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Program for Sarah Cahill – January 7, 2024

Sunday, January 7, 2024 at 2 pm

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Sarah Cahill, piano


Ann Southam (1937–2010)
Rivers Series 1, No. 1 (1979)

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875–1912)
Forest Scenes, Op. 66 (1907)
            The Lone Forest Maiden
            The Phantom Lover Arrives
            The Phantom Tells His Tale of Longing
            Erstwhile They Ride, The Forest Maiden Acknowledges Her Love
            Now Proudly They Journey Towards the Great City

Ruth Crawford (1901–1953)
Preludes 5, 6, and 9 (1925–1928)

Terry Riley (b. 1935)
The Walrus in Memoriam (1993)


Evan Ziporyn (b. 1959)
You Are Getting Sleepy (2015)

Amy Beach (1867–1944)
Hermit Thrush at Eve, Op. 92, No. 1 (1921)

Ann Southam
Commotion Creek (2007)

About the music

Ann Southam: Rivers Series 1, No. 1
Ann Southam was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba but lived most of her life in Toronto. Her music ranges from electronic scores to long-form minimalist works, ballet music, and chamber music. When she bought a grand piano in the 1970s, she began to compose her great cycles of piano music: Glass Houses, Rivers, and Pond Life, working extensively with the pianist Christina Petrowska-Quilico. Southam said that her minimalist compositions expressed something of “women’s work” – repetitive, monotonous tasks such as knitting and cleaning that nevertheless sustain life. One of her favorite quotes from a review of her music was the phrase “staggeringly boring” (in the Montreal Gazette). She wrote three sets of Rivers between 1979 and 1981, and asks the performer to bring out melodic lines within the intertwining right and left hand patterns.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Forest Scenes
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in London in 1875. His father, a Black doctor studying in England, returned to his native Sierra Leone without knowing about the pregnancy, and he was raised by his white mother and her father. She named him after her favorite poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His musical talents showed up early, and he enrolled in the Royal College of Music, where he studied composition with Charles Villier Stanford. Visiting the United States, he transcribed African American songs into his influential Twenty-Four Negro Melodies and was a guest at the White House. He also wrote a famous cantata, Song of Hiawatha, works for orchestra, and chamber works, many of which have only been heard recently. Forest Scenes (the title recalls Robert Schumann) tells the love story of a Forest Maiden and a Phantom.

Ruth Crawford: Preludes
Ruth Crawford (later Ruth Crawford Seeger) wrote her Nine Preludes in her early and mid-twenties. Crawford’s biographer Judith Tick described her inspirations as being “Theosophy, Eastern religious philosophy, 19th-century American Transcendentalism, and the imaginative tradition of Walt Whitman.” Compound meters, chromatic clusters, lyrical dissonance, and unusual pedal effects are hallmarks of these miniatures. Prelude No. 9,  inspired by Lao Tse, is one of several of her works influenced by Taoism. In 1927, Crawford wrote in her diary that Bach “and Scriabin are to me by far the greatest spirits born to music.” Preludes 6 through 9 were published by her good friend Henry Cowell in his New Music Quarterly. Preludes 1 through 5 remained unpublished until 1993. She stopped composing in 1936 to focus on raising her children, teaching music lessons, and collecting, transcribing, arranging, and publishing American folk songs, only returning to composition a year before her death.

Terry Riley: The Walrus in Memoriam
Terry Riley writes: “At a few points in my life, my work has intersected with the 1960s British rock scene. It has gone both ways. I had jams with Daevid Allen and the Soft Machine when they were just starting out. Pete Townshend honored me with The Who’s great tune, Baba O’Riley. The Walrus in Memoriam (1993) came about at the instigation of pianist Aki Takahashi for her Hyper Beatles project with Beatles tunes arranged for her by various composers.” Riley sets his I Am The Walrus arrangement as a rag, and almost every measure contains a fragment of the song, from the tender lyricism of the “Sitting in an English garden” quote to the climactic triads of “I am the eggman, I am the walrus.” The last few pages express Riley’s love of Bach, with an homage to his C minor prelude from the Well-Tempered Clavier, as the hands travel further apart to reach the stratospheric heights which conclude I Am The Walrus.

Evan Ziporyn: You Are Getting Sleepy
“The title of course should be spoken in a mock-Romanian accent, with emphasis on the SLEEEE. A pocket watch swinging back and forth should also be in the picture. As with most forms of hypnosis, it may only work on the susceptible. Terry taught me to love polyrhythms, not just as ideas but as ways of making time multidimensional, opening doors of perception. The piece starts with quiet full attention, stays there for more than a little while, and ends in a tempestuous, waking dream. I made it with both Terry and Sarah in mind, in deep thanks for their friendship and their music.” (note by Evan Ziporyn)

Amy Beach: Hermit Thrush at Eve
Amy Beach was prodigiously talented as both composer and pianist, excelling at both before the age of seven, and publishing her first compositions at the age of sixteen. She considered herself primarily a pianist, but when she married at eighteen, her husband required her to give up public performance. She devoted herself to large-scale works like her Mass and her Gaelic Symphony, both of which were met with clamorous acclaim. She composed prolifically with such success that she bought a house on Cape Cod with royalties from one song (Ecstasy). She spent part of each summer at the MacDowell Colony, where one day she heard a hermit thrush singing its “lonely and appealing” song. She transcribed the song, and when she played it, the bird responded. Their dialogue is embedded in A Hermit Thrush at Eve, which is a companion piece to Beach’s A Hermit Thrush at Dawn.

Ann Southam: Commotion Creek
After the success of her Rivers collection, Southam decided to continue to explore more compositions inspired by bodies of water. Pond Life was her next group of piano works, which includes Commotion Creek. The tempo indication is “Fast! (or not…)”. and at the end, “Writ by hand, played by hand.”

About the musician

Sarah Cahill, hailed as “a sterling pianist and an intrepid illuminator of the classical avant-garde” by The New York Times, has commissioned and premiered over seventy compositions for solo piano. Composers who have dedicated works to her include John Adams, Terry Riley, Frederic Rzewski, Pauline Oliveros, Julia Wolfe, Roscoe Mitchell, Annea Lockwood, and Ingram Marshall. She was named a 2018 Champion of New Music, awarded by the American Composers Forum (ACF). Recent performances include The Barbican Centre in London, The National Gallery of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, and an NPR Tiny Desk concert. She recently premiered Viet Cuong’s piano concerto, Stargazer, with the California Symphony. Sarah’s discography includes more than twenty albums, including Eighty Trips Around the Sun, a four-disc tribute to Terry Riley. Sarah’s radio show, Revolutions Per Minute, can be heard every Sunday evening from 6 to 8 pm on KALW, 91.7 FM in San Francisco. She is on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory and is a regular pre-concert speaker with the San Francisco Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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