The Wishing Tree: Choral Music of Robert Maggio

A combination of exciting live and studio recordings of Robert Maggio’s choral works by the Bucks County Choral Society, West Chester University Concert Choir and Chamber Singers of Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges.

Aristotle was commissioned and first performed in 1999, by the Ithaca College Choir. Billy Collins’ text is often funny, sometimes poignant, and in certain moments sharply haunting. The Irish poet Seamus Heaney wrote his poetic vision, The Wishing Tree, after the death of his mother. The imagery of envisioning his mother as a wishing tree lends itself naturally to a musical setting. The work was commissioned in 1999 by Donald Nally and the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia. The music evokes both the serenity of the dream-state and the ecstasy of the vision itself. Jacklight was commissioned by the West Chester University Concert Choir in 1997. The title of Louise Erdrich’s poem refers to a torch or a light used to attract fish or game at night, holding them in thrall so they might be more easily killed. Rachel and Her Children – Small Hands, Relinquish All was commissioned by the Bucks County Choral Society for its 30th anniversary in 2002. Inspired by the relationship of sacred and secular texts in The Wishing Tree, the libretto combines the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay with David Rosenberg’s poetic transformation of verses from the book of Jeremiah, and the Psalms. Rachel’s lament for her children, found in the account of the slaughter of the innocents in the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew, here provides the anchor for reflection on mortality and renewal, hope and fear from the contrasting perspectives of adults and children.

Compositions on this Album


The Wishing Tree


Rachel and Her Children – Small Hands Relinquish All


Maggio shows himself both deeply respectful of the choral tradition and determined to put his own stamp on it.


I’ll take Robert Maggio’s tasteful choral music over William McClelland’s (reviewed last issue) any day. Again, it’s in the American choral music tradition of Randall Thomson and Daniel Pinkham—a national blend of neoclassical and neoromantic strains. Maggio is quite the craftsman, with the traditional elements of this style: contrapuntal imitation, homophonic quartal harmonies, and tonal chords in weird combinations all contribute to a smooth, luxurious, sometimes mysterious, flow. Rachel and her Children, a mini-oratorio accompanied by a small wind ensemble, sets seven poems by mid-century writer Edna St. Vincent Millay with an amalgam of musical styles woven together in an engaging unself-conscious way. Die-hard new music enthusiasts will find Maggio’s music too conservative; recommended to choral music collectors only.

American Record Guide