My WINTER (from the forgottens), a four-movement choral cycle for SATB, SSAA and TTBB choruses and piano, was completed in July 2011. It is the result of a commission from the Harvard Glee Club and the Radcliffe Choral Society and it is to those distinguished ensembles and their conductor, Andrew Clark, that the piece is dedicated. The World Premiere occurred on 3 December 2011 in Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
While Movements II and III are, respectively, for SSAA and TTBB chorus, the outer movements of the cycle are for SATB chorus. In each movement of the approximately fifteen-minute work, the piano serves as an equal partner to the chorus. Reflecting the title of the composition, each movement is based on words from 19th and early 20th century American poets whose work, for the most part, is largely forgotten today. Yet, each poem, whose name titles each movement, is skillfully crafted, filled with vivid imagery and works together beautifully as an expression of the magic and mystery that are a part of winter and the December holiday festivities that begin the season.
Movement I, A Bell (for SATB chorus and piano), sets a poem by Clinton Scollard (1860-1932). A native of Clinton, New York, Mr. Scollard graduated from Hamilton College in 1881, followed by further study at Harvard. His teaching career was spent as a Professor of English at his alma mater, Hamilton College. Through the majestic and ringing chordal piano accompaniment, the bell-like imagery of the poem permeates my choral setting of the poem.
by Clinton Scollard
Had I the power
To cast a bell that should from some grand tower,
At the first Christmas hour,
A jubilant message wide,
The forgëd metals should be thus allied:—
No iron Pride,
But soft Humility, and rich-veined Hope
Cleft from a sunny slope;
And there should be
And silvery Love, that knows not Doubt nor Fear,
To make the peal more clear;
And then to firmly fix the fine alloy,
There should be Joy!
Movement II, A Winter Twilight (for SSAA chorus and piano), is based on a poem by Maine native, Arlo Bates (1850 – 1918). A graduate of Bowdoin College, in 1880 Mr. Bates was named editor of the Boston Sunday Courier. Serving in that post for thirteen years, he then moved on to a professorship in English at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In my choral setting of his words, I have sought to convey the “soothing sense of calm” expressed in Mr. Bates’s lyrical poem through a rhapsodic piano accompaniment that underpins the sparkling beauty of the female voices above it.
A Winter Twilight
by Arlo Bates
PALE beryl sky, with clouds
Hued like dove’s wing,
The dying day,
And whose edge half enshrouds
The first fair evening star,
Most crystalline by far
Of all the stars that night enring,
Half human in its ray,—
What blessed, soothing sense of calm
Comes with this twilight,—sovereign balm
That takes at last the bitter sting
Of day’s keen pain away.
Movement III, The Stars (for TTBB chorus and piano), sets a poem by Mary Mapes Dodge (1831 – 1905). A native of New York City, Mrs. Dodge worked as an editor for most of her life, serving as an associate editor to Harriet Beecher Stowe of Hearth and Home. She is especially remembered as the editor of one of the 19th century’s best-known children’s magazines, St. Nicholas. I have sought to musically express her poem of rich wonderment in a way that begins by capturing its spirit of anticipation, yet leads to exploration “through the dazzled air” and into “joy again” of “The eternal jewels of the short-lived night.”
by Mary Mapes Dodge
THEY wait all day unseen by us, unfelt;
Patient they bide behind the day’s full glare;
And we, who watched the dawn when they were there,
Thought we had seen them in the daylight melt,
While the slow sun upon the earth-line knelt.
Because the teeming sky seemed void and bare,
When we explored it through the dazzled air,
We had no thought that there all day they dwelt.
Yet were they over us, alive and true,
In the vast shades far up above the blue,—
The brooding shades beyond our daylight ken,—
Serene and patient in their conscious light,
Ready to sparkle for our joy again,—
The eternal jewels of the short-lived night.
Movement IV, Sleighing Song (for SATB chorus and piano), is based on the words of an American physician and poet, John Shaw (1778 – 1809). A native of Maryland, Dr. Shaw studied medicine at the Universities of Pennsylvania and Edinburgh and was later involved in the founding of the College of Medicine at the University of Maryland. He wrote poetry throughout his short life. His Sleighing Song is full of night and winter holiday imagery. In my setting of it, in both the chorus and in the piano, I have sought to evoke the vibrancy of “the horses’ trampling sound” and the cheerfulness of a winter’s night as “the bells shall tinkle merrily.”
by John Shaw
WHEN calm is the night, and the stars shine bright,
The sleigh glides smooth and cheerily;
And mirth and jest abound,
While all is still around,
Save the horses’ trampling sound,
And the horse-bells tinkling merrily.
But when the drifting snow in the traveller’s face shall blow,
And hail is driving drearily,
And the wind is shrill and loud,
Then no sleigh shall stir abroad,
Nor along the beaten road
Shall the horse-bells tinkle merrily.
But to-night the skies are clear, and we have not to fear
That the time should linger wearily;
For good-humor has a charm
Even winter to disarm,
And our cloaks shall wrap us warm,
And the bells shall tinkle merrily.
A Bell = ca. 3’ 00”
A Winter Twilight = ca. 4’ 00”
The Star = ca. 4’ 30”
Sleighing Song = ca. 3’ 30”
Total duration = ca. 15’ 00”