Lullaby of the Plains was a composition written at the suggestion of my voice teacher, Dr. Bryan Pinkall here at Kansas State. I was interested in writing a solo piece for myself to perform, but that was also accessible to other male vocalists as well.
The text I wrote was based off of a collection of thoughts and memories of mine. Having grown up in Kansas, I am familiar with the quiet beauty of the moon shining down on a sea of corn, or how the wheat gently waves in the breeze of the Kansan prairie. After taking some time to fill my senses with the beauty of the Flint Hills on a scenic highway outlook just outside of my current residence in Manhattan, Kansas, I found it easy to write about the atmosphere that I know so well. These ideas, along with my family history of veterinarians and farmers, (my great-grandfather, Clarence Gigot being the largest corn farmer in the world at one point during the 50’s-60’s, and my grandfather, Vic Van Camp being a large and small animal vet in Colby, Kansas for the greater part of his life) I had no trouble finding the right words to describe the land I grew up in.
Along with my love for the Kansas moonlight on a field of wheat, similar to the corn field that resided in my back yard for the last ten years, I had a major influence from the aria, The Trees On the Mountains from the opera, Susannah by Carlisle Floyd. The aria is a mournful lullaby sung by a high soprano in the style of Appalachian folk music. I wanted to harness a new sound, not just within myself, but within my home state as well, creating a very specific soundscape that I personally associate with Kansas and gently falling asleep. These ideas, paired with some of my best written work to date, I believe demonstrate and characterize the breathtaking and haunting beauty of the Kansas night if one were to fall asleep amongst an ocean of grain.
The silver moon behind a cloud rests its gaze on you,
So that you know when you lie down in dreams all things are new.
The ashen fields rustle in the mid-summer night’s breeze,
whispering to rest your eyes and float away with ease.
Like an ocean filled with grain, the wheat waves back and forth,
and beams of silver shimmer here and clouds move from the north.
And slowly all the heaven’s stars twinkle into mind,
reminding you to drift away and leave your life behind.
For when you slowly slip away into this eth’real place,
your darkest fears pass away and quickly are erased,
and on your boat you sail the waves of ashen light and grain,
slowly, softly drifting off until just night remains.
The silver moon above the clouds rests his gaze on you,
and in this dream you hear my voice whispering to you,
just sleep and know that when you wake and break free from the deep,
I’ll be here watching over you; but now, my child, just sleep.
To my grandfather, Robert Victor Van Camp (1933-2015), with the comforting knowledge that you will gently sail the ocean of ashen light and grain in eternal rest