“Hollow Hill” is the name of the estate in Connecticut where writer and poet Honor Moore’s grandparents lived. The poem gives a sense of the vastness and splendor of the house, and of the family’s wealth. There were maids, a cook and a butler.
In her poem Moore remembers the day when, as young girl staying at Hollow Hill, her grandmother gives her a doll — the “most wonderful doll I’ve ever had… She could almost be a friend.” Her parents, hearing about this gift to just one of their children, thinks it isn’t fair to Honor’s brothers and sisters, and so while the child is still flush with excitement, full of plans to play with her new friend, the doll is suddenly taken away.
I am the son of working class Italian immigrants, so I didn’t grow up in a world of mansions whose occupants are waited on like the characters in an episode of Downton Abbey. I also enjoyed a typical boyhood that did not include dolls, so I can’t share the thrill Ms. Moore feels at setting eyes on one with dark hair, wearing a white dotted swiss dress with red dots. But I do understand her shock and grief when that doll is taken away. Moore’s loss did not happen by accident or bad luck, but was the result of a decision made by people who had more power than she had. This, I think, is the kind of loss we can all understand.
Hollow Hill was written in 2019, and was to have been premiered in April, 2020 just before the pandemic. It was recorded as part of the American Composers Alliance’s “Shelter Recording Project” in January, 2021 by Nicole Haslett, soprano and Jennifer Peterson, piano. Thanks to The National Arts Club for letting us use of one of its beautiful rooms as a makeshift recording studio.
The score is available from American Composers Alliance (www.composers.com).