The Vocal Œuvre of Robert Helps

Two Songs (1950) [for soprano and piano]

These youthful songs are bursting with sap, threateningly volcanic like the “young” island described in Herman Melville's novel Mardi, a rarely-read work from which Helps gleaned a duo of strange and evocative texts. The language of the poems is incantatory, barely in English for today's ears (“Not climbing a moldering arch / But upheld by the firgreen larch...”)

The twenty-two year-old composer entwines them in richly proliferating counterpoint. What further to say about these lovely songs: they are memorable. The Monument webmaster attended a lunch where fellow-composer Earl Kim sang to an astonished Helps the opening bars of the first song from memory — FORTY years after the premiere (and only public performance of the work)!

Tropical hymn to youth and spring - from first Melville song (manuscript bars 21-23)

View the manuscript score scanned by
Digital Commons @ University of South Florida