Winter Solstice

Published by Roger Dean Publishing Company     
Part of the Janet Galvàn Choral Series

Catalog # 15/
Harp Part   #30/2544R
SSA/harp or piano
Texts by Lonnie Howard (plus introductory Haiku by Elizabeth Searle Lamb)
Duration: 7:00 (both movements)
Difficulty rating (1-5): 3

I. at midnight...
II. These nights pass slowly...

 listen to Winter Solstice, mvmt I
 listen to Winter Solstice, mvmt II

erformed by the University of Pittsburgh Women's Ensemble,
Lorraine Milovac, director; Lucy Scandrett, harp

Commissioned by the Santa Fe Women's Ensemble.

When I was asked to write a commissioned piece for the Santa Fe Women’s Ensemble I was determined to write something very special for the group, as they had been so kind as to present other pieces of mine on a number of earlier programs. I have always loved New Mexico, and decided that I would try to write a piece for them that would have a specifically New Mexico flavor. I eventually found and read many poems by New Mexico poets and settled on works by Miriam Sagen, Lonnie Howard, and the late Elizabeth Searle Lamb. Eventually I realized that if I used all of the poems I had selected by these three wonderful writers it would create a  piece that might be too long and unwieldy, so I reluctantly dropped the long Sagen poem and all but one of the beautiful haiku by Lamb. I hope to set Miriam Sagen’s poetry in the near future and will also look at more of Elizabeth Lamb’s poetry as well.

The texts are about the winter solstice in New Mexico, a very special time and place. They are not Christmas texts, yet the passing of the winter solstice is, of course, often associated with the Christmas hope of renewal. What I have tried to write, with these poems as inspiration, is “night music”, a genre which I have always loved. Also, while the landscapes are New Mexican, I hope that the beauty of the texts and the winter solstice theme will still attract interest from choir directors and audiences in the larger choral world.

Along with these enchanting texts, I have also tried to create some further magic by the use of small bell tones as the piece draws to a conclusion. Since the premiere is to be in the intimate Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe with its famous miraculous staircase, I felt that a little extra magic would be a nice touch for the audiences at the premiere performances. So as the piece ends there are to be very subtle little bells rung or shaken, just a few tones at first, and a slight buildup, and then a fading away.

Sherri, Aidan, and I had a great time in Santa Fe during the week of the premiere  with our hosts Linda and Jim Beck. Aidan especially enjoyed our own little casita with all its little pathways -- what a magical week! We  also met Natalie Goldberg, who now lives in Santa Fe, and whose poetry I have set to music (My Friend Elijah, and Into this World) and really had a great time getting to know the main poet for this piece, Lonnie Howard. Lonnie's energy was so warm and positive -- just a wonderful person in so many ways.

Complete perusal score available upon request.

Recent News: Women's Choir to Visit China

The Saint Mary's College Women's Choir plans to visit China during the 2011 spring break.  They have been invited by the Nanjing Arts Institute in Nanjing China to work with the school's well-known women's choir under the direction of Dixian Teng.  The two choirs will present several concerts together.  Laurel Thomas and Nancy Menk will present master classes in singing and conducting for the Chinese students.  A visit to Shanghai is also planned.

The Santa Fe audience thrilled at the music by Paul Carey that used a text by Santa Fe poet Lonnie Howard.  As we were gathered in the beautiful Loretto Chapel for concerts, the full moon had risen outside and all the specific images [of the poetry] of Santa Fe warmed our hearts. Paul's music is highly evocative and surrounds the listener with exquisite beauty.  Check out this piece and see how it would translate to your winter experience. 

Linda Raney,
artistic director, Sante Fe Women's Ensemble

I would like to say... how much we enjoyed your wonderful composition,
Winter Solstice. It was luminous, and lush, and evoked such wonderful imagery. You managed to create an almost tangible atmosphere where the singer and listener were able to experience the "iris bulbs buried in red earth" and "black bear sleeping" or "a string of colored prayer flags..."  I haven't seen the music for over a year, [yet] I can still recall those beautiful melodic phrases and the words.

Linda Beck, member of the Santa Fe Women's Ensemble, also a published composer and member of ASCAP



at midnight
by Elizabeth Searle Lamb

at midnight
the silence of the snow
its light

Approaching Winter Solstice
by Lonnie Howard

Out in the cold night I watch the full moon
rise up from the mountains like a god 
emerging from dark sleep, scattering light
across the yard.
Sudden snowlight shimmers
on the immense winter quiet. 
A string of colored prayer flags tied in the black
branches of the apricot tree lifts praises
to the wind, and clear high notes 
of a small round bell spin through icy air.
There are many ways to pray.
I crawl under the branches of the blue spruce
to touch its winter body, watch moonglow sift 
though blue green arms like snow and sink
into the long cold dream of stone.

These nights pass slowly, offering deep rest
to the garden — white sage and purple penstemon,
iris bulbs buried in red earth. They offer rest
to silver spun cocoons wrapped tight in elm,
rock squirrel under juniper and to the long slow
heartbeat of black bear sleeping not far
away — in the mountains where the fire faithful
sun will rise and the longest night will yield
its winter dream once more




Click to See pdf Score
(partial score)

Order Info

        RETURN TO:

  Mixed Chorus
  Treble Chorus
  Children's Chorus
  Male Chorus

  Solo Voice

  Winter Holidays

  Commisioned Works

  Index of Titles