Saturday, March 14, 2015

Poetry about Choirs and Singing: Playlist for March 13, 2015


In the Elementary School Choir

By  Gregory Djanikian  

I had never seen a cornfield in my life,

I had never been to Oklahoma,

But I was singing as loud as anyone,

“Oh what a beautiful morning. . . . The corn  

Is as high as an elephant’s eye,”

Though I knew something about elephants, I thought,  

Coming from the same continent as they did,   

And they being more like camels than anything else.

And when we sang from Meet Me in St. Louis,  

“Clang, clang, clang went the trolley,”

I remembered the ride from Ramleh Station

In the heart of Alexandria

All the way to Roushdy where my grandmother lived,  

The autos on the roadways vying

With mule carts and bicycles,

The Mediterranean half a mile off on the left,  

The air smelling sharply of diesel and salt.

It was a problem which had dogged me

For a few years, this confusion of places.

And when in 5th grade geography I had pronounced  

“Des Moines” as though it were a village in France,  

Mr. Kephart led me to the map on the front wall,  

And so I’d know where I was,

Pressed my forehead squarely against Iowa.

Des Moines, he’d said. Rhymes with coins.

Now we were singing “zippidy-doo-dah, zippidy-ay,”  

And every song we’d sung had in it

Either sun or bluebirds, fair weather

Or fancy fringe, O beautiful America!

And one tier below me,

There was Linda Deemer with her amber waves

And lovely fruited plains,

And she was part of America too

Along with sun and spacious sky

Though untouchable, and as distant

As purple mountains of majesty.

“This is my country,” we sang,

And a few years ago there would have been  

A scent of figs in the air, mangoes,

And someone playing the oud along a clear stream.

But now it was “My country 'tis of thee”  

And I sang it out with all my heart  

And now with Linda Deemer in mind.  

“Land where my fathers died,” I bellowed,  

And it was not too hard to imagine

A host of my great-uncles and -grandfathers  

Stunned from their graves in the Turkish interior  

And finding themselves suddenly  

On a rock among maize and poultry  

And Squanto shaking their hands.

How could anyone not think America  

Was exotic when it had Massachusetts  

And the long tables of thanksgiving?  

And how could it not be home

If it were the place where love first struck?

We had finished singing.

The sun was shining through large windows  

On the beatified faces of all

Who had sung well and with feeling.

We were ready to file out and march back

To our room where Mr. Kephart was waiting.  

Already Linda Deemer had disappeared  

Into the high society of the hallway.

One day I was going to tell her something.  

Des Moines, I was saying to myself,

Baton Rouge. Terre Haute. Boise.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Adoramus Te, performed by The International Children's Choir

Dawn Chorus

By  Sasha Dugdale

March 29, 2010

Every morning since the time changed

I have woken to the dawn chorus

And even before it sounded, I dreamed of it

Loud, unbelievably loud, shameless, raucous

And once I rose and twitched the curtains apart

Expecting the birds to be pressing in fright

Against the pane like passengers

But the garden was empty and it was night

Not a slither of light at the horizon

Still the birds were bawling through the mists

Terrible, invisible

A million small evangelists

How they sing: as if each had pecked up a smoldering coal

Their throats singed and swollen with song

In dissonance as befits the dark world

Where only travelers and the sleepless belong

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: The Birds by Ottorino Respighi


Peter Quince at the Clavier

By  Wallace Stevens  


Just as my fingers on these keys

Make music, so the self-same sounds

On my spirit make a music, too.

Music is feeling, then, not sound;

And thus it is that what I feel,

Here in this room, desiring you,

Thinking of your blue-shadowed silk,

Is music. It is like the strain

Waked in the elders by Susanna;

Of a green evening, clear and warm,

She bathed in her still garden, while

The red-eyed elders, watching, felt

The basses of their beings throb

In witching chords, and their thin blood

Pulse pizzicati of Hosanna.


In the green water, clear and warm,

Susanna lay.

She searched

The touch of springs,

And found

Concealed imaginings.

She sighed,

For so much melody.

Upon the bank, she stood

In the cool

Of spent emotions.

She felt, among the leaves,

The dew

Of old devotions.

She walked upon the grass,

Still quavering.

The winds were like her maids,

On timid feet,

Fetching her woven scarves,

Yet wavering.

A breath upon her hand

Muted the night.

She turned —

A cymbal crashed,

And roaring horns.


Soon, with a noise like tambourines,

Came her attendant Byzantines.

They wondered why Susanna cried

Against the elders by her side;

And as they whispered, the refrain

Was like a willow swept by rain.

Anon, their lamps' uplifted flame

Revealed Susanna and her shame.

And then, the simpering Byzantines

Fled, with a noise like tambourines.


Beauty is momentary in the mind —

The fitful tracing of a portal;

But in the flesh it is immortal.

The body dies; the body's beauty lives.

So evenings die, in their green going,

A wave, interminably flowing.

So gardens die, their meek breath scenting

The cowl of winter, done repenting.

So maidens die, to the auroral

Celebration of a maiden's choral.

Susanna's music touched the bawdy strings

Of those white elders; but, escaping,

Left only Death's ironic scraping.

Now, in its immortality, it plays

On the clear viol of her memory,

And makes a constant sacrament of praise.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Ain't It a Pretty Night (from "Susannah") by Carlisle Floyd


The Choirmaster's Burial
Thomas Hardy

He often would ask us
That, when he died,
After playing so many
To their last rest,
If out of us any
Should here abide,
And it would not task us,
We would with our lutes
Play over him
By his grave-brim
The psalm he liked best -
The one whose sense suits
"Mount Ephraim" -
And perhaps we should seem
To him, in Death's dream,
Like the seraphim.

As soon as I knew
That his spirit was gone
I thought this his due,
And spoke thereupon.
"I think", said the vicar,
"A read service quicker
Than viols out-of-doors
In these frosts and hoars.
That old-fashioned way
Requires a fine day,
And it seems to me
It had better not be."
Hence, that afternoon,
Though never knew he
That his wish could not be,
To get through it faster
They buried the master
Without any tune.

But 'twas said that, when
At the dead of next night
The vicar looked out,
There struck on his ken
Thronged roundabout,
Where the frost was graying
The headstoned grass,
A band all in white
Like the saints in church-glass,
Singing and playing
The ancient stave
By the choirmaster's grave.

Such the tenor man told
When he had grown old.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Lacrymosa by W.A. Mozart

One reason I like opera
Marge Piercy

In movies, you can tell the heroine
because she is blonder and thinner
than her sidekick. The villainess
is darkest. If a woman is fat,
she is a joke and will probably die.

In movies, the blondest are the best
and in bleaching lies not only purity
but victory. If two people are both
extra pretty, they will end up
in the final clinch.

Only the flawless in face and body
win. That is why I treat
movies as less interesting
than comic books. The camera
is stupid. It sucks surfaces.

Let's go to the opera instead.
The heroine is fifty and weighs
as much as a '65 Chevvie with fins.
She could crack your jaw in her fist.
She can hit high C lying down.

The tenor the women scream for
wolfs an eight course meal daily.
He resembles a bull on hind legs.
His thighs are the size of beer kegs.
His chest is a redwood with hair.

Their voices twine, golden serpents.
Their voices rise like the best
fireworks and hang and hang
then drift slowly down descending
in brilliant and still fiery sparks.

The hippopotamus baritone (the villain)
has a voice that could give you
an orgasm right in your seat.
His voice smokes with passion.
He is hot as lava. He erupts nightly.

The contralto is, however, svelte.
She is supposed to be the soprano's
mother, but is ten years younger,
beautiful and black. Nobody cares.
She sings you into her womb where you rock.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Si, mi chimano Mimi" by  G .Puccini


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