The Longest Nights

The Longest Nights (2015)

SATB, piano

Secular

I. A Winter's Spell
II. After Harvest
III. Many-Splendored Thing
IV. Blizzard
V. Winter Walk
VI. Last Night's Moon
VII. Returning

Performed by Flower Mound High School, Mark Rohwer, conductor.

Some movements include the string parts as well (coming soon!).

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includes classroom assessment exercises for "Winter Walk"

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Text:

I. A Winter’s Spell
On the old porch swing I set a spell,
Collecting the cicadas’ lulling buzz,
Hazy summer sunset lingering
All lazy, ripe, and heavy on the night.

Far too soon this light will turn to gold,
And fireflies will flee the waning day.
Copper leaves will choke the guttered eaves
As all the signs of summer fade from sight.

Soon the snows shall gather up the green,
A chill wind whistling through the branches bare;
Silences in violet shadows fall,
Reflect, refract through gleaming prismic white.

How shall I endure this winter’s chill,
When blizzard bites the blood and shivers all?
I’ll remember then the spell I set
Upon the old porch swing in summer’s light.

- Charles Anthony Silvestri (commissioned for this piece)

II. After Harvest
The gleaning done, the ashen pods and vines,
just twitch and rattle with what’s left behind.
The purple stubble on the fields below
erasing now with patches of first snow.

Cornstalks turn ghostly. Wagon, barn and rake
give up their shapes, and the new shapes they take
no longer presage any human thing.
The wilderness recalls her underling.

We need the strength of all we can endure,
to grant what earth gives up and make it sure.
The twining and the gathering is the easy part
for now the rind is ripe and heavy like the heart.

The liquid light that poured into our flesh
must take us through the night of cold and emptiness
when colors of the world fade into one.
The web of branches stretches till it’s gone.

- Monica Raymond (used with permission)

III. Many-Splendored Thing
And there are the dawns and the dusks
when the snow is falling,
when the lights in the villages
take on a fat and gauzy glow,
when the whole prairie world, although dark,
seems somehow aglow,
when the sky above the storm
becomes the particular pale pink
of a prairie rose in bloom.
When the winter sky puts on that face,
the only possible response is to keep silent,
as before any many-splendored thing.

- Paul Gruchow (used with permission)

IV. Blizzard
A blizzard races a blizzard,
neither can defeat the other:
now one pulls ahead, now it is behind the other.

I watch until my eyes tire,
the mind’s world enters my thought:
A blizzard races a blizzard,
neither can defeat the other.

- Juhan Liiv, trans. H.L. Hix and Jüri Talvet (used with permission)

V. Winter Walk
The longest night
The brightest moon
The sharpest sting of cold
The barest branch
The hardest earth
My breath the only cloud

And I am out walking to ask the winter moon:
Who will I be when the spring rains come?

The air so still
Smoke rising straight
The snowbanks sleep so deep
The quiet star
The silent night
A lone bird wakes and sings

And I am out walking to hear my heart,
And I am out walking to hear my heart.

- Brian Newhouse (commissioned for this piece)

VI. Last Night’s Moon
This morning, the wind and a bent weed
working together...

drawing the shape of last night’s moon
in the snow.

- Scott King (used with permission)

From the willow,
melting ice dripped,
from the alder wet snow slipped.

High on the air came a cry:
I hear, I hear!
I’m coming, I, the spring,
I’m coming, I’m coming!

- Juhan Liiv, trans. Hix and Talvet (used with permission)

VII. Returning
I was walking in a dark valley
and above me the tops of the hills
had caught the morning light.
I heard the light singing as it went
among the grass blades and the leaves.
I waded upward through the shadow
until my head emerged,
my shoulders were mantled with the light,
and my whole body came up out of the darkness, and stood
on the new shore of the day.
Where I had come was home,
for my own house stood white
where the dark river wore the earth.
The sheen of bounty was on the grass,
and the spring of the year had come.

- Wendell Berry (used with permission)