Engines of Our Ingenuity


Composer: Mark Buller
Libretto: Leah Lax

Conducted by Mark Buller.
Performed by: Julia Fox, Kaitlyn Stavinoha, Megan Berti, Terest Procter, John Weinel, Alexander Scheuermann, Dennis Arrowsmith, and Eric Delagrange

Overboard is a piece commissioned by Houston Grand Opera as part of HGOco's Veterans Songbook project, in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Sunda Strait. Copyright: Houston Grand Opera Association, 2017. In it Mark Buller and Leah Lax provide their own powerful response to the loss of the USS Houston and HMAS Perth on the night of Feb. 28th, 1942 and the surviving sailors' ordeal that followed in prison camps. Here is audio of the three movements of the performance, and below it, the text of Leah Lax's libretto.

Click Here for First Movement
Click Here for Second Movement
Click Here for Third Movement


Fifty caliber, five inch, eight inch, one point ones,
yellow lights dancing on the sea,
shells like blackbirds. Shells fly like blackbirds.

We couldn't see. Enemy starboard, enemy port, enemy dead ahead.
Water walls, flash and fire, look at that trail of foam
It's beautiful. It's beautiful. No time for fear.

Torpedo to the engine room melts brick melts steel.
All around, bodies, glass, grease and blood.
We were cogs in a machine
brothers in brotherhood
When the Houston rolled over
she took our shoes.

He died on my lap
on a raft on the sea
I eased him overboard.


They drank their tea extremely hot
And didn't care for rice.
Slept better on the floor than in a bed
Yelled at ghosts in their sleep and never talked.
And never talked. Harry ate lettuce by the head.

Fillings in their teeth were made of tree sap
And they held up just fine.

Drink hard, work hard, run, don't sit still.
Drive hard, work hard, try, and try
Not to look behind you. Keep your eyes ahead.

THREE: ELEGIE WITHOUT END (Names are from both crew lists)

Adams, Bailey, Calloway, Day
Edwards, Fuller, Gallagher, Hill

Ingram, Johnson, Kilby, Luck
Mills, Nelson, Ogilvie, Payne

Captain Waller Captain Rooks
Captain Waller Captain Rooks

Sadowski, Templeman, Usher, Vaughn
Wallace, Young, Zimmerman

I don't know, I don't know
If I'm the survivor
Or the fallen.

(... and we hear the ships' bells)