III: Jehanne de Lorraine
for mezzo or soprano & piano (1986)
American Composers Alliance, Arsis Press, & Owl CD, 25 minutes
most powerful work I know by a woman on a feminist theme" (Washington
extraordinary work would be a wonderful second half for any
vocal recital." (The NATS Journal)
produces powerful and disturbing imagery in Herstory III." (Boston
"Herstory III is imaginative and descriptive...a tour-de-force for Mabry." (Fanfare)
2) (Review 3) (Article, "Composing
Watch a performance of Herstory III
|Jehanne, la bonne Lorraine
|I have labored sore
| I am a soldier
|Holy Cat Blues
|God be in my head
Herstory III is a staged monodrama on
the life of Joan of Arc. The music was commissioned by
Austin Peay State University in Tennessee for premiere by mezzo-soprano
Sharon Mabry in 1986. It has also been performed at the
Women's Music Festival in Alaska, sung by soprano Karol
Bennett during a Russian-American composer exchange,
performed in Vienna and Poland by soprano Kristin Nordeval, broadcast on various radio stations, published by Arsis Press,
and recorded on
The piece is not intended as
a concert piece but rather as a dramatic performance with lighting
and costume. Opening in darkness with the whispered words
of Francois Villon, the piece continues with twelve sections
ranging from spoken dialogue to an extended dramatic scene based
on historical and poetic materials compiled by the composer. There
are set pieces, combinations of speech and music, some special
effects (gong, finger cymbals, woodblock and use of mallets or
fingers directly on the piano strings) and a return to the spare
simplicity of the beginning in the concluding prayer.
score sample & texts below.
order the score: American Composers Alliance
order the recording: www.amazon.com
Kristin Nordeval, soprano
"Performing Herstory III was one of the great satisfactions of my solo work"
Sharon Mabry, mezzo |
Karol Bennett, soprano
HERSTORY III: JEHANNE
Et Jehanne la bonne Lorraine And
Jehanne, the good Lorrainian
a Rouan; Whom
the English burned at Rouen
Ou est-elle, ou, Vierge souvraine? Where
is she, where, sovereign Virgin?
Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan? But
where are the snows of yesteryear?
Villon (ca. 1431-1463)
I have labored sore and suffered
And now I rest
and draw my breath;
But I shall come
and call right soon
Heaven and earth
and hell to doom;
And then shall
know both devil and man
What I was and
what I am.
They call me Jenny in Lorraine.
In France I am Joan. The soldiers call me The Maid.
When I was thirteen I saw a
most strange thing, for I saw a white shadow come slowly gliding
along the grass,
and the whiteness of the shadow was not like any
other whiteness that we
know, except it be the whiteness
of the lightnings. My breath grew faint with the terror
and the awe.
And with the shadow came speech,
several saints, and they spoke to me. (They are very dear
to me--my voices.)
And the voices told me that
I, Joan, must go away, and that I must come to France and that
my father must
know nothing of my leaving, that I should find soldiers
and that I should lift the
siege on the city of Orléans,
and that I should lead the Dauphin to crown him King of
in the city of Reims and
that I should drive the English from French soil.
I was a child and I was afraid. But
St. Michael told me to come to the aid of the king. And
told me the pity
that was in the kingdom of France.
Twain, Recollections of Joan of Arc(1896)
Look on thy country, look
on fertile France,
And see the cities
and the towns defac'd
By wasting ruin
of the cruel foe!
As looks the mother
on her lovely babe
When death doth
close his tender dying eyes,
See, see the pining
malady of France.
Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part I
La France nous appelle, France is
ou sachons périr; Let
us vanquish or let us perish;
doit vivre pour elle, A
Frenchman must live for her,
Pour elle un Français
doit mourir. For
her a Frenchman must die.
I am a soldier.
I will never take a husband.
I do not want to be thought
of as a woman.
I will not dress
as a woman.
I do not care
for the things women care for.
They dream of lovers and money.
I dream of leading a charge,
and of placing the big guns.
I am not a daredevil: I
am a servant of God.
My sword is sacred and I may
not strike a blow with it.
My heart is full of courage,
not of anger.
Bernard Shaw, St. Joan
by permission of Samuel French Inc.
Gentle little Dauphin--Come,
come from behind:
I know thee well,
though never seen before.
I have a message
to thee from God.
And thou must
listen to it, though thy heart break with the terror
I am sent to drive the English
away from Orléans and from France
and to crown thee
king in the cathedral of Reims.
One thousand like me can stop
Ten like me can stop them
with God on our side.
Ask me what questions thou
And I will answer unpremeditated.
My courage try by combat if
And thou shalt
find that I exceed my sex.
Now lift up thy head, give
me men-at-arms, and let me get about my work.
You wish to have me examined
first by theologians at Poitiers?
I, who am come
to be the English scourge?
Oh very well. (to audience)
They would know if my voices
are God's or Satan's.
I willingly tell them anything,
not all, that I know. But it is most tiresome. One
asked many nagging
questions such as, "Did my voices speak good French?" Mon
answered the sour little man
speaking in his bastard Limousin tongue, "As to that, I believe
cannot say. Still it
was an improvement on yours."
Then they asked how St. Michael
looked when he appeared to me. I said I saw no crown
and remember nothing
of his clothes. Pressed to say if he was naked,
I retorted, "Do you
think God cannot afford to
These wearisome questions! And
while the clerics ponder, Orléans starves and the English
VI, Part I
of Joan of Arc
The rats were devouring the
house, but instead of examining the cat's teeth and the cat's
they only concerned themselves to find out if it was a
holy cat, a pious cat, a moral cat...
of Joan of Arc
N'appercevez-vous, gent avugle, Do
you not see God's hand in this,
Que Dieu a icy
la main mise? you
Et qui ne le voit est bien
who does not is right dumb.
Car comment seroit en tel
how else could The Maid
Ceste Pucelle ca tramise Fell
all of you sent against us?
Qui tous mors vous fait jus
force does not suffice!
--Ne force n'avez qui souffise! Would
you fight against God?
Voulez-vous contre Dieu combatre?
--Christine de Pisan, Ditié de
Sound, sound the alarm! we
will rush on them.
Now for the honour
of the forlorn French!
VI, Part I
Hee! Quel honneur au
de Pisan, Ditié de Jehanne d'Arc(1429)
Ah, faith, we had many
victories. In fourteen-hundred-and-twenty-nine the sun
begin to shine
again, first with Orléans free and then with
town after town swearing allegiance
to our newly crowned King
Charles, admittedly shy of battle and still very young (almost
young as I), but growing in
wisdom and faith.
And following these triumphs,
I had every intention to go further. By my martin I would
see Paris closer
than I have seen it!
But it was not to be. The
English were enraged and desperate to put a stop to our renewed
in Easter week, being upon the moat at Melun, it
was told me by the voices of
St. Catherine and St. Margaret
that I should be taken prisoner before St. John's Day, that so
was meant to be. And
so it was.
Soon after the treacherous
Burgundians seized me, I heard they had sold me to the English.
When I heard the
English were coming for me, I was very wroth and
leapt from the tower of
my prison at Beaurevoir, commending
myself to God. I was only injured in that leap to
freedom, but I would rather
have died than fall into English hands.
For I knew the English would
put me to death. They thought after my death to win all
But were they
a hundred thousand more, they would not prevail.
Thus, I was taken.
And thus, the Inquisition
Five long months it lasted. I
ask my voices if I shall be burnt and they answer,
"Trust in the
Near the end, my resolve weakened. (to
the court) I cannot read nor write, but if you advise
me to sign this
confession, I will do so. (aside, bitterly) I
would rather sign than be burnt.
With the eye of the heart
I see my wrongs.
I forswear the carrying of
I forswear the dress of a
I forswear the shorn hair of
I forswear the
pretense of apparitions and revelations.
I have erred from
I renounce my
crimes and errors
And I submit myself
to the judgment of the Church.
My voices! My voices
They say I did
a great injury in confessing.
All that I said,
I revoke, all that I said that Thursday.
I did it only for fear of
Alas! Do they treat me
thus cruelly that this body, clean and whole
must be this day consumed and reduced to ashes.
on documents from the trial in Régine Pernoud's Joan
with the permission of Stein and Day Publishers.
God be in my head,
in my understanding;
God be in my eyes,
in my looking;
God be in my mouth,
in my speaking;
God be in my heart,
in my thinking;
God be at my end,
at my departing.