Barlow Bradford Publishing
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Series: Signature Secular Series
Format: SATB Choral Score
Accompaniment: Unaccompanied
Composer:
Donald M. Skirvin
Text: Sara Teasdale
Performance time - ca. 12:15

Note: There is a 16-copy minimum for this title.

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Just as the ancient practice of alchemy endeavored to turn dross into gold, this setting of Sara Teasdale poems traces through its four movements a series of poetic and musical transformations along life’s journey: grief transmutes into gold; impermanence and the fear of loss are transformed by love; iridescence is conveyed to us by our lovers; and finally, the ultimate transformation occurs when we pursue the path that beauty unfolds for us.

This piece contains many instances of jazz-based and extended chordal structures, which result in a colorful harmonic palette. One architectural detail: notice that the end of each movement sets up the beginning of the next by using the same or a related tonal center, though the movement then migrates quickly to a new tonality: more transformations!

I. Living Gold (lyrics from the poem, Alchemy)

I lift my heart as spring lifts up
A yellow daisy to the rain;
My heart will be a lovely cup
Altho’ it holds but pain.
For I shall learn from flower and leaf
That color every drop they hold,
To change the lifeless wine of grief
To living gold.

II. Cups of Fire (In a Cuban Garden)

Hibiscus flowers are cups of fire,
(Love me, my lover, life will not stay)
The bright poinsettia shakes in the wind,
A scarlet leaf is blowing away.

A lizard lifts his head and listens—
Kiss me before the noon goes by,
Here in the shade of the ceiba hide me
From the great black vulture circling the sky.

III. Jewelled Blaze (Driftwood)

My forefathers gave me
My spirit’s shaken flame,
The shape of hands, the beat of heart,
The letters of my name.
But it was my lovers,
And not my sleeping sires,
Who gave the flame its changeful
And iridescent fires;
As the driftwood burning
Learned its jewelled blaze
From the sea’s blue splendor
Of colored nights and days.

IV. O Beauty (August Moonrise)

The sun was gone, and the moon was coming
Over the blue Connecticut hills;
The west was rosy, the east was flushed,
And over my head the swallows rushed
This way and that, with changeful wills.

The maples stamped against the west
Were black and stately and full of rest,
And the hazy orange moon grew up
And slowly changed to yellow gold
While the hills were darkened, fold on fold
To a deeper blue than a flower could hold.
Down the hill I went, and then
I forgot the ways of men,
For nightscents, heady, and damp and cool
Wakened ecstasy in me
On the brink of a shining pool.

O Beauty, out of many a cup
You have made me drunk and wild
Ever since I was a child,
But when have I been sure as now
That no bitterness can bend
And no sorrow wholly bow
One who loves you to the end?

And though I must give my breath
And my laughter all to death,
And my eyes through which joy came,
And my heart, a wavering flame;
If all must leave me and go back
Along a blind and fearful track
So that you can make anew,
Fusing with intenser fire,
Something nearer your desire;
If my soul must go alone
Through a cold infinity,
Or even if it vanish, too,
Beauty, I have worshipped you.

Let this single hour atone
For the theft of all of me.

Listen: