In this edition of our Director's Notes, GEWC accompanist and Ensemble director Mac Willaert shares some thoughts on one of his favorite pieces in our upcoming concert Celebrate! A Tapestry of American Music. Enjoy reading, and then click on this website to order your tickets for May 10 or 11!
As I sit at my desk on a sunny April day, the breeze gently coming in through the window and birds chirping in the trees, I can't help but be thankful – spring has finally sprung! One can never take that for granted with Illinois weather, and it may disappear once or twice more before arriving on a more permanent basis, but this is a very literal breath of fresh air, and it has me feeling ready for all that spring brings. This, of course, includes our upcoming spring program, Celebrate! A Tapestry of American Music, which will cover myriad genres and periods of the American choral tradition. Topically, one of the songs I am most fond of from the upcoming program is a piece the Ensemble will be singing, a setting of the famed poet E.E. Cummings' "i thank You God for most this amazing."
For those unfamiliar, Cummings was an esteemed American poet with an unorthodox use of grammar and sentence structure, hence the seemingly strange title of the poem. He was prone to using a lower-case "i" to address himself as a show of humility, while giving proper noun capitalization to other words and subjects he wished to emphasize or show deference towards, such as in this instance, "You God." Cummings goes on throughout the piece to express (in his own avant-garde fashion) a gratitude and thankfulness for God's creation; "the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and a blue true dream of sky," "live and love and wings," "everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes."
There have been countless settings of this text for choral work, but the version I am perhaps most fond of was written by American composer and singer Elliot Z. Levine. In the span of one piece of music, he captures the playfulness and whimsy of nature alongside the marvel of being part of something greater than yourself. The music paints the picture in a way that complements the text tremendously, and it never fails to put me in a good mood. If it is possible for a song to sound like spring, Levine has nailed it. It is perhaps the trickiest piece for the Ensemble to tackle in this program, but we are diligently at work and are so looking forward to bringing it to our audiences in May.
I like to picture Cummings writing this poem on a day much like today, where you can't help but pause and appreciate the beauty around us. No matter your faith, your background, or your beliefs, we have all experienced that wonderful sensation of a most amazing day, and with any luck, May 10th and 11th will be just that. See you then!
Celebrate! A Tapestry of American Music
Friday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 11 at 3:00 p.m.
College Church in Wheaton (corner of Washington and Seminary)