The Singing Place (text: Lily A. Long) for SATB choir and piano; 5.5’ (2013) (commissioned by Dr. Bruce Gladstone)
performed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Chorale with pianist Martha Fischer, dir. Bruce Gladstone:
composer's note: As a composer, I'm constantly trying to expand my horizons, taking stock of my dislikes & fears and then doing whatever I can to stop disliking or fearing things irrationally. One of those dislikes, for a long time, was anything that falls into the category "singing about singing." "That's so cheesy" I would exclaim to myself!
Deep down, I knew that was wrong, and so "The Singing Place" is me tackling my own unkind judgment head-on. Lily A. Long's poem is so beautiful and full of wild energy, and it felt SO right to write a choral piece like this one, that is directly about singing, and asks the choir to sing with all they can muster. I made the first stanza of the poem into something like a refrain, and then allowed the rest of the poem to build in a neverending circle of wave-like melody that builds and builds upon itself until finally crashing into silence.
text: Cold may lie the day, And bare of grace; At night I slip away To the Singing Place.
A border of mist and doubt Before the gate, And the Dancing Stars grow still As hushed I wait. Then faint and far away I catch the beat In broken rhythm and rhyme Of joyous feet,— Lifting waves of sound That will rise and swell (If the prying eyes of thought Break not the spell), Rise and swell and retreat And fall and flee, As over the edge of sleep They beckon me. And I wait as the seaweed waits For the lifting tide;
To ask would be to awake,— To be denied. I cloud my eyes in the mist That veils the hem,— And then with a rush I am past,-— I am Theirs, and of Them! And the pulsing chant swells up To touch the sky, And the song is joy, is life, And the song am I! The thunderous music peals Around, o'erhead- The dead would awake to hear If there were dead; But the life of the throbbing Sun Is in the song, And we weave the world anew, And the Singing Throng Fill every corner of space--
Over the edge of sleep I bring but a trace Of the chants that pulse and sweep In the Singing Place.