The Playful Rainbow
(A Choral Cycle of Four Pieces for SATB Youth Chorus & Piano [with optional flute and percussion],
based on poetry by Fred Chappell)
by Dan Locklair
The Playful Rainbow was commissioned by the Winston-Salem Youth Chorus (Barbara C. Beattie, Artistic and Executive Director) and is warmly dedicated to them. The piece celebrates the 20th Anniversary Season (2013-2014) of this outstanding chorus founded by Barbara Beattie. The Playful Rainbow was completed in February 2013 and is a setting of four new and delightful poems by the distinguished American writer and poet, Fred Chappell. If performed as a four-movement cycle, The Playful Rainbow is approximately eleven minutes in length, but individual pieces may be excerpted and performed alone.
Diversity (#1) begins the cycle. Scored for SATB chorus & piano, this poem celebrates its title. The music seeks to capture the wonder of the countryside cyclist, surely amidst a refreshing breeze, as he or she gains a bit of “sage advice” and, even, wisdom. (Duration : ca. 2’ 00”)
A time to buy new clothes to wear:
I wanted something nice,
So I cycled round the countryside
Seeking sage advice.
The Oak Tree told me I’d appear
Splendidly in green;
A Rose told me the color red
Is the strongest to be seen.
“Gold is warmly admired by all,”
Said the regal Sun.
“Adorn yourself with pins and rings,
The envy of everyone.”
“Silver,” said the silent Moon;
“Cool blue,” said the Sky;
“Violet,” said a little Flower,
“Delighteth every eye.”
I could not choose among the many
Colors past recall.
“Come now,” said the playful Rainbow,
“Why not wear them all?”
Duty (#2) is for SATB chorus & piano (with optional flute). Even responsibility for nature’s music can offer challenges “before the houses wake”! This musically curious pastorale is laid-back in a jazzy way as it projects this poem about the duties of the day. (Duration : ca. 3’ 15”)
The choristers mount their leafy stalls
Before the houses wake,
Practicing their trills and calls
The jaybird scolds, the robin sings,
The towhee whistles high;
The neighborhood with music rings
Under gray sky.
The Sun attends this reveille
And rises from his bed
Reluctantly and heavily,
With swollen head.
A long day’s labor waits before
His presence in the east:
To light the world is a stubborn chore,
To say the least.
To open the land and whiten the sky:
Duties that must be done,
And he must do them, for that’s why
He’s called the Sun.
Evensong (#3) is for SA and unison choruses & piano. Reflecting nighttime, the organ-like piano accompaniment supports a lyrical choral melody that alternates between the unison chorus (which may be sung by younger singers or a soloist) and the soprano and alto chorus (which may be sung by an older group of girls or boy trebles). In the concluding section, the two groups come together invoking “may the nighttime be our friend.”
(Duration : ca. 2’ 30”)
Now our day is at an end.
The western light begins to fade;
Cicadas cease their serenade;
The drowsy sky pulls down its shade.
May the nighttime be our friend.
Knock Knock (#4) is for SATB chorus & piano (with optional flute and percussion [4 tom-toms]). Throughout this clever poem (whose themes include sorrow, Peace and Nature), at the poet’s request the chorus divides throughout. The divisions between the female, male and mixed half-choruses, to the concluding fullness of all singers and instrumental forces, help convey a playful, yet, profound dialogue. (Duration: ca. 2’30”)
#4. Knock Knock
I am the lonely child of wind and rain;
I roam the world in sorrow and in pain.
I march through wasteland desert and through mire.
Where I depart, I must return again.
Come in. Come in and warm you by the fire.
I am the weary orphan the world named Peace;
I wander through the lands and on the seas
To find a welcome place I might call home.
My hope abides. Never shall I cease.
Come in and stay, nevermore to roam.
I am bright Nature, standing at your door.
Come out and see the handsome clothes I wear.
My trees in leaf, my skies all blue and gray,
My cool, green grass that stretches everywhere.
Come out. Don’t wait inside another day.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina