Lukas Foss's The Prairie (1942): Building Community through Music

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Lukas Foss's The Prairie, a seven-movement cantata for SATB soloists, mixed chorus, and orchestra, is a well-crafted and audience-friendly setting of the poem of the same name by Carl Sandburg. Acclaimed at its 1944 premiere, The Prairie has not enjoyed a robust performance history due in large part to numerous inconsistencies between the score and parts which render the work challenging to perform. Heretofore, each conductor has individually located these inconsistencies and made the necessary adjustments for performances. In this document, resources have been assembled which identify and correct many of the inconsistencies, thus facilitating more performances in the future.

The Prairie is an ideal vehicle for a project-based chorus, which is itself an opportunity to create a new community. A correlation may exist between "community" and "vulnerability;" that is, when a choral singer feels comfortably connected to fellow singers, he or she may be more likely to open up to new ways of making sounds for the ultimate service of the music. Results are inconclusive, but the project points to a successful strategy for creating an affirming new community and to positive musical and nonmusical results of intentional community-building.