Wild Nights, for accompanied SATB Chorus (2016)
Wild Nights is one of the most sensuous and alluring poems in the entire Western poetry canon. It is also one of Emily Dickinson’s (1830 – 1886) greatest and most frequently set texts in her oeuvre. Perhaps what most notably sets her work apart is her characteristic simplicity of line and syntax. That is, her ability to communicate highly complex human emotions in concise language that is highly interpretive.
In no text could there be greater room for interpretation and free-roaming imagination than in Wild Nights. The speaker is yearning to return to her lover, to whom she promises: “were I with thee, wild nights should be our luxury!” This manifested tension—yearning to be physically reunited—boils to an effervescent high, with swelling ostinato figurations in the piano projecting the erotic storm. As the drama surges on, Dickinson begins echoing back to the Garden of Eden, where she alludes to the power and paradisiacal love that awaits them. Yet the tension will not be fully released or satisfied, and the chorus and piano end in a harmonic world that sounds unresolved, leaving a sense of sustained longing beyond the double bar.
I Thank You God, for SATB a cappella Chorus (2016)
The poetry of E.E. Cummings (1894 – 1962) contains incredibly nuanced and expressive prosody, and suggests all manner of musical possibilities. Part of what makes this poetry sing off the page is the poet’s distinct use of punctuation. He seems to be almost dictating the flow of his words, which provides the composer with ample direction in setting the text to music.
I Thank You God explores the miraculous joy of being alive in this moment and the deep gratitude for everything contained in it, “which is natural which is infinite which is yes”. Though not a traditional sacred text, it nevertheless praises and glorifies God for all the beauties of nature that make up this “most amazing day”, and for all that nature does to ingratiate our senses and entirety of being. Out of all of this excitement of being alive on this most amazing day, the poet asks, “how should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing any… doubt unimaginable You?”
Remember, for SATB a cappella Chorus (2014)
In this heartbreaking text, one of the most popular works of Victorian female poet Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894), a lover is asking to be remembered when gone away, “gone far away into the silent land”. When the two can no longer hold hands, nor tell each other of future plans, she asks only to be remembered. It is an incredibly moving story of undying love beyond death, a theme that so many of Rossetti’s poems center around. Yet being remembered is not what is most important to the speaker; even more important to her is that her lover finds peace in her heart after she has passed. And so, she tells her lover not to grieve should she forget her for a while, for “better by far you should forget and smile than that you should remember and be sad.”
O Mistress mine, where are you roaming?, for SATB a cappella chorus (2014)