Sing to the World

A Choral Cycle in Five Movements in Celebration of Music
for SATB chorus, divisi, a cappella

Sing to the World (A Choral Cycle in Five Movements in Celebration of Music for SATB chorus, divisi, a cappella) was the result of a 2019 commission from Caritas A Cappella Ensemble (Cathy Youngblood, Artistic Director) in Charlotte, North Carolina. Completed in the autumn of 2019, Sing to the World is a setting of five poems that, in one way or another, celebrates music. Each movement of the choral cycle is titled by the names of the respective poems. The first movement, That Music Always Round Me, is a setting of a poem by the American Transcendental poet, Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892). It lauds the emotional impact of music. The second movement, The Singers, is a setting of a poem by the American 19th-century poet and educator, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882). It celebrates how music so powerfully speaks to a variety of people in different ways. Phillis Wheatley (ca. 1753 – 1784) was the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry. The setting of her poem, A Hymn to the Morning, is the third movement of Sing to the World and recounts a slave who sings in the morning to comfort fellow laborers. Alternating counterpoints to Phillis Wheatley’s 18th-century poem are the melody and first stanza text of the 19th-century African American spiritual, My Lord! What a Morning. The fourth movement of Sing to the World is a setting of the poem, Master of Music, by the late 19th century/early 20th-century American poet, educator, and clergyman, Henry Van Dyke (1852 – 1933). The poetry focuses on the invisible impact of music on the human soul. Sing to the World closes with its fifth movement, which is a setting of an English translation of a humorous poem by the neo-classical Spanish poet, Tomás Iriarte (1750 – 1791). Taken from his publication, Fables, The Musical Ass observes a donkey who finds fascination in a newly discovered flute. With resulting humor, The Musical Ass reminds us that poetry and music needn’t always be serious!

Dan Locklair
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

1. That Music Always Round Me = ca. 3’
2. The Singers = ca. 5’
3. A Hymn to the Morning = ca. 4’
4. Master of Music = ca. 4’
5. The Musical Ass = ca. 2’
Total duration = ca. 18 minutes

1. That Music Always Round Me

That music always round me, unceasing, unbeginning, yet long untaught I did not hear,
But now the chorus I hear and am elated,
A tenor, strong, ascending with power and health, with glad notes of daybreak I hear,
A soprano at intervals sailing buoyantly over the tops of immense waves,
A transparent bass shuddering lusciously under and through the universe,
The triumphant tutti, the funeral wailings with sweet flutes and violins, all these I fill myself with,
I hear not the volumes of sound merely, I am moved by the exquisite meanings,
I listen to the different voices winding in and out, striving, contending with fiery vehemence to excel each other in emotion;
I do not think the performers know themselves—but now I think I begin to know them.

Walt Whitman

2. The Singers

God sent his Singers upon earth
With songs of sadness and of mirth,
That they might touch the hearts of men,
And bring them back to heaven again. 

The first, a youth, with soul of fire,
Held in his hand a golden lyre;
Through groves he wandered, and by streams,
Playing the music of our dreams. 

The second, with a bearded face,
Stood singing in the market-place,
And stirred with accents deep and loud
The hearts of all the listening crowd. 

A gray old man, the third and last,
Sang in cathedrals dim and vast,
While the majestic organ rolled
Contrition from its mouths of gold. 

And those who heard the Singers three
Disputed which the best might be;
For still their music seemed to start
Discordant echoes in each heart, 

But the great Master said, “I see
No best in kind, but in degree;
I gave a various gift to each,
To charm, to strengthen, and to teach. 

“These are the three great chords of might,
And he whose ear is tuned aright
Will hear no discord in the three,
But the most perfect harmony.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

3. An Hymn to the Morning

ATTEND my lays, ye ever honour’d nine,
Assist my labours, and my strains refine;
In smoothest numbers pour the notes along,
For bright Aurora now demands my song.
Aurora hail, and all the thousand dies,
Which deck thy progress through the vaulted skies:
The morn awakes, and wide extends her rays,
On ev’ry leaf the gentle zephyr plays;
Harmonious lays the feather’d race resume,
Dart the bright eye, and shake the painted plume.
Ye shady groves, your verdant gloom display
To shield your poet from the burning day:
Calliope awake the sacred lyre,
While thy fair sisters fan the pleasing fire:
The bow’rs, the gales, the variegated skies
In all their pleasures in my bosom rise.
See in the east th’ illustrious king of day!
His rising radiance drives the shades away–
But Oh! I feel his fervid beams too strong,
And scarce begun, concludes th’ abortive song.

Phillis Wheatley

3. My Lord! What a Morning
Refrain: My Lord! what a morning, when the stars begin to fall.
1. You’ll hear the trumpet sound to wake the nations underground,
Looking to my God’s right hand when the stars begin to fall.

African American Spiritual

4. Master of Music 

Glory of architect, glory of painter, and sculptor, and bard,
Living forever in temple and picture and statue and song, —
Look how the world with the lights that they lit is illumined and starred,
Brief was the flame of their life, but the lamps of their art burn long! 

Where is the Master of Music, and how has he vanished away?
Where is the work that he wrought with his wonderful art in the air?
Gone, — it is gone like the glow on the cloud at the close of the day!
The Master has finished his work, and the glory of music is — where? 

Once, at the wave of his wand, all the billows of musical sound
Followed his will, as the sea was ruled by the prophet of old:
Now that his hand is relaxed, and his rod has dropped to the ground,
Silent and dark are the shores where the marvellous harmonies rolled! 

Nay, but not silent the hearts that were filled by that life-giving sea;
Deeper and purer forever the tides of their being will roll, 
Grateful and joyful, O Master, because they have listened to thee, —
The glory of music endures in the depths of the human soul.
Henry Van Dyke

5. The Musical Ass

Tomás Iriarte