Let Me Live Out My Years


Let Me Live Out My Years - (2009)    

John G. Neihardt

for baritone or bass baritone and piano

for Kristopher Irmiter

Let me live out my years in heat of blood!
Let me die drunken with the dreamer's wine!
Let me not see this soul-house built of mud
Go toppling to the dusk—a vacant shrine.

Let me go quickly, like a candle light
Snuffed out just at the heyday of its glow.
Give me high noon—and let it then be night!
Thus would I go.

And grant that when I face the grisly Thing,
My song may trumpet down the gray Perhaps.
Let me be as a tune-swept fiddlestring
That feels the Master Melody—and snaps!

[ 3 pages, circa 3' 00" ]

John G. Neihardt


Born Johnathan Gneisenau Neihardt (1881-1973), he retained the German spelling of the family name, and was an American author of poetry and prose, amateur historian, ethnographer, and philosopher of the American Great Plains. He travelled the Missouri River by boat, visited with trappers, Indian communities, and researched communities and culture through the American plains and Rocky Mountains, writing to record a pioneer past in books that range from travelogue to epic poetry and a narration of the dreams of an American Indian shaman. In 1921 the Nebraska Legislature elected him as the state's poet laureate.



The setting is a broad-lined A-B-A song form, the diatonic-moving, parallel triadic harmony and "Scotch snap" rhythms enforcing a strong character to the accompaniment. For the first lines of the first stanza, the tessitura lies higher, dropping along with a diminution in dynamics to underscore the images of the end of life.




The second stanza is set as bridge material, in a contrasting texture with its triplets against duple rhythms, and less dense chord forms, still remaining in parallel motion like unto the first and last verses. The tonal domain drifts easily into A major for a moment from the surrounding C, cadencing in F sharp major before a return to the stronger gestures of the reprise.


Kristopher Irmiter


From Kris' promotional materials, we read, "One of the most sought after low voices from North America, Bass-Baritone Kristopher Irmiter has performed in all 50 states and throughout Canada - a favorite with more than 45 opera companies and numerous orchestras. A 2007 Grammy Nominee, he has garnered praise from the San Francisco Chronicle to the New York Times: 'his voice as notable for it’s security and tonal weight as for an abundant variety of phrasing - excellent, richly expressive - alternately stentorian and tender' with equal praise of his dramatic skills; 'commanding charismatic stage presence - enough talent to succeed on his acting ability alone - powerful performance'. With 85 roles in his performed repertoire, Mr. Irmiter has exhibited a vastrange both vocally and dramatically in performances with San Francisco Opera, Florida Grand Opera, L’Opera de Montreal, Houston Grand Opera, Baltimore Opera, Atlanta Opera, Hawaii Opera, Utah Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Opera Lyra Ottawa and Arizona Opera among others." We had worked together in the Florentine Opera production of Tristan und Isolde, Kris providing a fine musical and dramatic foil as Kurvenal to the ardors of the third act.


The score is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.


Let Me Live Out My Years