WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- As an active and talented orchestral conductor, Robert Bode has stood on the renowned concert stages of the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall and Constitution Hall.
The Whitman College professor of music has also performed in concert halls in such disparate locales as the Czech Republic, Russia, China and Mongolia.
This weekend, however, Bode will slip into the background as a concert in New York City premieres songs based on award-winning selections of his light-hearted poetry. Bode, head of choral / vocal studies at Whitman, will be in the audience for the performance, set for 4 p.m. this Sunday, May 18, at the Greenwich House Music School.
One of Bode's poems, titled "A Poet to His Muse," won first prize this year in the Washington Poets Association's annual poetry contest. Bode attended the association's annual conference, held May 3 in Tacoma, Wash., to accept the Charlie Proctor Award for humorous poetry. That category attracted about 350 entries from around the state.
It marked the second consecutive year Bode has taken the top prize for humorous poetry. A year ago, his winning selection was a selection titled "Food for Love." Bode has been writing poetry for the past decade, although last year was the first time he entered a contest.
John David Earnest, a composer-in-residence and visiting lecturer in music at Whitman, has set several of Bode's poems to songs for mezzo-soprano and piano. Noelle Woods, a professional singer and former voice instructor at Whitman, will sing at Sunday's concert. Lee Thompson, professor of music at Whitman, will provide the piano accompaniment.
Woods, now a Pennsylvania resident, will begin the concert by singing from "From the Diary of Virginia Wolfe," an extended work by Dominick Argento. Following intermission, the program shifts to three sets of songs composed by Earnest, all based on Bode's poetry.
The third set, titled "Songs of Sophistication," include Bode's two prize-winning poems. Because it is more "silly," Bode says, his favorite is "Food for Love," whose name Earnest has changed to "Cuisine d'amour." The third selection in the set is "The Poet's Choice."
The first set of songs, titled "Crickets and Commas: Five Haiku," includes five selections, including "Tumbleweed" and "Crickets." The second set, under the heading "In Tomorrow's Fields," begins with "Invocation" and ends with "Hymn."
Sunday's concert isn't the first time Bode and Earnest have collaborated on a musical project. In 1990, Bode made his Carnegie Hall debut, conducting the Walla Walla Symphony Chorale in the New York premiere of "The Waking," written by Earnest.