Op. 27 – Jennie’s Will

Musical History in Two Acts

Jennie’s Will was commissioned for the bicentennial of the Village of Dryden, New York and was first performed there, and at Cornell University in Jan. 1997 under the corporate sponsorship of Dryden Mutual Insurance.

The show centers on one of the early episodes in the history of Cornell University. Jennie McGraw was the daughter of timber tycoon John mcGraw and an early benafactress of Cornell. She donated the set of chimes which still rings on the campus of this university . Willard Fiske was the first librarian of Cornell, and a scholar with a knowledge of over 50 languages, specializing in Icelandic sagas and the poetry of Dante and Petrarch. Willard first met Jennie in 1869, and immediately began writing love poems about her in secret. Their differing social status made it impossible for them to marry until her zealously overprotective father died. They married in 1880, and she died 18 months later of tuberculosis. There ensued a protracted legal battle between Cornell and Willard Fiske over her estate, which was eventually won by Fiske. The bitter feelings aroused by this fight never fully healed. Many thought Fiske a gold digger who married Jennie for her money. The issue raises heated debates among local citezenry even to this day. In Jennie’s Will, even Fiske isn’t sure, and is played as a heated debate between the two sides of his conscience.

The full musical calls for a cast of ten and a pit orchestra of 6 players. A full score is available upon request to this site.

Vocal Selections:

  • To Set the Record Straight (soprano)
  • Dante & Petrarch (baritone)
  • No one knows another (soprano)
  • Foolish Logic (soprano, baritone)
  • Traveling through Europe (soprano, baritone)
  • Please Promise Me (soprano, baritone)
  • The Will Case Madrigal (SATB quartet)
  • Jennie’s Will (sop., mezzo, bar., chorus)