My Dearest Friend

(2014)
My Dearest Friend is a song cycle by Patricia Leonard setting texts from the letters of John and Abigail Adams. 

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The audio recordings provided in the audio playlist to the right feature soprano Wendy Bryn Harmer and baritone John Moore, with conductor Sean Newhouse. To listen, please click on the track name itself. 
Program Notes

America's first “power couple,” John and Abigail Adams shared a correspondence of over 1,100 letters from 1762-1801 that detailed some of the most significant events in American history. Their personal accounts of America's political tensions with Great Britain and their unyielding determination to design a new independent nation are beautifully nuanced with descriptions of domestic life in Boston, and underscored with Abigail's tremendous personal sacrifices to support her husband's political career. A progressive thinker in her own right, Abigail was John's greatest supporter and adviser from the time John left his family in Boston for the First Continental Congress through the completion of his term as the second President of the United States. Despite John's 27 years of public service, including many years away from his wife and children in Braintree, time and distance could not break the extraordinary bond of love between this husband and wife.

As I poured over their letters in my research, I wanted to design a song cycle that encompassed the span of John and Abigail's entire relationship from early courtship and married life in the 1760s, to their active roles in major political events, and ultimately to Abigail's death in 1818. Since John retired to the family farm in Braintree (renamed Quincy) and was with Abigail when she died, I took Abigail’s last words to John to open the piece “do not grieve my friend, my dearest friend, I am ready to go, and John it will not be long.” In response to this, I chose to use an earlier letter from John to Abigail (May 1776) as the final song in this cycle to express his feelings over Abigail's passing. John’s letter is so full of admiration and longing for his wife – a letter, I believe, poignantly expressed similar sentiments of both nostalgia for simpler times in their marriage, and the loneliness he felt upon her death.

My main goal for this whole cycle was to carefully choose letters that not only highlight this dynamic partnership which steered the course of American history in a bold new direction, but also demonstrate Abigail's great influence on John Adams. Her keen political insights, intelligence, love and unwavering devotion to her husband contributed greatly to his accomplishments which would, in turn, benefit an entire nation. The music I scored to these letters evokes both patriotism, and the Adams's personal family sacrifices which were necessary for shaping a new America. This song cycle is appropriately titled “My Dearest Friend,” which was John and Abigail's salutation to each other in their numerous letters. – Patricia Leonard, October 2014



Song Index

1. Introduction (Instrumental)

2. Miss Adorable (aria - John and Abigail)

3. My Business Calls Me Away (recit. – John)

4. I Wish Myself at Braintree (aria - John)

5. Uncertainty and Expectation (recit. – Abigail)

6. The Great Distance (aria - Abigail)

7. We Have Opportunities/I Long Impatiently (recit. – John and Abigail)

8. The Fate of America (aria - John and Abigail)

9. Remember the Ladies (aria - Abigail)

10. The Day of Deliverance (aria - John)

11. I Cast My Thoughts Across the Atlantick (recit. – John and Abigail)

12. How Lonely are My Days? (aria Abigail)

13. The Most Insignificant Office (recit. – John)

14. Prayer for the New President and the New White House (aria - John and Abigail)

15. The Consolation of My Heart – (aria - John and Abigail)

Audio PLaylist