SpringSing: The Sound Of Music (of America)

The Telluride Choral Society‘s SpringSing celebrates the music of America. The concert takes place Friday, March 24, 7 p.m. at the Michael D. Palm Theatre. Tickets, $20 for adults: $10 for children, at the door.

 

Sure on this shining night
Of star-made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder
wand’ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars.

Those are the luminous words of James Agee, (1909 – 1955). American novelist, screenwriter, journalist, film critic, and poet, which were set to music by Marten Lauridsen, (born 1943), described by one musicologist as “The only American composer in history who can be called a mystic, whose probing, serene work contains an elusive and indefinable ingredient which leaves the impression that all the questions have been answered.”

According to one (very breathless) fan interpreted the work:

“It seems to evoke a warm summer’s evening and this warmth is suffused with the warm glow of moonlight and starlight at the end of the day. The warmth of the day seems to linger despite the darkness and the disappearance of the sun. It’s as if the night is still bathed in its warmth and light, the sun itself shining on the moon and the stars, in turn reflected onto earth. Summer, warmth and light are associated with healing, health, wholeness and fullness. And these very things seem to be signs of something beyond themselves: kindness. Kindness watches this side the ground. What is this kindness and where does it come from? Perhaps ‘this side the ground’ contrasts life with our inevitable death, when we shall be ‘that side the ground.’ Is this the clue to the meaning of the words at end of the poem, ‘Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone of shadows on the stars.’ Is this weeping sadness at the potential loss and grief caused by death or is it weeping with the sheer joy and wonder of creation? In which case, what do we make of the word ‘alone’ towards the end? Does this imply a pessimistic conclusion, that despite all the good things which life brings, in the end our lives amount to nothing? Or does the poet look back over a life of twists and turns and see the presence of kindness constantly watching over him and bringing everything to a mysterious, contented completion, such that the overriding emotion is one of wonder, even gratitude, perhaps? Whatever our interpretation, we have Lauridsen’s take on it.

The music of Lauridsen – an American like Agee – has an ethereal, timeless quality about it...”

“Sure on this Shining Night” is one of Lauriden’s most celebrated choral works, performed by ensembles the world over – including, this coming weekend, by the Telluride Choral Society at its annual SpringSing, part of a program dedicated to the beauty of America and its music.

Rhonda Muckerman, the talented and professionally generous artistic director of the Telluride Choral Society.

While in the planning stages of the 2017 SpringSing, the Telluride Choral Society’s abundantly talented artistic director, Rhonda Muckerman, came up with the theme “America the Beautiful,” but she turned away from that handle because she felt the words were festooned in patriotism, She renamed the concert “Celebrating the Music of America” to avoid even a whisper of politics.

“Despite the new theme, I still find myself inwardly referring to this concert as ‘America the Beautiful’ because the program speaks to the real beauty of our landscape and our unique culture and spirit. Starting out on ‘Route 66,’ we get a feel for the landscape of America; we find healing and wholeness in the poetry of James Agee, paired with the radiant music of contemporary composer Morten Lauridsen. Through  traditional folk songs, spirituals, and pop music, American composers manage to express the spirit, grace, and humor of this country we call home. But, as our finale song says: ‘But other lands have sunlight, too, and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.’  Let’s cherish the feelings we have about our country, knowing that people all around the globe share similar sentiments. In this sense at least we truly are all united.”

SpringSing 2017 features all of the Telluride Choral Society’s different groups – Training Choir, Choristers, OmniVoce, Chorale, Chamber Singers and Renaissance Singers – raising their voices in celebration of our country and its diverse soundtrack. 

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Susan Viebrock

Susan Viebrock

Susan is Telluride Inside… and Out’s founder and editor-in-chief, the visionary on the team, in charge of content, concept and development. For 19+ years, Susan has covered Telluride’s cultural economy, which includes non-profits and special events. Much of her writing features high-profile individuals in the arts, entertainment, business, and politics. She is a former Citibank executive specializing in strategic planning and new business development, and a certified Viniyoga instructor.

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