.

MARTIN - We're goin' east,

TOP - we're goin' west.

MARTIN - We've been here,

TOP - We're goin' there.

MARTIN, TOP - That's what we've been doin' and that's where we're goin'.

MARTIN - We're from the big north:

the great sprawling cities,

the harbour ports with their big ships

sailing in and out.

We're goin' west where the sun is winter-warm,

where the air is clear and mountains are high

and the pine trees hum.

MARTIN, TOP - That's where we've been

and that's where we're goin'.

MARTIN - We've been north,

We're goin' east.

We've been south.

TOP - We've been south,

We're goin' west.

Yes Laurie,

MARTIN, TOP - That's where we've been

and that's where we're goin'.

TOP - We're from the side south, the grassy plains,

the lazy towns with their low rolling valleys

and sleepy sun.

We're goin' east where the life is sharp and fast,

where the smoke curls and the snow swirls and Bessemers blast.

MARTIN, TOP - That's where we've been and that's where we're goin'.

We've been north,

we've been south,

we're goin' east,

we're goin' west,

we've been here,

we're goin' there,

that's where we've been and that's where we're goin.

MARTIN - We've been ev'rywhere.

TOP - Would you like to go there?

MARTIN - We'll roll out a magic carpet and whisk you away.

LAURIE - You're making fun of me.

I don't mind `cause someday I will see those places.

GRANDPA MOSS - off stage

Halloo halloo.

TOP - Who's that?

LAURIE - Grandpa's coming home.

Be polite to him. He's not used to strangers.

Grandpa enters.

GRANDPA - Laurie, Laurie my graduation girl.

He goes to embrace her but suddenly sees the boys.

Oh! we've got visitors.

LAURIE - They want to see you, Grandpa.

MARTIN - Yes sir,

my name's Martin, this here's Top.

GRANDPA - You run inside, Laurie.

She goes.

What can I do for you fellas?

MARTIN - You've got a spring harvest to get in…

I guess we'd like to work at it.

GRANDPA - You don't sound to anxious `bout workin'.

TOP - Anxious! If it weren't for this belly

you wouldn't catch me

sidlin' up to any job anywhere.

MARTIN - Don't mind Top, Mister Moss.

Ain't no better worker than he is

once he's got his belly full.

What do you say?

GRANDPA - I need a couple of men

but I don't know.

I keep shy of strangers

they bring no good somehow.

MARTIN - A stranger may seem strange that's true,

but did it ever occur to you

that you seem strange to a stranger,

seem strange to a stranger,

seem strange to a stranger too?

TOP, MARTIN - We've come quite a ways

through these wide lands,

we've worked with our backs

and worked with our hands.

TOP - They're not strangers to harvestin' grain,

to diggin' up potatoes or plantin' in the rain.

MARTIN, TOP - We hope that you can

see it our way,

we're not strangers to work now what do you say:

Will you take on a stranger?

take on a stranger?

take on a stranger today?

GRANDPA - When you put it like that

I'll have to admit

you're right for the work and besides bein' fit

you're not such a stranger,

not such a stranger,

not such a stranger any more.

MARTIN, TOP - We've two strong backs

and four strong hands

and that's what you need to work these lands.

GRANDPA - I'm getting' old while you're both young

Your song's beginnin' while mine's `bout sung.

Are you willin' to work for your pay?

MARTIN, TOP - Sure, we're willin' to work

for our pay.

GRANDPA - Then I'll make a special `ception this day

and hire a stranger.

MARTIN, TOP - Will you hire a stranger?

You mean you'll hire a stranger?

Will you hire a stranger,

hire a stranger today?

GRANDPA - Yes, I'll hire a stranger

Hire a stranger today!



Interlude - The boys make horseplay.

Ma and Laurie come out on the porch.

GRANDPA - If you boys work as smooth as you talk

we'll make good time in the fields.

Ma, put on supper for two more.

LAURIE - And can they come to my party tonight?

GRANDPA - The party! The party,

I'd almost forgotten the party.

LAURIE - Grandpa please.

GRANDPA - Can't be no harm in fellers

to help with the dancin', eh Ma?

MA - I guess not. I guess not.

GRANDPA - What's that, Mother?

MA - O nothing, nothing.

Been around these parts long, boys?

TOP - Long enough to look over the land and work up an appetite.

MA - Know the Grays? Or Jessie Kane?

She's a pretty girl they say.

GRANDPA - They said they just come here, Mother.

TOP - Knowed lots of Jessies in my time

and pretty ones too.

But I don't place the name Jessie Kane.

Ma turns away, seeming to ignore the boys.

MA - C'mon Laurie. I need your help.

Laurie goes with her into the house. Grandpa follows.

MARTIN - Missus Moss doesn't like us.

Why do you suppose she ast those questions?

TOP - Don't get excited.

We ain't done nothin' wrong. Least not lately.

That Laurie sure is pretty.

MARTIN - Don't start gettin' too int'rested

We'll want to move soon as this job is done.

TOP - Look who's tellin' me.

You're the one that's still got to learn

a kiss ain't a ball and chain.

Listen, tonight keep the old man busy

so's I can get acquainted with that girl.

Hear me?

MARTIN - Careful, Top!

Her Grandpa has an eye in the back of his head

where his girl's concerned.

TOP - Leave that to me.

You just drink him under the table.

I've handled girls before and their pas.

to Grandpa, who reappears on the porch

So there's gonna be a party tonight.

Ain't we in luck?

GRANDPA - C'mon. I'll show you where

to put your bundles.

You'll both sleep over here.

indicating the shed

It promises to be a fine night.

Top and Grandpa enter the shed. Martin remains.

MARTIN - The promise of living

with hope and thanksgiving

is born of our loving

our friends and our labor.

Laurie returns, followed by Ma.

LAURIE, MARTIN - The promise of growing,

with faith and with knowing

is born of our sharing

our love with our neighbor.

LAURIE, MA, MARTIN - The promise of living

the promise of growing

is born of our singing

in joy and thanksgiving.

Grandpa and Top emerge from the shed.

GRANDPA - For many a year I've known this field

and known all the work that makes her yield.

Are you ready to lend a hand?

TOP - I'm ready to work. I'm ready to lend a hand.

GRANDPA - By working together

we'll bring in the harvest,

the blessings of harvest.

TOP - We'll bring in the harvest,

the blessings of harvest.

MARTIN - We plant each row with seeds of grain,

and providence sends us the sun and the rain.

GRANDPA - We plough and plant each row

with seeds of grain.

MARTIN - By lending a hand,

MARTIN, TOP - by lending an arm,

bring out, bring out from the farm,

bring out the blessings of harvest.

GRANDPA - Bring out from the land,

bring out the blessings of harvest.

LAURIE - Oh let us be joyful,

oh let us be grateful,

come join us in thanking

the Lord for his blessing.

MA - Give thanks there was sunshine,

give thanks there was rain,

give thanks we are here

to deliver the grain.

Oh let us be joyful,

oh let us be grateful,

to the Lord for this blessing.

MARTIN, TOP, GRANDPA - The promise of ending

in right understanding

in peace in our own hearts

and peace with our neighbor.

LAURIE, MA - O let us sing our song,

and let our song be heard.

Let's sing our song with our hearts

and find a promise in that song.

- The promise of living,

the promise of growing,

the promise of ending,

is labor and sharing and loving.


Scene 1

The family and guests are seated round a large rough table with a cloth and supper dishes on it. Ma tries to encourage another helping around.

TOP - Not for me Missus Moss. I've already had three helpings.

MRS. JENKS - Did you see him put the food away?

He must have hid it somewhere.

She looks under his chair.

TOP - Where I hid it you'll never find it.

Everyone laughs

MISS JENKS - How many boardin' houses have gone bankrupt `cause of you two?

TOP - counting on his fingers

Let's see: One, Two, Three, Four.

MARTIN - Five boardin' houses and two jails.

ALL - Tall tales, tall tales,

five boardin' houses and two jails.

Grandpa pours out a round of drinks.

GRANDPA - Try makin' peace with some of my wine

Finest wine anywhere, berry wine.

MR. JENKS - Let's drink to a good spring harvest!

GRANDPA - Here now Mister Jenks,

harvests come and go. Some are good,

others not so good, but they come and go

like spring and winter weather.

Girls come and go. Some are good,

others not so good. They come and go too.

But there's one that's a good one,

and she is nice as spring and clean as winter

the first of our whole family that's ever graduated

and that's what I'm drinkin' to tonight, Mister Jenks.

MR. JENKS - To Laurie then.

All but Laurie stand for the toast.

FAMILY, GUESTS - Laurie, Laurie, Laurie to Laurie, Laurie Moss!

Laurie steps forward revealing her new dress. The guests reseat themselves.

LAURIE - Thank you, thank you all.

This whole year it seemed the

end-point of my life was graduation.

That's what my Ma and Grandpa had dreamed of,

what I had dreamed of.

What came after? None could tell me,

no one knew for sure.

But it's queer, this moment of my life, the celebration,

the moment each of us has watched for

and dreamed of

it passes by so quickly.

The closer tomorrow comes,

the more we wonder what day after tomorrow may be.

The closer I feel to our land,

the more I wonder what those other lands are like.

The more I want to wear the dress,

The more it doesn't seem to be a part of me.

She hesitates.

Maybe I say it all wrong.

I'm not sure what I say, but anyway,

thank you, thank you all.

She starts to sit down…

GRANDPA - Ah Laurie, you are a puzzle

but such a pretty puzzle to your old Grandpa.

..instead she goes to him.

MA - She's just nervous Pa.

GRANDPA - Never disappoint me,

will you Laurie?

LAURIE - I'll try not Grandpa.

Grandpa gives her a kiss.

MA - We've been at this table long enough.

I'll wager not one of you has got the hustle left

to show us what dancin' is.

Guests move tables and chairs back to the corner and begin to limber up.

TOP - Dancin's not my line

but we'll show you what drinkin' is

won't we Mister Moss?

Everyone laughs except for Ma.

Top pulls Martin aside.

Remember what I told you.

You have a dance while I start with the ole man,

then you take him over.

He looks at Laurie.

Gee, she's a pretty thing.

Ma has moved closer to overhear.

MARTIN - Take it easy Top.

Don't lose us our jobs.

to himself

She is a pretty thing.

1st MAN - Stomp your boot upon the floor.

1st MAN, 2nd MAN - Throw the windows open.

MARTIN, 1st MAN, 2nd MAN, MR. JENKS - Take a breath of fresh June air,

and dance around the room,

and dance around the room.

Everyone joins in the dance except Top and Grandpa.

ALL - Stomp your foot upon the floor.

Throw the windows open.

Take a breath a fresh June air,

and dance around the room,

and dance around the room.

The air is free, the night is warm,

the music's here and here's my home.

WOMEN - Men must labor to be happy,

ploughing fields and planting rows.

But ladies love a life that's easy,

churning butter, milking cows.

Churning butter, milking cows.

Gathering eggs…

MEN — …feeding sows.

WOMEN - Mending, cooking, cleaning, ironing.

Raising families, families.

ALL - Raising families, families.

MEN - Ladies love their fine amusement,

putting patches in a quilt,

but men prefer to bend their shoulder

to something that will stand when built.

Dancing ladies, making matches,

playing games…

WOMEN — …singing snatches.

MEN - Romping, frisking, winking, whistling.

Raising families, families.

ALL - Raising families, families.

Stomp your foot upon the floor,

throw the windows open,

take a breath of fresh June air

and dance around the room,

dance around the room.

The air is free, the night is warm,

the music's here, and here's my home.

Stomp your foot upon the floor,

throw the windows open

take a breath of fresh June air,

and dance around the room,

and dance around the room.

Stomp your foot. Stomp your foot. Stomp your foot.

Stomp your foot upon the floor,

throw the windows open,

take a breath of fresh June air,

and dance around the room,

and dance around the room,

and dance around and round and round,

and dance around the room.

Scene 2

The couples begin a different dance.

Ma takes Mr. Splinters to one side.

MA - Mister Splinters, you may think I'm crazy

but I have a funny feelin'.

Come with me a minute.

MR. SPLINTERS - How's that Missus Moss?

MA - A funny feelin' somethin' strange is goin' on.

Them two men you talked about before,

then these two men show up like this so soon…

Have you ever seen them `round here before?

MR. SPLINTERS - Not me. Why Missus Moss,

you really think so?

MA - I have a feelin'.

Things they said. Things I heard.

The sheriff could clear up my mind.

MR. SPLINTERS - Won't hurt for me to bring the Sheriff round for a few questions.

I'll go right now.

You rest easy.

MA - Drive fast Mister Splinters…

MR. SPLINTERS - Might be, might be…

MA — … so they won't have time to miss you.

Mr. Splinters leaves.

So nice they seem, yet I fear it is them.

The chances that we take,

have I the right to make an accusation just on feeling?

I hope I'm wrong.

Scene 3

Ma rejoins the party. Martin approaches her.

MARTIN - O there you are, Missus Moss.

I wanted to have a dance with you.

GRANDPA - beginning to show the effects of the wine

Where's Splinters, where is he?

I wanted him to tell one o' those tales he tells.

TOP - If it's stories you want, I know a few myself.

GRANDPA - Well go ahead then… go ahead.

TOP - Oh, I was goin' a courtin'

and I knew just where to go,

just down younder, just down below.

The old folks gone and the children all at home,

and the girls all mad with their hair not combed,

and the girls all mad with their hair not combed.

When the supper comes on and they asked me to eat,

they called on me to carve up the meat,

one old knife and one old fork,

I sawed about an hour and I couldn't make a mark,

yes I sawed about an hour and I couldn't make a mark.

One of the girls says `Wait, Mister, wait',

I just kept a-sawin' till I got it on the plate.

Just kept a-sawin' till I got it on the floor,

then up with my foot and kick it out of door,

yes up with my foot and kick it out of door.

In comes the old man with a double barrelled gun.

One of the girls says `Run, Mister, run',

but I stood my ground just as brave as any bear

and I tangled my fingers in the old man's hair,

yes I tangled my fingers in the old man's hair.

GRANDPA - now quite drunk

That story true?

TOP - If you want to go a courtin',

I'll tell you how to dress

One old coat and that'll be the best.

GRANDPA - That really happen?

MA - Some truth in every story.

TOP - dum, dum, dum, dum, du, du, dum,

and the girls all mad with their hair not combed.

MRS. SPLINTERS - C'mon Grandpa, let's you and me show these young folk

what dancin's made of.

C'mon Grandpa, let's go.

She manages with the help of others to

get him onto the floor.

TOPaside to Martin

Why's Missus Moss actin' so odd like?

Why did she look that way?

MARTIN - You notice it now?

TOP - Her eyes got a knowin' look in `em.

Like once that judge looked.

Mrs. Splinters and Grandpa are now dancing
awkwardly about the floor to the amusement of the rest of the party.

LAURIE - Lift your feet, Grandpa!

TOP - Maybe he needs another drink o' wine!

GRANDPA - We'll take a cup of this sweet wine

and dance around the room.

MRS. SPLINTERS - Whew! that's enough for us.

Lor help us… I guess I ain't so young.

They are assisted to their chairs. The other couples begin another dance.

MARTIN - dancing with Laurie

You dance real well.

LAURIE - Mother taught me.

Once, all her steps were like dancing.

MARTIN - Like yours are now?

LAURIE - Do they dance way off and end off dancing?

Isn't there a place where dancing never stops?

MARTIN - It always stops.

The dancing stops.

LAURIE - If there is such a place, I want to find it.

The other dancers have stopped and have gathered around Top who seems to be telling another story.

MARTIN - The world seems still tonight.

Martin takes her hand and they go to the porch. At the bottom of the steps he kisses her tenderly.

LAURIE - O Martin, I should say something.

She falls into his arms crying.

MARTIN - Quiet… quiet…

Tomorrow you'll be graduated,

and like your Ma says,

you won't be nervous any more.

Laurie… you know, Laurie…

I'm getting' tired of travellin' through,

my shoes are wearin' thin.

I'm getting' tired of wand'rin', wand'rin',

not caring where I've been.

I'd like a stay in a place of my own

and see a seedling grow.

I want to come to know special skies,

special rain and snow.

A man must take a handful of earth

and work it for his own.

a handful of earth and a handful of seed,

but how can he do it alone?

I'd like to have a wife in my arms,

I'd like to take her hand,

and holding tight, know it was strong

to lift our heads and sing our song,

and when the day's end came along

to walk out on the land,

to walk out on the land.

I want you, are you with me? Take my hand.

O Laurie are you ready for settlin' in with me?

Do you feel in love the way I do?

LAURIE - In love? In love?

Yes, yes, I do love you.

You came and made me feel in love.

I feel so many many things Martin.

Tomorrow after graduation perhaps I'll know.

MARTIN - Laurie, Laurie, I'll be goin' soon.

LAURIE - Don't talk of that, Martin.

Oh please, I don't want you to go.

Harvest is through so quickly.

MARTIN - I'll stop here till harvest's done,

if you love me then this is where I'll stay.

LAURIE - Martin, yes, I want you. I need you.

MARTIN - I love you. I'll stay.

LAURIE - I love you. I love you. I do.

I love you. I love you. I do.

MARTIN - The plains so green,

LAURIE - the tender land,

MARTIN - where we begin,

LAURIE - to understand.

MARTIN - We'll take our dreams,

LAURIE - we've dreamed apart,

MARTIN - and we will plant them in

each other's heart.

LAURIE - and plant them in each other's heart.

LAURIE - The fields of love,

MARTIN - the tender grain,

LAURIE - we'll gather in

MARTIN - from autumn rain.

LAURIE - We'll keep the tears

MARTIN - we've wept apart

LAURIE, MARTIN - and gather in each other's heart.

MARTIN - I love you.

LAURIE, MARTIN - I love you. I do.

I love you, I love you, I do.

I do.

They kiss.

Scene 4

Grandpa staggers onto the porch looking for Laurie. He sees Laurie and Martin separate quickly and realizes they have been kissing.

GRANDPA - Hey! Bums! No good dirty bums!

He makes a rush at Martin, but Laurie stands between them

LAURIE - Wait, Grandpa, wait!

The others, hearing the commotion,

come out of the house.

GRANDPA - Strangers. I should have known.

You can't trust strangers.

Bums! Dogs!

Again Grandpa tries to get at Martin,

but this time is held by the others.

MA - Laurie, Laurie! They're the men…

O Laurie, Jessie Kane!

TOP - What's that?

LAURIE - No it isn't true!

She runs to her mother, crying.


Jessie Kane? Why didn't you warn me?

to the boys

No good bums!

Again he tries to get at Martin but is restricted.

Dirty strangers!

Laurie you all right?

How could you hurt your grandpa?

MARTIN - We weren't doin' nothin' wrong!

TOP - Who is this Jessie Kane?

GRANDPA - Dirty strangers. Dirty bums.

How to wash your hands off my Laurie?

He begins sobbing and crumples to the ground.

MA - We know about Jessie Kane!
We know about the Gray girl!

You drifters just stir up a peaceful folk.

LAURIE - But Mother I love him!

MARTIN - Now, what have we done?

Do you call a kiss a crime?

TOP - to Martin

Let's scram, let's scram.

Whatever thing there is to blame will hang on us!

MA - No use, too late.

Here's Mister Splinters with the Sheriff now.

LAURIE - No… no…

Mr. Splinters enters alone.

MR. SPLINTERS - I hurried right back.

MA - Where's the Sheriff? Where's…

MR. SPLINTERS - Sheriff said those men

were caught in the next county this afternoon.

They's confessed to harmin' both those girls.

MA - No…

MR. SPLINTERS - We was just… over excited.

Dangerous thing, imagination can be.

GRANDPA - They're guilty all the same.

I won't have `em on my place.

Laurie, get inside!

Giving yourself to the first guy that comes along.

How could you do it, Laurie?

LAURIE - No one can stop the way I feel!

No one can ever tell me I can't love.

And Grandpa listen, listen. I love him.

MA — Laurie, you don't know what you say.

Let's go back to the party.

GRANDPA - There'll be no more party.

We're all disgraced.

LAURIE - Please, Grandpa, believe in me.

It's not wrong what I've done.

Please try to understand.

I'm not a child anymore.

I'm grown up.

GRANDPA - If this ever happens again.

I'll curse the day you were born.

MA - He don't mean it, Laurie.

LAURIE - What have you said?

I feel so sorry for him.

She runs into the house.

GRANDPA - Why did I say that? Why, Mother?

GUESTS - Goodnight, goodnight.

MA - I feel sick, I'm goin' to bed.

She turns and starts slowly up the steps.

GUESTS - Good night.

MR. SPLINTERS - Missus Moss, you all right?

MA - I'm all right, but I feel sick.

I'm goin' to bed.

GUESTS - Goodnight. Goodnight, goodnight.

GRANDPA - to the boys, completely sobered

When daybreak comes take yourselves

far away from here.

You may have done no real wrong

but I will keep my Laurie girl at home.

GUESTS - Goodnight. Goodnight, goodnight.


The guests all leave. Grandpa is left alone standing dazed, holding his head.



Scene 1

Martin, restless and unable to sleep, comes out of the shed. He walks uneasily about the yard, then over to the gate.

MARTIN - Laurie, Laurie…

Is there someone in there that's called Laurie, Laurie?

Is there someone in there that still loves me,

loves me?

I hope she is there, I hope she is there,

I hope she is there…

Laurie has come to the window and leans out.

LAURIE - Martin, Martin…

Is there someone out there that's called Martin, Martin?

Is there someone out there that still loves me,

loves me?

I hope he is there, I hope he is there…

They see each other. Laurie rushes out and they embrace.

Martin! Martin!

I must see you a moment.

What has happened? What can I do?

You mustn't leave me.

MARTIN - Speak soft, Laurie your Grandpa will hear.

LAURIE - You mustn't leave me.

MARTIN - I must. We leave at daybreak.

How can I tell you how much I feel

when daybreak comes so soon.

I have to leave then.

LAURIE - No, Martin. The time is goin' so fast.

We just met and now you leave me.

MARTIN - Try not to think about it.

LAURIE - Do you love me? Do you really love me?

Did you mean what you said, or did I dream it?

Did I just dream it all?

Did you mean it? Did you really mean it?

MARTIN - You know I meant it.

But where's the good of speaking of it now?

LAURIE - Say it, say it, say that you love me.

O please, I want to hear you say it.

MARTIN - Laurie, I love you.

But there's no use, no use in saying so.

We must forget everything.

LAURIE - No, no.

MARTIN - When daybreak comes,

I'll have to go away.

Stand still, stand still and let me look

at you once more.

Let me take this picture of you with me.

The house and the fields, you belong with them.

Your life is here, but I'll always keep the dream of you in my heart.

LAURIE - Then take me! Take me with you!

I can't stay here any more.

I want to go where you go.

Let me stay where you stay.

I belong out there where you are.

Let me be by your side.

MARTIN - Are you sure what you're saying?

Do you know what you mean?

LAURIE - Yes I'm sure. Take me with you.

I'm ready to go.

MARTIN - If you're sure then I'll take you away.

If you're sure that you're ready to open your heart

we'll go out in the world,

we'll go out, we'll go out in the world.

LAURIE - Yes I'm sure that I'm ready

to open my heart

and go out in the world,

and go out in the world.

They embrace.

Martin, Martin, I'll be a good wife.

MARTIN - I have nothing to give you.

LAURIE - I'll stay by your side.

MARTIN - Our life will be hard.

LAURIE - But it will be our own life.

MARTIN - I'll hold you close,

I'll take you and love you.

LAURIE, MARTIN - We'll go away and build

our life together.

Laurie leaves Martin's embrace

and goes towards the house.

LAURIE - At daybreak I'll be ready.

She enters the house.

Martin turns away and the old uneasiness comes over him again. He begins to walk restlessly.

MARTIN - Daybreak will come in such short time.

Suddenly I know that it will come.

Why should a sudden cold wind blow?

Why should it make me feel so low?

I've never known a house that's mine,

only a roof that's been the sky.

Now that I'm near to settlin' in,

why, why, do I only wonder why?

Oh Laurie, help me to be true to the plans we've made.

Oh Laurie, what's ahead for us? Why do I feel afraid?

Why should I doubt what I have done?

Why be afraid of a new day's sun?

Daybreak will come in such short time.

Why do I hope the hours pass slow?

Oh will I find that when I stayed, I meant to go?

Top has come out of the shed.

Laurie, I love you. I love you.

TOP - What you doin' sittin' here?

Don't you want to get some sleep

before we hit the road?

MARTIN - Laurie, Laurie.

TOP - What's the matter with you?

What's this about Laurie?

MARTIN - She's comin' with us Top.

TOP - Are you crazy? She can't come with us!

That Grandpa of hers would have us in jail `fore we was a mile off.

MARTIN - She's comin'. I've asked her.

She'll be ready at daybreak.

TOP - That's crazy!

Hoppin' the freight,

after it's late,

sleepin' in a railroad crate.

Is that how you see Laurie?

Livin' on the run,

burnin' in the sun,

wantin' food and havin' none!

Is that how you see Laurie?

Driftin' aroun'

town after town,

worried cause your luck is down!

Is that how you see Laurie?

Think, Martin, think

our kind's no good for a girl like her.

She don't fit with guys like us.

She belongs in a soft white dress

upon that graduation stand,

with a Mother and a Grandpa to make a fuss

when she gets that roll with the ribbon band.

And look at you, you're crazy!

Talkin' so big,

big when you talk

walkin' down an endless road.

Do what you must

just what you do.

Don't take on an extra load.

What have you got?

What can you give?

What will you eat?

Where will you live?

Is that how you see Laurie?

You're a daft bird Martin with only one pair of wings

one pair of wings that's got to fly south when it snows.

And north when it's spring,

got to fly when the wind blows

and when the world sings.

You can't change now, your ways is set.

You gotta go on so ya better forget.

You got to walk in the wind,

got to fly in the weather,

got to walk in the wind,

got to fly in the weather,

got to walk in the wind,

got to fly in the weather!

Top goes back to the shed and gets their bundles.

C'mon hurry boy, day's acomin'

C'mon we've got no time...

Take it from me kid, and try to forget.

Try to forget.

Hurry! It'll soon be day.

MARTIN - Laurie, Laurie, forgive me.

Top and Martin leave.

MARTIN - from the distance

forgive me…

Scene 2

Daylight is coming up as Laurie excitedly descends the steps. She carries a small satchel and is wide-eyed with expectancy.

LAURIE - The sun is coming up

as though I've never seen it rise before.

The day is bright and clear.

The door I've just come through

has opened on a new earth, a new land.

I knew that I would come to this new earth

once someone took my hand

and held it close and talked to me

of all the things that lie so quiet in my heart.

I'll greet today,

and when tomorrow goes

I'll watch the sun come up

and breathe a cleaner air

with grass a bit more green,

with skies a bit more fair.

She goes to the shed and knocks lightly on the door.

Martin, it's daybreak. Are you ready?

She knocks more loudly.

Martin? Martin! Martin!

Suddenly she throws the door open. She falls down hysterically weeping. Beth, who has come onto the porch in her nightgown, rushes to her.

BETH - Laurie, Laurie. Sister!

She tries to embrace Laurie, but is pushed away.

O Laurie, what's wrong? What have I done?


Laurie begins to control herself

and holds Beth close to her.

LAURIE - Sh! Beth. Can it end this way?

No, I must leave now!

BETH - O Sister, what is wrong?

Have you forgotten what day this is?

LAURIE - to herself

I must leave now.

BETH - You scare me, Laurie.

Ma has come onto the porch and come down the steps. She carries her apron.

MA - Laurie, Beth, what has happened?

BETH - rushing to her mother

They've gone, they've gone,

and Laurie says she's going too.

She runs onto the porch, crying.

MA - What? Is it true they've left?

Is this our Laurie?

LAURIE - Yes, Mother, they have left,

and I must also leave.

MA - What are you saying, Laurie?

It's graduation day!

LAURIE - I mean it, Mother. I am leaving too.

MA - All the things we've planned -

What do you mean? You promised me.

Believe I understand.

You may think you loved that boy,

but Laurie…

LAURIE - Perhaps I did love!

I don't leave for that alone,

maybe I don't leave for that at all.

I'm ready for leaving like this harvest

is ready to be gathered in.

I don't know where the road will lead,

just yesterday I didn't care,

my life was here, but now, I'm sure it's there.

I might have left in love—it makes no difference now.

Mother, Mother, even so, I'm ready for leaving; I'm ready to go.

MA - Don't leave us now, don't go.

Tomorrow you will laugh at what you do today.

The world turns and we forget our sadness

in the turning.

Don't leave us now, don't go.

Today is graduation day!

LAURIE - I know Mother, but try to see,

how changed this day must seem for me.

How changed I too have come to be.

Beth comes forward.

Goodbye, Beth. Sister, goodbye.

She kneels and kisses her.

MA - You are strange to me.

I cannot understand,

I cannot even recognize your face.

LAURIE - Goodbye, Mother and please ask Grandpa to forgive me that I go.

She kisses her and then picks up her satchel.

MA - I can ask no question, I can hear no answer.

Ma covers her face and weeps silently. Laurie is taking a final look at the house and farm.

LAURIE - Goodbye to all the other things that I have loved.

She exits slowly.

MA - All thinking is done, and all plans laid;

all dreams were made for graduation day.

What love and care we put into each thought,

each plan, each making,

all ended in a day.

Beth, having watched Laurie go, comes over to her mother and takes her hand as if to console her. Ma looks down at Beth and seems to see her as if for the first time.

But ends don't end

when we have thought them ended.

They seem to lend a brightness,

a strange brightness to days,

to graduation days still out of sight.

They seem to bless where we thought blessing ended,

to pray, where we thought prayers could not reach.

And in that time where we don't know

the coming and the going,

where even you and I are living…

This love and care we put into each thought, each plan, each making

is just beginning, beginning.

She embraces Beth, brushes her head with her hand, ties on her apron and goes slowly into the house. Beth watches her disappear. She goes over to the gate and looks down the road. She begins to dance as in the beginning.


The Tender Land

Cast Bios

Dawn Coon (Ma Moss), contralto, is a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky. Roles include Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus and Mrs. McLean in Carlisle Floyd's Susannah. She has also toured Italy with Opera Lucca's I Solisti de Lucca and was featured in concerts in Milan, Rome and Venice. In December 2000, Ms. Coon was a soloist in Handel's Messiah with the Lexington Philharmonic and recently completed a two-month educational tour with Kentucky Opera. Ms. Coon is a student of Dr. Stephen King and Dr. David Adams.

Eli Griggs, (Mr Jenks), baritone, is a native of New Bern, North Carolina. A Civil Engineering major at the University of Kentucky, Mr. Griggs is also pursuing a minor in Mathematics and Vocal Performance. In addition to his role in The Tender Land, Mr. Griggs has performed in several productions including La Bohème and Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors. For the past four years, he has also been a member of an award winning Spiritual Ensemble in Lexington, Kentucky. Mr. Griggs has recorded with the Backstreet Boys (on their Millenium CD) and Ce Ce Wynans.

Mary Hawkins, (Beth Moss), soprano, born in Bloomington, Indiana, is a senior at the University of Kentucky, currently studying voice with Dr. Noemi Lugo. She has won first place at the National Association of Teachers of Singing auditions and was recently seen as one of Mabel's sisters in UK Opera Theatre's production of The Pirates of Penzance. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arts Administration with a minor in Vocal Performance.

Andrea Jones (Laurie Moss), soprano, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, received her Bachelor Degree from Lincoln University and her Master of Music Degree from the University of Kentucky, where she studied under the tutelage of Everett McCorvey and Gail Robinson. Operatic roles include Fanny in La Cambiale di Matrimonio, Ninetta in La Finta Semplice, Despina in Così fan Tutte, Adele in Die Fledermaus, Sopranino/Amante in Il tabarro, Annie in Porgy and Bess and Zerlina in Don Giovanni, which she will sing in Italy in the summer of 2001. Awards include the Corbett Award, winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council District Auditions, First Place in the National Opera Association Competition and First Place in the Philadelphia Pro Arts Society Voice Competition. She was the recipient of the NOA Legacy Award, which included a full scholarship to the Banff Center of 20th Century Opera and Song program in Banff, Canada. Ms. Jones was also a finalist in the McCallister Awards where she received the Mathias Award. She has attended the Aspen Opera Theater Program, where she worked with composer Carlisle Floyd on a workshop version of Cold Sassy Tree, and under the baton of Maestro Julius Rudel in Puccini's Il Trittico. Other programs include Chautauqua Institute of Music, Opera of Central Kentucky and the International School of Performing arts in Pennsylvania. She was recently a soloist with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra in Handel's Messiah and the Fauré Requiem. She has sung at convocations held for renowned figures such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. Betty Shabazz, Al Gore and Roscoe Lee Brown. Ms. Jones also tours Spain and the US with the American Spiritual Ensemble, with whom she is a featured artist. Ms. Jones is currently studying opera at the University of Cincinnati in the Artist Diploma program.

Judson Perry, (Martin), tenor, a native of Johnson City, Tennessee, is completing his Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance under the tutelage of Dr. Stephen King. In the summer of 2000, Mr. Perry attended the Aspen Music Festival, where he covered the roles of Tinca in Il Tabarro and Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, and sang in an orchestra masterclass taught by the legendary Julius Rudel. He will return to the Aspen Music Festival in the summer of 2001. He has also appeared as Ernesto in Don Pasquale, Tamino in The Magic Flute, Frederick in The Pirates of Penzance, and Kaspar in Amahl and the Night Visitors. Mr. Perry has been tenor soloist in Handel's Messiah, DuBois' Seven Last Words of Christ, Mozart's Requiem, Coronation Mass and Vespers to the Confessor. In addition, Mr. Perry has sung tenor solos in Mendelssohn's Elijah and Haydn's Creation, and he has appeared as a soloist with the Johnson City Symphony.

Sherri Phelps, (Mrs. Splinters), mezzo-soprano, is a native of Morgantown, Kentucky. Ms. Phelps was recently seen in UK Opera Theatre's production of Kirke Mechem's Tartuffe as Madame Pernelle. She has also appeared as Marenka in The Bartered Bride, the title role in The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein, and Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro. She has performed the role of Myrtle in Still Life at the Aspen Opera center, and Hansel in Florida State University's production of Hansel and Gretel. Ms Phelps' concert appearances include Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, the Mozart Requiem, Vivaldi's Gloria, and Handel's Messiah. Her musical theatre repertory has included Anna in The King and I, Laurie in Oklahoma!, and Eliza in My Fair Lady. Ms. Phelps received her Bachelor of Music degree from Western Kentucky University, her Master of Music degree from the Julliard School, and is currently pursuing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Kentucky where she is a student of Gail Robinson.

Benjamin Smolder, (Grandpa Moss), bass-baritone, has performed in opera and oratorio in the United States and Europe. Operatic experience includes leading roles at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in Britten's Rape of Lucretia, Viaggio a Reims by Rossini, and Savitri by Holst. His credits also include leads in Alcina by Handel and The Love of Three Oranges by Prokofiev with the Opera Theatre of Lucca, Italy. Mr. Smolder is equally at home in Oratorio and has been a featured soloist with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, CCM Philharmonia, Lexington Philharmonic, and the West Virginia Symphony. His Bach interpretation has been called “refined and highly musical” by the Cincinnati Enquirer. Mr. Smolder has been a national finalist in the Yamaha Wurlitzer Competition, a winner of the Greenbriar Music Festival Competition, and a young artist at the Spoleto Festival. Future engagements include a debut with Des Moines Metro Opera. He is also a soloist with the American Spiritual Ensemble, which tours throughout the United States and Europe. Mr. Smolder is currently pursuing a Doctorate degree in Music Performance from Cincinnati Conservatory where he is a teaching assistant.

Charis Strange, (Mrs. Jenks), soprano, is pursuing her Master of Music Degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Kentucky under the tutelage of Gail Robinson. Ms. Strange has appeared in many productions including La Bohème, Die Fledermaus, and Susannah. She recently performed the role of Norina in Lexington Opera Society's Outreach touring production of Don Pasquale. She has sung the role of Kate in Pirates of Penzance and has been a featured soloist for several years in It's a Grand Night for Singing! She has also performed roles on several scenes programs including Laurie in The Tender Land, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, and the title role in Lakmé. In the summer of 2000, Ms. Strange attended the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria.

Michael Turay, (Top), baritone, is a native of Milwaukee, WI. In UK Opera Theatre's 2000-2001 Season, Mr. Turay performed the roles of Damis in Kirke Mechem's Tartuffe and the Notary in Don Pasquale. In addition, he toured with Lexington Opera's Outreach Program in the role of Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale. In the summer of 2000, he appeared as Stephen Foster in Stephen Foster-The Musical in Bardstown, KY. Other roles include Schaunard in La Bohème, The Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance and The Wazir of Police in Kismet. In the summer of 2001, Mr. Turay will perform with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis in both La Bohème and The Grand Duchess. He is currently studying voice with Dr. Everett McCorvey while pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Kentucky.

Shederick Whipple, (Mr. Splinters), tenor, is pursuing a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Kentucky and studies with Dr. Everett McCorvey. Originally from Rome, Georgia, Mr. Whipple attended Mercer University in Macon where he graduated cum laude with a BS in Biology, and a BA in Music with a minor in Chemistry. A well-rounded student, Mr. Whipple is a member of the Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society and Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society. He has received such honors as first place in the Georgia National Association of Teacher's of Singing Competition. Other awards are the Excellence in Performance Award presented by the Music faculty of Mercer and regional finalist in the Kentucky-Tennessee Regional NATS competition in 2000. Mr. Whipple has sung the roles of Rinnuccio in Gianni Schicchi and Edwin in Trial by Jury. He has appeared as a soloist in Dubois' Seven Last Words of Christ, Handel's Messiah, Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass, Bizet's Te Deum, Mozart's Requiem, Bach's Christ lag in Todesbanden and Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ and Bond's Ballad of the Brown King.

Everett McCorvey, Producer, holds the rank of Professor of Voice and Director of Opera at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. A native of Montgomery, Alabama, he received his degrees from the University of Alabama, including a Doctorate of Musical Arts. He has served as guest Master Clinician at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis in their Artist-In-Training Program and serves on the faculty of the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria during the summers. Mr. McCorvey is founder and Music Director of the American Spritiual Ensemble, a group of 16 professional singers performing spirituals and other compositions of African-American composers. He has performed in cities and theaters around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Kennedy Center, Aspen Music Festival, and the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, among many others.

Kirk Trevor, Conductor, was born and educated in England. He trained at London's Guildhall School of Music where he graduated cum laude in cello performance and conducting. He was a conducting student of the late Sir Adrian Boult and Vilem Tausky. He is the music director of the Knoxville Symphony and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and has served as associate conductor of the Charlotte Symhony and the Exxon Arts Endowment Conductor with the Dallas Symphony. In 1990, Trevor was recognized as one of America's outstanding young conductors, winning the American Symphony Orchestra League's Leonard Bernstein Conducting Competition. He is principal conductor of the Martinu Philharmonic in Ziln and has recorded for the Koch, Albany, Fatra, Crystal and Carlton Classics record labels with this orchestra. As a guest conductor, Trevor has appeared with more than 40 orchestras in 12 countries.

Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, founded in 1946 is located in the city of Ziln, Czech Republic. The orchestra, in addition to performing regularly in other Czech musical centers, has toured throughout Europe. The orchestra is comnitted to preserving the music of the famous Czechoslovakian composer by the same name and to composers representing all cultures.

Recording Production Personnel

Producer:Everett McCorvey

Vocal Coach: Cliff Jackson

Recording Producer:Igor Tausinger

Sound Engineer: Ales Dvorak

Technical Collaboration:Jan Zahradnik

Editing and Post Production: GALAXIA FILM Prague

Recorded at the concert hall of the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, Zlin, Czech Republic

The Tender Landis published by

Cover Photogrraph: Field of Wheat Surrounding House ©Joel W. Rogers/CORBIS

Cover Design: Bates Miyamoto Design


Charles T. Wethington, Jr., President, University of Kentucky

Elisabeth Zinser, Chancellor, University of Kentucky

Robert Shay, Dean, College of Fine Arts University of Kentucky

Harry Clarke, Director, University of Kentucky School of Music

University of Kentucky School of Music Faculty and Staff, UKVoice Faculty:Lori Hetzel, Jefferson Johnson, Cliff Jackson, Stephen King, Noemi Lugo, Gail Robinson, Rebecca Russell

Members of the Lexington Opera Society, Inc.

Marek Obdrzalek, General Manager, Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra

A special "thank-you" to all of the supporters of the UK Opera Program, who by their generous contributions, made this recording project possible.

Aaron Copland

The Tender Land

The University of Kentucky Opera Theatre

Everett McCorvey, Artistic Director

Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra • Kirk Trevor, Conductor

Disc One

1 Prelude, Act 1 [1:39]

2 Ma Moss: Two little bits of metal…[3:04]

3 Beth:The package from Chicago…[5:18]

4 Beth: Did you ever have a dress…[3:20]

5 Scene 3, Introduction [5:18]

6 Laurie: Laurie's Song…[3:20]

7 Top:Do you suppose they're makin' food…[4:11]

8 Martin:We've been north…[2:13]

9 Grandpa Moss:Halloo halloo…[1:29]

10 Grandpa Moss:I need a couple of men…[5:58]

11 The Promise of Living…[4:56]

Total Time = 41:04

Disc Two

1 Act 2, Scene 1 [1:14]

2 Grandpa Moss: Try makin' peace…[1:57]

3 Laurie:Thank you. Thank you all…[3:08]

4 Ma: We've been at this table long enough…[:39]

5 All:Stomp your foot upon the floor… [5:17]

6 Martin: O there you are, Missus Moss…[4:48]

7 Martin:The world seems still tonight.…[:54]

8 Martin:Laurie…you know,…[3:08]

9 Laurie:In love?in love?…[4:20]

10 Grandpa Moss:Hey! Bums!…[1:16]

11 Mr. Splinters:I hurried right back.…[3:01]

12 Guests:Goodnight, goodnight.…[2:33]

13 Introduction, Act 3[1:56]

14 Martin:Laurie, Laurie…[7:11]

15 Martin:Daybreak will come…[2:23]

16 Martin:Laurie, I love you, I love you.…[1:15]

17 Top:That's carzy!…[4:38]

18 Laurie:The sun is coming up…[2:23]

19 Laurie:Martin, it's daybreak…[1:11]

20 Laurie:No, I must leave now!…[1:22]

21 Laurie:Perhaps I did love!…[3:15]

22 Ma:All thinking's done…[4:36]

Total Time = 62:38


Laurie Moss: Andrea Jones  Ma Moss: Dawn Coon

Beth Moss: Mary Hawkins Grandpa Moss: Benjamin Smolder

Martin:Judson Perry Top: Michael Turay

Mr. Splinters:Shederick Whipple Mrs. Splinters:Sherri K. Phelps

Mr. Jenks: Eli Griggs  Mrs. Jenks:Charis Strange

Party Guests:Stacia Brock, Julia Gilreath, Lindsay Hathaway,

Margaret Anne Shelton, Tara Anderson