A Profound Whisper
for choir, piano and baritone/narrator. Score and parts available on a CD as a PDF file formatted to 8.5 x 11.
The piece is the sixth in a series of compositions commissioned bi-annually from the Alexandria Choral Society's Distinguished Virginia Composers program. It is dedicated to the then director of the Society, Kerry Krebill. The only stipulation attached to the composition is that it somehow relate to Virginia. That relationship is solely at the discretion of the composer. Despite my copious reading preparing for the composition, I eventually came around to see what I had known since my early youth. William Styron had published in This Quiet Dust a commencement address given at Hampden-Sydney College in 1980. It touches upon the relationship between a boy and a river. I cannot begin to elaborate on how this remeniscence reverberated around my sensibilities.
I had known about Anne Spencer since my childhood, hearing about her, or perhaps reading of her, me and my pals, as we sought relief from the sultry summer days inside the air-conditioned Alexandria library on Queen Street. Contee Cullen had included her in his landmark anthology - interestingly, throughout her full life she was never to leave Lynchburg, Virginia - yet I could not recall having read her poetry. Life Long Poor Browning was immediately obvious as the work to complement Mr. Styron's prose. More than that: as I sketched the composition's structure, the two coalesced to make a work greater than the parts. Formally, they lock past to present. At the end, they commingle, essentially expressing the same joy of the human spirit, the same wonderment about life. I will always cherish my brief correspondence with Mr. Styron about my setting his commencement speech to music. He wrote that he felt his words were "beautifully served." I have come around to thinking that all three of us were beautifully served: By each other and by the beauty we were open to receiving. Each generation has had the honor to know the others sensibility to beauty, and each of us have shared our courage in attempting its expression. The work has been recorded by the Alexandria Choral Society and is available on the CD "Darest Thou, O Soul?" The CD can be borrowed from the New York Public Library (LDC 14110 (F)) and many academic libraries through the Inter-library Loan system. One last statement goes to the narrator/soloist on this recording, Henry Burroughs: I'm so sorry buddy that all of our love could not keep you from leaving us. Duration: 15' 30".
for unaccompanied choir
This piece was written at the request of Kerry Krebill, then conductor of the Alexandria Choral Society, for the Society's tour of eastern Europe. Duration: 5' 15".