David Canright: Messenger

Instrumentation: SATB chorus
Playing time: 4' 50"

Messenger (Opens in a new tab)

The composer writes: The poem “Messenger” by Mary Oliver (from her 2006 book “Thirst”) inspired me to write this choral composition. This poem grabbed me with its first line: “My work is loving the world.” In setting the music, I hoped to honor and convey the poem. Sections about the “world” use harmonies from C major; in contrast, sections on the “work” use a more mysterious scale (in C or F), modeled on an overtone scale. (In fact, the harmonic structure was conceived as a 13-tone scale in extended just intonation, then adapted to the standard tempered system.) The rhythms mostly come from the text, and so are not in a steady meter.  Messenger is performed by I Cantori di Carmel, directed by Sal Ferrantelli.Performed.  The recording includes a reading of the poem.

~Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.


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