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“It’s always difficult to think about a life that has ended before its time,” says Artistic Director Christopher Gabbitas. “Musicians and poets are often the people we look to – to give our feelings a voice – and to help us to achieve a measure of peace in our lives.”
Our upcoming concert, “Lux Aeterna,” pays homage to the Civil War and World War I, where we remember, through poetry and song, the great sacrifice of the young men who fought for our freedom.
Walt Whitman’s Civil War poems, The Last Invocation, The Unknown Region, and To All, To Each (from When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d) are set to music which suits the verses’ somber, reflective mood in William Schuman’s Carols of Death. Whitman was moved to write these poems while serving as a hospital volunteer during the war between the states where he witnessed many soldiers passing from life, through the veil into death, and then the afterlife. Whitman recalls his experience with the words below.
“Thus in silence, in dream’s projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals; The hurt and the wounded I pacify with soothing hand, I sit by the restless all the dark night — some are so young; Some suffer so much — I recall the experience sweet and sad; (Many a soldier’s loving arms about this neck have cross’d and rested, Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)”
— Walt Whitman, The Dresser (1867, later titled The Wound-Dresser)
Learn more about Walt Whitman and his service to the wounded during the Civil War at American Experience PBS. Click Here >
We turn from the Civil War to World War I with Everyone Sang! composed by Roderick Williams. Earlier this summer we celebrated the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, a pivotal point in World War 1. 127 young Arizonans gave their lives during this conflict. These fallen soldiers, as well as the many others who sacrificed their lives during the Great War, are remembered through Siegfried Sassoon’s poem, Everyone Sang, and Laurence Binyon’s poem, For the Fallen, set to music by Roderick.
Everyone Sang by Siegfried Sassoon
Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields;
on – on – and out of sight.
Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears;
and horror Drifted away …
O, but Everyone Was a bird; and the song was wordless;
the singing will never be done.
Learn more about Siegfried Sassoon at Poetry Foundation. Click here >
From For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon
They shall grow not old, as we that are left to grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Learn more about Laurence Binyon at Poetry Foundation. Click here >
The beautiful and haunting words of Sassoon and Binyon recall this time in our history, contrasting the joy of those who lived to see peace and freedom with the grief of remembering those who did not. “These (For the Fallen) are very famous and poignant words which are read every Remembrance Day — which is your Veteran’s Day — here in England,” relates Chris Gabbitas. As we draw closer to Veteran’s Day on November 11, this is a perfect time to hear these words sung and remember.
Come remember with us.