Under the Greenwood Tree

Cover photography by Robert Groos.

“Under the greenwood tree, who loves to lie with me, and tune his merry note unto the sweet bird’s throat — come hither, come hither, come hither! Here shall he see no enemy but winter, and rough weather.”
from As You Like It, by William Shakespeare

For any soul who seeks shelter from the storm,
I offer this music humbly and with gratitude.


Under the Greenwood Tree may be purchased here.

Tracks on Under the Greenwood Tree:

Wings on the Breeze

This was on my very first recording, which was only released as a cassette (!). On that cassette this music had a much more clunky title, and the very most difficult part of re-recording it was figuring out what its real title might be! It’s unusual for me to have all the music and not the title; generally, if I don’t know the title of a piece, then I’m not finished composing it. But in this case, I knew I had the music and I had the title too; I just never liked the title! So we try again. I think this title conveys the feeling of the song much more fully. 


I’ve been playing the middle and lower parts of this music for years and always thinking the piece needed something more. Every now and then I’d play a few descant notes, but they never jelled and I would return to playing the piece without them. 

Just before we recorded the CD, the famous Phyllis insisted that Sunlit needed a descant; in fact, she composed her own descant, sang it to my piano part, and sent me the recording. 

Unfortunately, her notes, while beautiful, needed too many hands! But at least then I was motivated to figure out what the descant really should be. I actually wrote it down (I’m extremely lazy about writing down my music) so that I could remember the descant and practice it. 

The title was also tricky; at one point I actually asked an audience for title suggestions. Finally I decided to keep it simple. Sunlit is also the title of a beautiful painting by Curtis Wilson Cost, and this music reminds me of that painting, so in the end it all flowed together. 

Who would imagine that such a serene and simple piece would require so much thinking?!

Never, Never in These Mountains

This is just a gorgeous folk lullaby.  I have always loved this song. 

As can happen in my arrangements of lullabies, it does not stay quiet the entire time! The biggest (loudest, and biggest emotionally too) moment is the repeat of the chorus after the second verse. Piano players might be interested to know that I originally intended to do the “rolled chords plus crossing hands” thing twice; but after practicing it for what seemed like aeons, and still not approaching 100% accuracy in that section, I realized that my problem was the shift in emotional energy from the very quiet music I had been playing to this amazing full chorus. So I changed the first time through the chorus repeat to be only rolling chords and mf, to give myself a chance to build into the “big” section. 

Suddenly I was a skillful piano player again!

Bright Morning Stars

This is a shape note song from the 1840s. I used to sing this with friends back in Iowa, and after we left Iowa I had no one to sing it with; so obviously a piano arrangement was in order.

My arrangement of each verse matches its words:

Bright morning stars are rising,
Bright morning stars are rising,
Bright morning stars are rising —
Day is a-breakin in my soul.

Oh where are our dear fathers?
Oh where are our dear fathers?
Oh where are our dear fathers?
Day is a-breakin in my soul.

Some have gone to heaven shoutin!
Some have gone to heaven shoutin!
Some have gone to heaven shoutin!
Day is a-breakin in my soul.

Some are down in the valley prayin,
Some are down in the valley prayin,
Some are down in the valley prayin —
Day is a-breakin in my soul.

Water in a Dry Land

I think of this as a story song. It began with a simple Western waltz that came to me while we were driving into town one day. (I have a way of notating a melody very quickly so that I don’t lose music in such situations.) 

Until January 2009, when I sat down to do the first recording of all this music, Water in a Dry Land was still just the little waltz. But while the music expressed all the longing for water that we here in the dry land feel, it didn’t actually have any water in it, and as soon as I started recording I wanted some watery music to be there. So I made up the middle section, which seems to me to be quite watery, and practiced it and thought I was done. Then the next time we recorded it, on listening to the playback, all of a sudden I wanted to hear the dry land! That was the genesis of the opening chords, which repeat after the middle (water) section. I was still refining (that is, re-writing) this music up to the very day I recorded it! I rather like it now.

(An odd aside: Water in a Dry Land was notated before I recorded it — unusual for me — because I needed to see the music to practice it. It was too new to hold in my memory for practicing, and too challenging to record without a fair amount of slow, hands-separate practice. Therefore: jottings on the page, which yes, I did have in front of me as I recorded for realz.) 

Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, from My Fair Lady; words by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Loewe

I've been playing this for a few years, since just before we moved from California to live here in the dry land. You can hear the nostalgia of leaving home; even leaving home to create a new home, all voluntarily and happily, is still tinged with sadness. This is not a bouncy arrangement, it’s a mellow arrangement!

The Phoebe Returns

When we were building our home, my husband had a big goal of not making it possible for birds to nest on the house or over the porches. (Our rental home had barn swallow nests at both the front and back doors, and it was just too messy.) 

But the second spring after we moved in, some Say’s phoebes showed up and wanted to nest on the house; and my husband totally fell in love with them and built them a special platform — the phoebe condo. We had 5 fledglings that year! The next spring the phoebes returned! More nests, more fledglings, more joy. 

When I wanted a piece for this CD that was lively in a gentle way, and just completely happy, I naturally thought of the phoebes. Listen for the phoebe call in the middle section.

Above the Shining Clouds

I actually wrote this as a love song, long, long ago & far, far away. I don’t generally sing in public anymore, but I have always liked playing the piano part. The title is lifted out of the lyrics

This is dedicated to Geoff, who was the first & best lover of my music. (Geoff also owned a yummy Steinway, my favorite of all pianos I have ever played, which I finally bought from him several years ago — and which you are hearing on this CD.)

Love Like the Earth

Well, I thought I was ready to record this CD in 2003. Then I thought I was ready to record in June 2008. Then I was going to record, no matter what, in September 2008; January 2009 (actually did record then; our recording sound was pathetic, oops); March 2009soon! Then in June 2009, one evening I was playing around with the sort of piano voicings that Beethoven used, and I kept going, creating this lovely piece. Then I knew: now I can record the CD. Finally.

All Through the Night

With a coda that features my all-time favorite melody, Forest Green. (Yes, the melody that appears in such a different setting on a handfull of quietness.) For the most beautiful translation of All Through the Night that I have ever read, click here

Sample from the translation:

Stars shine down on earthly darkness, 
All through the night; 
Show the way to Heaven for us, 
All through the night.

How Hope Became Love

I think of this as a song, with different music for each verse (since I don’t have words to work with) and then a chorus that returns. Yeah, yeah, it could be called a rondo, with the “B” section being the one that returns; but really in a rondo, the “A” section returns, right? So, this is just a song. A kind of a love song, in fact.

Under the Greenwood Tree

The music of the West, and of the mountains.

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