The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Program sets Robert Frost, E.E. Cummings poetry to music

The names E.E. Cummings and Robert Frost bring to mind some of the most moving, influential poetry bestowed upon American literature. But Mississippi State University’s music department and William L. Giles Distinguished Professor Emerita of English collaborate Tuesday to showcase the poems of Cummings and Frost in a new, musical light.

On Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., the poetry will spring to life through the use of both word and song as the MSU Chamber Choir and soloists put on their annual music concert in the Giles Architecture Building’s Harrison Auditorium. 

Karen Murphy, music department instructor and accompanist, said she founded the poetry-in-song event nearly a decade ago, and she hopes the concert’s marriage of the two mediums will illuminate both word and song for students.

“This is something that I started seven years ago. This year Dr. Hargrove is the humanities’ scholar, and she will talk about the lives’ of the poets as well as offer commentary on the poems,” she said. “You can let your imagination go and fall in love with the poetry and the music. I always hope that students enjoy.”

Nancy Hargrove, this year’s guest speaker and MSU English professor emerita, will speak about the poets and offer commentary on the songs that accompany each poem.

Hargrove said this year is the first time the concert will commemorate two different poets, though she believes they found two men of letters whose works pair well.

“Some of the poets we’ve presented in the past have been Emily Dickinson, T.S. Elliot and Langston Hughes. This is the first time that we’re going to showcase two poets,” she said. “We wanted to find poets that were similar, yet different, and I believe we have accomplished that with Frost and Cummings.”

The program will feature a total of 16 songs set to Cummings’s and Frost’s poetry, beginning with 10 songs set to Cummings’s work.

 Hargrove said the diversity of the show makes the event an experience that can engage attendees of all interests and disciplines.

“People that come to the show love it because you don’t have to be a musician to enjoy the poetry,” she said. “I’m married to a musician, and, coming from a background in English, I think it’s a wonderful collaboration between music and literature.”

Jordan Dobbins, senior music education major, performed pieces in last year’s concert with the MSU choir, and she will sing in the choir and perform a solo piece this year.

Dobbins said the event not only shows students interdisciplinary collaboration, but reveals the way the poets and composers intersected, as the poets’ works often inspired the compositions of musicians.

“This concert is a beautiful collaboration between the English and music department,” she said. “As a music major, I truly enjoy hearing about the life and accomplishments of the poets that were such an inspiration to so many composers that they felt led to incorporate this poetry into their music. For students, it builds a bridge between what they hear and what the poet and composer intended them to hear.”

Amy Arinder, sophomore music education major, is in the MSU chamber choir, which will present “I Carry Your Heart With Me,” poetry by E.E. Cummings and “Choose Something like a Star,” poetry by Robert Frost. 

Arinder said the concert illustrates the poetry’s meaning even as it sets the works to song, as the concert’s primary purpose is to display the beauty of Cummings’s and Frost’s words.

“This concert will be beneficial to all in attendance because the focus of the concert is on the meaning of the text,” she said. “Many times, we overlook the meaning of the words we sing. We focus on how pretty the song sounds, but when we understand the text, the song takes on a deeper meaning.” 

“The Poetry of E.E. Cummings and Robert Frost in Song” concert will be followed by a reception in the Harrison Auditorium’s lobby.

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Program sets Robert Frost, E.E. Cummings poetry to music