Into This World (Four Choral Seasons)

 
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SATB
Texts in English by Elinor Wylie, Robert Louis Stevenson,
an adaptation of a Rilke text, and Natalie Goldberg
Difficulty rating (1-5): 3.5
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Commissioned by The Festival Choir of Madison
Paul Carey, composer in residence

This four movement piece (completed October 2008) was premiered February 28, 2009 by the Festival Choir conducted by the composer. The texts are about the seasons of our lives and are by Elinor Wylie, Robert Louis Stevenson, an adaptation of a Rilke text, and Natalie Goldberg.

Four different seasons, four different poets—yet a collective wisdom about what each season mean to us as human beings, all of the seasons’ very obvious signs but also all those hidden beneath the surface as well. This is the goldmine of texts I was able to assemble for this piece premiered tonight. Fair Annett’s Song, by American poet Elinor Wylie, speaks of Spring’s joys but also hints just a bit at what lies beyond in almost an English madrigal way. In fact, the decidedly quaint and quirky collection this tiny poem comes from is all about fairies, goblins and other such oddities. I have reflected that fairytale feel in the music to allow this poem to act as a simple introduction to the whole four movement piece.

Tropic Rain at first appears to be nothing more than a poem about a wild rainstorm, yet by the time Stevenson has concluded, he has delved into the depths of our questions about light and dark, good and evil, conflict and peace.

The Leaves are Falling, by Rilke, may seem to be the darkest poem of the four and is certainly set in a somber way. Yet, while it seems resigned to us “falling” it also implores us to believe that someone or something is also breaking that fall and holding us, supporting our lives and psyches.

Finally, Natalie Goldberg’s winter poem Into this World is about resignation and the wisdom of simply letting go—not at all surprising since it is written by a woman who teaches creative writing, journaling, and who also practices Zen meditation.


There are musical devices connecting each movement to each other- key relationships, motivic devices, etc, but these technical concerns are not that important. My ultimate goal was to write a lyrical piece which would communicate to all in the audience about the seasons of our lives through the communal power of these poems

 

 


TEXT

Spring (Introduction)

Fair Annet’s Song (Elinor Wylie)

One thing comes and another thing goes:
Frosts in November drive away the rose;
Like a blowing ember the wind-flower blows
And drives away the snows.
It is sad to remember and sorrowful to pray:
Let us laugh and be merry,
Who have seen today the last of the cherry
And the first of the May;
And neither one will stay.
One thing comes and another thing goes:
Frosts in November drive away the rose;  
Like a blowing ember the wind-flower blows  
And drives away the snows.


Summer

Tropic Rain (R.L. Stevenson)

As the single pang of the blow, when the metal is mingled well,
Rings and lives and resounds in all the bounds of the bell,
So the thunder above spoke with a single tongue,
So in the heart of the mountain the sound of it rumbled and clung.

Sudden the thunder was drowned -- quenched was the levin light --
And the angel-spirit of rain laughed out loud in the night.
Loud as the maddened river raves in the cloven glen,
Angel of rain! you laughed and leaped on the roofs of men;

And the sleepers sprang in their beds, and joyed and feared as you fell.
You struck, and my cabin quailed; the roof of it roared like a bell.
You spoke, and at once the mountain shouted and shook with brooks.
You ceased, and the day returned, rosy, with virgin looks.

And I thought that beauty and terror are only one, not two;
And the world has room for love, and death, and thunder, and dew;
And the face of God is a rock, but the face of the rock is fair.
Beneficent streams of tears flow at the finger of pain;
And out of the cloud that smites, beneficent rivers of rain.


 

Fall

The Leaves are Falling
(adaptation of Herbst, by Rilke)


The leaves are falling, falling as if from a far;
Wither'd they fall from distant gardens of the sky.
And through this deep night,
The earth falls away from the stars into solitude.
Yet the leaves, the earth, our souls, are gather'd, gather'd gently.


Winter

Into this World
(Natalie Goldberg)

Let us die gracefully into this world
like a leaf pressed in stone
let us go quietly breathing our last breath
let the sun continue to revolve in its great golden dance
let us leave it be as it is
and not hold on
not even to the moon
tipped as it will be tonight
and beckoning wildly in the sea
 

  

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