Prairie Dawn


for unaccompanied mezzo-soprano (2017)




Megan Ihnen, mezzo-soprano
June 2017, Fossil Gorge, Iowa


Willa Cather : "Prairie Dawn"

Program Notes

Willa Cather’s Prairie Dawn caught me by surprise the more I read it. Interpreting it first as simply a painted picture of a Nebraska sunrise, etchings of nostalgia burst forth as I began composing the music. Perhaps my mind comprehended words like “pungent,” “stirring,” or “lance” as sharp or potent. Angry, even. I felt shades of frustrated homesickness rooted in the otherwise straightforward text.

When reminiscing old memories of home, my mind tends to repeat or “replay” specific moments within a single image. With nostalgia, there’s often a sense of pain involved. My mind becomes focused on the fact that I can’t relive good memories; gone forever and unable to return. It’s through this sensation upon reading Cather’s text as to why I included whispers, sprechstimme, and even prolonged moments of silence. Recalling a beautiful memory can be both a moment of joy and sorrow. A juxtaposition of pleasure and frustration.

Tony Manfredonia

Tony is a composer and orchestrator living in Petoskey, MI, providing a multi-layered and sensory experience through expressive, colorful orchestration and warm melodies. He adds new perspectives to stories, environments, and everything in between through massive orchestral productions, as well as intimate atmospheres.

With performances and readings from chamber ensembles and orchestras, such as Apollo Chamber Players and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Tony's music has been played across the nation and has recently become published with MusicSpoke. Most recently, the Straits Area Band commissioned him to compose a work for the Mackinac Arts Council, celebrating Henry David Thoreau's bicentennial. Additionally, growing up alongside video games, he lives the life of a video game composer, creating sonic spaces and emotionally-driven tracks to enliven each game's world.

Born and raised near Philadelphia, PA, Tony graduated from Temple University with a degree in Music Composition. During his time in college, he had the blessing of meeting Maria - a young equestrian from Northern Michigan - via his blog dedicated to mental health awareness. Ever since mental health awareness was the spark for their marriage, he continually advocates those who suffer from mental illness. Through music, he expresses the inexpressible for those who don’t have a voice.

Notable works currently in progress are a new opera for OperaRox Productions, as well as the soundtrack to The Wayward Isles.

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