Songs for the Journey

In our final concert of the season, we journey to different places and times, looking forward and backward.  We will enjoy adventure and reflection.  We will explore the independence of youth and the longing for reunion by the more mature.  The songs in this program are relatable to the human experience.  While many of the texts go back to the 19th and 20th centuries, all the music is contemporary, composed within the last 20 years, providing a fresh take on the thoughts and emotions that exist in every generation.

We begin our journey with Sail Fast!, an energetic manifestation by Matthew Erpelding (b. 1978)  of the poem, A Song of the Future, written by Sidney Lanier (1842-1881) in 1878. The music is rhythmic, upbeat and hopeful, evoking a spirit of adventure.

Erpelding writes of this text:

A Song of the Future exhibits Lanier’s characteristic musicality in the natural, song-like cadence of his text.  At first glance, the “ark” in the poem would most logically be some kind of boat or sea-faring vessel.  Lanier subverts that expectation, instead having the speaker invest their hopes and dreams into the “sailing” of a bird, which flies “glittering through the sun’s strange beams.”

Sail fast, sail fast,
Ark of my hopes, Ark of my dreams;
Sweep lordly o’er the drowned Past,
Fly glittering through the sun’s strange beams;
Sail fast, sail fast.
Breaths of new buds from off some drying lea
With news about the Future scent the sea:
My brain is beating like the heart of Haste:
I’ll loose me a bird upon this Present waste;
Go, trembling song,
And stay not long; oh, stay not long:
Thou’rt only a gray and sober dove,
But thine eye is faith and thy wing is love.
Sidney Lanier

Voyager, by Eric William Barnum (b. 1979), is an a cappella setting of a text written by Thomas Hood (1799-1845), a contemporary of Charles Dickens.  Hood’s poetry reflects on the constants we experience as we travel, or move through our lives. An expressive, lyric melody in the soprano is supported by tight harmonies and tone clusters in the other voice parts.  Vivid word painting helps bring the text to life.

The stars are with the voyager
Wherever he may sail;
The moon is constant to her time;
The sun will never fail;
But follow, follow round the world,
The green earth and the sea,
So love is with the lover’s heart,
Wherever he may be.
Wherever he may be, the stars
Must daily lose their light;
The moon will veil her in the shade;
The sun will set at night.
The sun may set, but constant love
Will shine when he’s away;
So that dull night is never night,
And day is brighter day.
                                                 -Thomas Hood

The Norwegian-born composer, Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978), has created truly unique music for the poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, by William Butler Yeats (1856-1939). Accompanied by guitar, string quartet and piano, the piece has a folk or pop-like sound with hints of jazz.  Text painting is evident throughout the piece, especially highlighting the “bee-loud glade” and the “lake water lapping.” 

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore:
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
   - William Butler Yeats

A favorite composer of Voces Novae, Elaine Hagenberg (b. 1979) gives us My Companion, adapted from the pen of Edith Franklin Wyatt (1873-1958).  This text reminisces of the journey through life with a beloved friend.  In typical Hagenberg style, the harmonies are lush and rewarding to sing.  

You are my companion
Down the silver road,
Still and many-changing,
Infinitely changing.
You are my companion.
Something sings in lives—
Days of walking on and on,
Deep beyond all singing,
Wonderful past singing.

Wonderful our road,
Long and many-changing,
Infinitely changing.
This, more wonderful—
We are here together,
You and I together,
I am your companion;
You are my companion,
My own, true companion.

Let the road-side fade:
Morning on the mountain-top,
Hours along the valley,
Days of walking on and on,
Pulse away in silence,
In eternal silence.
Let the world all fade,
Break and pass away.
Yet will this remain,
Deep beyond all singing,
My own true companion,
Beautiful past singing:
We were here together—
On this earth together;
I was your companion,
You were my companion.
                                                 - Edith Franklin Wyatt

The best known musical setting of The Vagabond by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) is found in the song cycle, “Songs of Travel” for baritone solo by Ralph Vaughn Williams.  Today, we present a treatment of this text by Kansas City composer, John Leavitt (b.1956).  With a bravura tenor solo and virtuosic piano part that is more soloistic than accompaniment, this dramatic piece portrays the adventurous life described in Stevenson’s text.

Give to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above
And the byway night me.
Bed in the bush with stars to see,
Bread I dip in the river --
here's the life for a man like me,
here's the life forever.

Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o'er me;
Give the face of earth around
And the road before me.
Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,
or a friend to know me;
All I seek, the heaven above
nd the road below me.

Or let autumn fall on me
here afield I linger,
Silencing the bird on tree,
Biting the blue finger;
White as meal the frosty field --
Warm the fireside haven --
Not to autumn will I yield,
ot to winter even!

Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o'er me;
Give the face of earth around,
And the road before me.
Wealth I ask not, hope, nor love,
Nor a friend to know me.
All I ask, the heaven above
nd the road below me.
                                                 - Robert Louis Stevenson

In contrast to The Vagabond, our next piece seeks to find the way home after a long period of wandering.  The Road Home by Stephen Paulus (1949-2014) is a beautiful adaptation of a Southern Harmony 1835 tune with modern lyrics by Michael Dennis Browne.  The text speaks about trying to find the path to go home after being away for many years.  In the third verse, a voice (the soprano solo) offers to lead the wanderer home.  The music is beautiful in its simplicity, enhancing the text at all times.  

Tell me where is the road I can call my own,
That I left, that I lost, so long ago?
All these years I have wandered, Oh when will I know 
There’s a way, there’s a road that will lead me home?

After wind, after rain, when the dark is done,
As I wake from a dream in the gold of day,
Through the air there’s a calling from far away,
There’s a voice I can hear that will lead me home.

Rise up, follow me, come away is the call,
With love in your heart as the only song;
There is no such beauty as where you belong,
Rise up, follow me, I will lead you home.
                                                 - Michael Dennis Browne

Having found the path we were seeking, we are now Homeward Bound with an arrangement of an original text and music by Marta Keen (b. 1953).  Mack Wilberg crafted this arrangement for his choir, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Keen describes the song as being about “Finding your true calling in life; knowing that those who love you trust that you will return…I wrote this song for a loved one who was embarking upon a new phase of life's journey, to express the soul's yearning to grow and change.”  This song has been performed and recorded by many soloists and choirs all over the world.

In the quiet misty morning when the moon has gone to bed,
When the sparrows stop their singing and the sky is clear and red,
When the summer’s ceased its gleaming, when the corn is past its prime,
When adventure’s lost its meaning, I’ll be homeward bound in time.

Bind me not to the pasture; chain me not to the plow.
Set me free to find my calling and I’ll return to you somehow.

If you find it’s me you’re missing, if you’re hoping I’ll return,
To your thoughts I’ll soon be list’ning, in the road I’ll stop and turn.
Then the wind will set me racing as my journey nears its end,
And the path I’ll be retracing when I’m homeward bound again.
Marta Keen

We conclude our journey with Oread Farewell, written by Dan Forrest (b. 1978). Dr.  Forrest composed this piece at the end of his degree program at the University of Kansas Department of Music and Dance.  The university sits on a hill referred to as “Mount Oread”, so-named in 1854 by the New Englanders who settled in Lawrence, KS.  The lyrics, written specifically for this piece by Charles Anthony Silvestri (b. 1965),   provide a fitting close to our season.

The time has come to say farewell; and though my heart be heavy,
I promise still to remember ye e’en though we say, “Farewell.”

The flower’s that bloom’d in Summer’s sun have lost their fleeting glory,
And all but died in Winter’s chill; And we must say, “Farewell.”
So brief a time has come and gone since first we sang together;
But bittersweet is that music now that we must say, “Farewell.”

Now we must part and fare ye well In all that ye endeavor!
And last, I pray – fondly think of me, when’er ye say, “Farewell.”
Charles Anthony Silvestri

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