An Amherst Bestiary

for High Voice and Piano

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First performed by Daniel Norman (tenor) & Richard Sisson (piano) at Wigmore Hall, 3 February 1999.





The Robin

The Winged Beggar

The Woodpecker

The Owl

The Jay

The Humming bird


The Cat

The Rat

The Leopard


A Letter

The Bee

The Spider

The Frog

The Caterpillar

The Butterfly

The Snake




Completed in March 1997, An Amherst Bestiary is no song-cycle, rather a songbook of eighteen songs that can be dipped into and performed at the performers' discretion. It also includes a prelude and 2 interludes for piano, together with opening and closing songs that can be used freely to break up a song group.

The work sets eighteen Dickinson poems, that describe the animals and birds that inhabit her private world, hidden away in her father's house in Amherst, Massachusetts. The songs fall into three groups: garden birds, 2 cats and a rat and insects & reptiles. Foreword and Afterword are much broader meditations on nature.

Birdsongs from An Amhherst Bestiary


These six poems vividly describe the birds that Dickinson observes on her doorstep, from the woodpecker tapping at a worm, to the owl, with his mysterious songs by night. The Winged Beggar and The Humming Bird are the more substantial: the first interprets domestic bird-feeding as an act of transcendental meditation, and the second describes the dizzy spiralling of a bird that flits from blossom to blossom.


Additional Information

Item Number: EP71019
Format: Sheet Music
ISMN: 979-0-57708-741-2
Instrumentation: High voice and piano



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