Letters Home, composed by Kenneth Nichols, is a chamber work for soprano and baritone voice, piano , and strings. The text, written by the Canadian librettist and music critic Mark Morris, is centred on pioneer life on the Prairies between 1880 and 1910, the zenith of immigration to this unique part of Canada. Letters is a off-shoot our our collaboration in writing the chamber opera The Prairie Girl and the Chinaman, produced and performed as part of the Banff Centre’s Music Theatre Ensemble in 1987. Each letter, a literary construct, reflects the diverse nature and experience of the various types of immigrants, from the hearty N.W.M.P. Officer, about to take up land upon his discharge, to the disillusionment of The Homesteader’s Wife upon disembarking from a train in the middle of nowhere, to the cocky Immigrant Son , fleeing a landless existence in Eastern Europe. The Rancher’s Wife gushes about her new ranch house with a view, and her social prospects if the Prince of Wales does, in fact, purchase a ranch in the foothills of southern Alberta. The song cycle ends with a duet between the homesteader’s wife and her husband, a song of thanksgiving for the hardships of pioneer life endured, and overcome.
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