“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 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 Moore feels at setting eyes on one with dark hair, wearing a 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 first recorded by the American Composers Alliance’s “Shelter Recording Project” in early 2021 by the performers here, Nicole Haslett (soprano) and Jennifer Peterson (piano.) This recording was made in June, 2022 at the National Opera Center, New York. Honor Moore’s poem can be read in her collection of poems, “Darling”, Grove Press, 2001.
The score is available from American Composers Alliance (www.composers.com).