The poem Wit and Fright was the then 10-year-old Pierson’s expression of the interplay between a hungry owl and a terrified mouse. Harper masterfully wove the verse into a piece written for a women’s chorus (the owl) and a children’s chorus (the mouse), with music that highlights the lyrical movements and instincts of each – the owl, “swimming in dark pools of sky,” and the mouse, “eyes ablaze with fear” – and a piano accompaniment that heightens the sense of interaction between the predator and its hoped-for prey. The following video captures the June 2009 premiere of Wit and Fright, performed by WomenSing and the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Chorus:
Ryan Harper, who grew up in the East Bay and graduated with a composition degree from Yale University in 2010, was the first Youth Inspiring Youth competition winner to have his work premiered by WomenSing, in Spring 2009. Harper’s choral composition for Youth Inspiring Youth was based on the River of Words poem Wit and Fright by Eric Pierson. Harper’s musical interests include classical, jazz, and rock and he has written music for an assortment of film and theater projects. He has already seen much other success in his young career with a number of compositions that have been presented in diverse settings.
Eric Pierson, who wrote Wit and Fright at age ten, attended Abington Friends School for Elementary and High School in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. Eric is currently majoring in Natural Resource Management at the University of Delaware, and enjoys the outdoors and hiking in upstate New York during the summer.
(A poem for two voices)
by Eric Pierson
Owl: Sleep all through the day, at night capture your prey.
Mouse: Savor the sun, it’s almost noon, darkness is coming soon.
Owl: In your eyes, lanterns burn bright, golden rays illuminate the night.
Mouse: Scrunched down low, trying to hear, your eyes ablaze with fear.
Owl: Flying, flying up on high swimming in dark pools of sky.
Mouse: Dark shadow hides the light not a speck of moon in sight