SATB, a cappella
Words by, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
In the fall of 2015, I had the privilege of working with the Chantons at Chatfield High School in Littleton, Colorado. As a thank you, I offered to write a piece for them. Their director, Mr. Josh Jackson, put my question of what poetry or subject matter would be appropriate to them. Their response was that they were a very close knit group who had become good friends and could I write something about that? Yes! I chose a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861). Browning was a prolific poet and an abolitionist. I took the liberty of changing one word of her text; exchanging “Beloved” for “My friend.” This change helps convey the deep meaning of friendship, and in this case, the friendship that comes about by sharing something so powerful and personal as ensemble singing.
I lived with visions for my company,
Instead of men and women, years ago,
And found them gentle mates, nor thought to know
A sweeter music than they played to me.
But soon their trailing purple was not free
Of this world's dust, --their lutes did silent grow,
And I myself grew faint and blind below
Their vanishing eyes. Then thou didst come..to be,
Beloved,what they seemed. Their shining fronts,
Their songs, their splendours, (better, yet the same,
As river-water hallowed into fonts)
Met in thee, and from out thee overcame
My soul with satisfaction of all wants--
Because God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame.