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 for concerts and multimedia living in Petoskey, MI. He provides 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 renowned ensembles such as Apollo Chamber Players, the University of Cambridge Concert Band, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Tony’s music has been played across the globe.

He actively brings new music to his Northern Michigan home. Northern Symphonic Winds (NSW) of Charlevoix, MI, commissioned Tony to write a new piece for the ensemble, titled, On the Threshold of Spring, which premiered in May 2019. He is currently NSW’s composer-in-residence. Since 2018, he has worked closely with the Bay View Music Festival in Petoskey, with performances, premieres, and presentations for the summer students. In December 2019, he worked with The Accidentals, a local folk band, orchestrating their music for performance with the Traverse Symphony Orchestra.

Continually branching out into various styles, many of his projects involve sacred music: the full, orchestral score for Saint Luke Productions’ latest drama, “Tolton: From Slave to Priest,” their upcoming film, “Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy,” an Ave Maria for SATB Choir and Organ, as well as a Concert Band piece commissioned by Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem PA, “Rejoice in the Holy Spirit,” which premiered in September 2018.

All the while, Tony lives the life of a video game composer, constructing sonic spaces and emotionally-driven tracks to enliven each game’s world. His most recent, completed soundtracks are that for Kharon’s Crypt and Rot:Purge. Currently, he is working on the music for Call of Saregnar, a 90’s-inspired low-poly 3D RPG. Bridging the gap between “game music” and “contemporary classical music,” he continually strives to have his soundtracks performed as a means to draw in new audiences to the world of classical music. One example is his Suite from Kharon’s Crypt, an orchestral medley of tracks from the Kharon’s Crypt soundtrack.

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