A Caged Bird (2014) – Barbara York

Program Notes on A Caged Bird

Scored for trombone (or euphonium) and piano, this piece was not written specifically in response to either the poem by Maya Angelou or that by Paul Dunbar that both refer to “the caged bird”. However, there is no doubt that both poems have inspired my own further exploration and now musical extrapolation on the subject of being “caged” and of still “singing”in spite of this. With all due respect and admiration for Ms. Angelou and Mr. Dunbar, I have attempted here in my own  concept of “cagedness” to include, beyond  racial references, also those issues that include gender, sexuality, economic status, medical/physical problems and any number of other situations that create restrictive and even imprisoning boundaries from which we and all others struggle to break free and find fully human, creative and even spiritual expression within ourselves. Even within the many bonds and restrictive boundaries that we often find ourselves, it still seems to be a fundamental part of our Nature as both human and Spiritual beings that we cannot help but “sing” in both joy and praise both from ourselves and to our own Creator despite the sometimes, even apparently insurmountable obstacles we encounter. For me, this piece is not so much an exploration as to “why the caged bird sings” as it is simply a commenting, even with some measure of wonderment, on its remarkable inevitability.

Barbara York, 2014


Barbara York has been working in both Canada and the U.S. for over 40 years as a concert accompanist, choral and theatrical music director and composer. Her score and lyrics for the Canadian musical Colette won a Dora Mavor Moore Award (Canada’s version of a Tony) in 1981. She has received commissions from two Canadian symphony orchestras (Mississauga and Saskatoon), the Boise State University Symphonic Winds and the Boise State Symphony Orchestra, plus numerous private groups and soloists in both the US and Canada.

She has presented compositions at three World Saxophone Congresses and at the 2003 International Double Reed Symposium. Her 50-minute scripted, children’s piece, A Butterfly in Time was nominated for a Canadian “Juno Award” for recordings in 2006 and is available through Amazon.com and elsewhere under the Children’s Group label.Conversations, for Euphonium, Alto Saxophone and Piano, won the Harvey Phillips Award for Euphonium in Chamber Music at the 2006 International Tuba Euphonium Congress and has been recorded by Adam Frey, its commissioner.

Her Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra was recorded by Tim Buzbee with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and is available internationally through Albany Records. Other recent recordings of her pieces include Saxspectrum by Glen Gillis, Thoughts of a Cow by Scott Watson and recordings by tubists Matt Brown, Deanna Swaboda and Stephanie Frye.

Several of her compositions have been on National and International competition lists and are on the Contest lists of several States as well as being available in recordings through Amazon.com, CDBaby and Itunes.

Barbara York’s music is published by Cimarron Music Press.