Thoroughfare, A Song Cycle Between Places

Theatrical Song Cycle for Tenor Voice and Piano

Lyrics by Mark Campbell

COMMISSIONED: by Met Opera tenor Keith Jameson

PREMIERE: September 10, 2014; National Opera Center, New York; Keith Jameson, tenor; Charity Wicks, piano


PUBLISHER: All Conrad Cummings works are self-published; contact him here

Excerpt from the premiere performance:

Video of the complete premiere performance:

Program Note

Every time I hear Keith Jameson sing I feel like he is revealing his soul to me in the most vulnerable manner. When he asked for a song cycle, I knew I wanted it to be as personal and emotionally open as I could manage. I went to Mark Campbell for advice, and when he said he wanted to write the lyrics, I could not believe my good fortune.

–Conrad Cummings

I met Conrad several years ago when we were working on the staging of The Golden Gate. I loved his music, and in 2013 I commissioned him to write a song cycle that would be a part of my first solo CD. The project was to commission three composers for three new song cycles. Conrad asked Mark Campbell to write a libretto, and “Thoroughfare” was born: a modern, urban, often humorous take on the same road followed in Die Winterreise. I wanted a fresh, current piece that would be a true emotional arc. Structured in five parts that each represent a street intersecting Broadway, “Thoroughfare” is a journey, both literally, from Columbus Circle to Madison Square Park, and figuratively, from one emotional state to another. After an abrupt break-up with his boyfriend, a man travels down Broadway, remembering their relationship, and moving from hurt, anger, sadness, and eventually to acceptance, and ultimately hope. I am thrilled to bring this new work to life, and can’t wait to record it later this year. Thank you Conrad and Mark for your beautiful voices.

–Keith Jameson



A song cycle between two places

Written for Keith Jameson

Music: Conrad Cummings

Lyrics: Mark Campbell
It’s over.

The End.



Now at least I know why

He’s been remote of late.

Also why the sex has been

A tad “sedate.”

No drama,

No tears.




Not for me to show fear,

Recoil, flinch or balk

When he said those fatal words:

“We need to talk.”

“Yeah, you know that guy?


In London?

The architect?

Totally random,

And, um, unplanned—

It turns out that we uh…

Well, we uh we uh…

I uh I uh…

He uh he uh…”

I put on my best Deborah Kerr:

And said “I uh understand.”

Did he really lift his suitcase,

Pat my hair down, turn away,

Wave at me inside his cab


Did he?

…Yup, kid.

He did.

Right here,

A place that I will always

Recall with regret.


Where I now spin around like

A ball in roulette.

Never landing,

On black or red,

Ever spinning,

With mounting dread.


At Columbus Circle.
We’d seen some stupid show,

And it was under that marquee,

In front of a hundred people standing there,

You laid the best kiss on me.
It’s like a death.

Someone dies,

And all the novels they read,

All the music they heard,

All the places they went,

Die with them.

Every experience.


It’s like a death.

When love’s done,

That soggy weekend upstate

Didn’t happen,

Making out at the game,

Never occurred,

And the first “I love you,”

Never said or heard.


Every experience,


And at 45th

As Broadway stretches out

In front of me,

I think:

I live in a city

Without a memory.
We’d had a minor fight

Inside that deli there.

You said “I think my problem is

I’m starting to really care.”
Why I pegged you as

The One.

Big “T,” Big “O,”

I’ll never know.

But there you were,

My lover,

My partner,

The person,

I’d never forsake.

My soul mate,

My only,

(Give or take).

I even had dreams,

Call them passé,

That we’d share a life,

Get married one day.

Devolve into flab,

If not with a kid,

At least with a Lab,



That’s what I dreamt

As sure as night follows day,

As sure as fate, as sure as time,

As sure as I’m standing here,

In Herald Square,

Behind yet another tourist

Who is spatially unaware.

Why I pegged you as

The One.

Big “T,” Big “O,”

I’ll never know,

Never know why.

And who’s

The idiot?

Big “I”.
I hope your flight crashes—

Drops from the sky,

A ball of fire that pours

Ashes all over one of

Enrique’s achromatic decors!!

Rage. Yes!

Rage is useful now,

Hellfire raining down,

In old Korea town.

Tears. Yes!

Tears are welcome now.

Let the tear ducts burst

Right here on thirty-first.



I will go home.

Slam the door,

Shout, weep, break things,

Have a torrential cry,

Let it pour!

This one hurts–

Really hurts–

Like nothing

Ever before.

…Or should I walk some more…
Right here on twenty-eighth,

Amid a mix of ice and snow,

You told me that you needed me.

That was just a year ago.


Madison Square Park.

I pause,

I sit.


Or love,


I’m done.

It’s through.

I quit.

Edith Wharton—she must’ve strolled here.

Seen her Lily Bart, sitting there, alone.

A character whose mirthful love life

Is not unlike my own.

Skies have grown dark.

May rain.

I stand,

And resolve,

To stay





Then right here amid,

The trees grayed by urban strife,

A ray of sun bounces,

From the gilding,

Of the pyramid,

Atop the building,

Called New York Life.

Another person catches sight

Of the brilliant, sudden light,

We exchange a smile,

A New York smile,

And move on.

Perusal Materials

Download a perusal copy of the complete score:


Commercial CD release coming soon. To pre-order, contact Conrad.