POEMS OF MARGARET PROCTOR WOOD
Notes from Premier of Piano/Soprano Version
MARGARET PROCTOR WOOD was born in Danvers, Massachusetts on October 12, 1881. She lived almost all her years at the Proctor Farm or "the Farm" where she died May 26, 1971. The old farmhouse with eleven fireplaces, wide pine boards and beams, inside shutters, ells, cellar kitchen and attic garret has not structurally changed since 1812. Margaret's great grandfather, Daniel Proctor, bought the farm in that year with "pasture, wood lot, meadow and salt marsh". Nathaniel Hawthorne looked down upon this scene from nearby Folly Hill. He wrote about it in his American Notes, October 14, 1837. Hawthorne wondered about the people who lived in the farm houses and worked in the fields and orchards below.
Margaret Proctor Wood wondered too about the older generations -- and the younger -- who lived in her house. She blended love and loyalty with nature and history so that "the Farm" became a comforting, romantic place to live and to observe the world near and far. For example, (and Margaret liked to tell this) when Arthur Miller's The Crucible was on Broadway, she was showing some school children inside the house. She told them about John Proctor, the leading character in the play, who was the stalwart farmer caught in the witchcraft hysteria. She explained that John Proctor was her grandfather several generations back, and that he was arrested after he had walked into court to protest the imprisonment of his wife as a witch. "He was hanged right here in Salem, on Gallows Hill, in 1692, Margaret said. "Gee, I'll bet that made you mad," said one of her little friends.
Margaret graduated from Holten High School, Wheaton College (then Wheaton Seminary) and Brown University. She taught French for 50 years, 37 of them in Holten High. It was in this role of school teacher that Margaret Wood was known to thousands of students, including second generation students from the same Danvers families.
Less well known is the lovely poetry Margaret started writing when she was a girl and continued into her late eighties. Her moods and adjustments, her joys, her friends, family, farm and her God were revealed in verse. In 1959 Margaret printed privately Rhymes of a Lifetime, and in 1964 More Rhymes of a Lifetime. Her family also published A Margaret Proctor Wood Sampler for Christmas 1971 which contained many poems from the other two collections.*
*The text describing the life of Margaret Proctor Wood was taken directly from A Margaret Proctor Wood Sampler, Christmas 1971.
RICHARD J. RENDLEMAN, JR. is also a direct descendant of John Proctor. His grandfather, Edward Edson Proctor, and Margaret Proctor Wood were first cousins. Rendleman has been a long-time student of Robert Ward who won the Pulitzer Prize for his opera, The Crucible, based on Arthur Miller's play. Ward has also written a ballet based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. Although the connection between Ward, Rendleman, the Proctor family and Hawthorne appears to be purely coincidental, perhaps the spirit of God, home and family, of which Margaret Wood has so skillfully written, has brought them all together.
The composer dedicates this work to the spirit of Margaret Proctor Wood as expressed in her poetry, to the memory of his grandfather, Edward Edson Proctor, to the honor of his mother, Patricia Proctor Rendleman, to Kay Lowe, soprano, who commissioned this work, and to Scott Tilley, pianist, who accompanied Ms. Lowe on the initial recording.
The piano/soprano version of Poems of Margaret Proctor Wood was premiered on January 17, 1995 by Kay Lowe, soprano, and Janis Dupree, piano, in a concert sponsored by the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild. In the following year Poems was performed by the same artists in a dramatic production, directed and produced by Penelope Bridgers and sponsored by the Triangle Opera Theater. Prior to the premiere, a digital recording was produced by the composer with performing artists Kay Lowe, soprano and Scott Tilley, piano.
The orchestral version of Poems of Margaret Proctor Wood, composed and recorded in spring 2000, has not been performed.