I. Cloths of Heaven
SATB (div.) a cappella
International Orange Chorale of San Francisco
Zane Fiala, Artistic Director
W.B. Yeats, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Wordsworth
Boston Choral Ensemble
Inkjar Publishing Company
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Celestial Canticles celebrates the wondrous universe above us through the eyes of three poets. In Cloths of Heaven, W.B. Yeats tells his love that he wished he possessed the richness of the heavens to put under her feet. In The Galaxy, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow contemplates the Milky Way. He accomplishes this by alluding to the Milky Way in a set of descriptive terms: torrent, river, sands, ravine, streams, channels, pathway, and chasms. Longfellow also makes two additional references. The first is El Camino de Santiago (or “The Way of St. James”), a popular Christian pilgrimage point in Spain, where the body of the Apostle St. James is said to be buried: pilgrims used the Milky Way to guide their path. The second is Phaeton in Greek mythology: he begs his father Helios (the sun god) to let him drive the sun-chariot across the sky, but when given the reins, he loses control of the horses and scorches the sky. The choral set concludes with William Wordsworth’s The Universal Spectacle Throughout in which Wordsworth admires the beauty and depth of the heavens. Celestial Canticles was commissioned by the Boston Choral Ensemble.
I. Cloths Of Heaven
Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
II. The Galaxy
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Torrent of light and river of the air,
Along whose bed the glimmering stars are seen
Like gold and silver sands in some ravine
Where mountain streams have left their channels bare!
The Spaniard sees in thee the pathway, where
His patron saint descended in the sheen
Of his celestial armor on serene
And quiet nights, when all the heavens were fair.
Not this I see, nor yet the ancient fable
Of Phaeton's wild course, that scorched the skies
Where'er the hoofs of his hot coursers trod;
But the white drift of worlds o'er chasms of sable,
The star dust, that is whirled aloft and flies
From the invisible chariot-wheels of God.
III. The Universal Spectacle Throughout
The universal spectacle throughout
Was shaped for admiration and delight,
Grand in itself alone, but in that breach
Through which the homeless voice of waters rose,
That dark deep thoroughfare, had Nature lodged
The soul, the imagination of the whole.