8 Ways to Look at a Window (2016)

Music by Marjorie Halloran, words by Francesca Myhrvold

When Marjorie Halloran discovered the poem “8 Ways to Look at a Window,” she was immediately drawn to the contrasts among the poem’s eight distinct stanzas. Her composer’s ear heard the poem as eight mini-movements, each with its own style and characteristics; her songwriter’s sense recognized the story weaving its way through the eight different sections. The result is a playful yet sophisticated composition made of eight short movements, with a masterful array of text painting techniques and musical moods that perfectly complement the variety in each individual movement. The a cappella 4-part setting allows these effects to shine through and tell the story of the poet/narrator’s sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, journey to acceptance of her new living space. WomenSing was thrilled to present the piece’s first four movements at our concerts in June 2016, to a very appreciative audience. We look forward to presenting the world premiere of the complete work in June 2017.

Marjorie HalloranMarjorie Halloran is a composer and songwriter. Her compositions have been performed by Schola Cantorum of Los Altos, Resounding Achord of San Jose, and multiple ensembles at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, VT. She has done arrangements for Homestead High School, Los Altos United Methodist Church, and Willow Glen United Methodist Church, among others.

In addition to being a composer, Marjorie is an accomplished choral singer. She has performed with dozens of different vocal ensembles in the Bay Area, Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, and New York City. She served as the soprano section leader/assistant director for the Chamber Singers at UC Davis, where she received her bachelor’s degree in music theory/composition. She is the co-founder of the chorus and choral program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she completed her master’s degree.

Francesca Myhrvold, of Seattle, Washington, wrote the poem 8 Ways to Look at a Window in 2014, when she was fourteen years old. She was honored to learn her poem was being set to music, and in an email conversation with Marjorie Halloran, she explained the story behind the text: “My mom insisted for many years that my two sisters and I share a room, even though we had enough rooms for us each to have our own. When she decided to let us move into different rooms, I had two options, one of which was the guest room, which had a bigger closet and its own bathroom. The other option was (and is) always the coldest, has a much smaller closet, and was mostly used for storage, and thus full of our childhood toys and clothes. But the second room had windows, which faced the lake.

My poem reflects the choice I made.”

8 Ways to Look at a Window

1. “You’ll be cold at night,” Mom warns me.

I don’t care

I can’t sleep without it.


2. Looking from my lighted room

Into a shadowed world

Pinpricks of light across the lake

Can they see me too?


3. Crueler than a locked door,

Because it opens

Just not far enough.


4. Last thing I see before I shut my eyes

First thing when I wake

Used to be sisters,

Now it’s a window.


5. Made to be transparent

But when it’s light in here and dark out there

Looks more like a mirror.


6. No closet space

No loft, no furniture…

But it has a window.


7. The lake

The sky

The city

Who cares about closets?


8. Lets in the good, and the bad

Air and cold and noise

Keeps in the good, and the bad

Spiders and warmth when it’s cold…

And me.


Francesca Myhrvold, age 14

Lakeside Middle School

Seattle, Washington

Teacher: Alicia Hokanson