Nocturne (2001)

Performance:  SUNY New Paltz Concert Choir, under the direction of Ed Lundergan; Gary Palmieri, piano

Notes:  (The text of “Nocturne”, which follows, is an excerpt from the poem, “On The Beach at Night,” by Walt Whitman.)

Nocturne.mp3  9:00

On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.
Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters Pleiades.
From the beach the child holding the hand of her father...
Those burial-clouds...
Watching, silently weeps.
Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not be long victorious...
Jupiter shall emerge... watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal, all those stars... shall shine... again, they endure...
Something there is more immortal even than the stars...

The piano begins alone - aimless, ringing notes.  Voices enter, the harmony gradually growing and thickening, as a father and child, standing on the beach at night, watch the east, the autumn sky.  The child begins weeping - why? After a piano interlude, the male voices introduce a new theme, depicting Jupiter’s majestic rise through the darkness. The female voices portray the delicate Pleiades, “swimming” just above Jupiter. The mood darkens suddenly when  “ravening clouds” obscure the celestial bodies, and the child again weeps, answering our question. After another interlude, the father reassures his child that the stars will return another night, that they are immortal, and that “something there is...more immortal than the stars.” An expectant pause follows. The first theme returns, hesitantly at first, and finally triumphantly reasserting that there is something immortal.

I dedicate this song to the memory of my father, James Hoffman, who took me in hand and led me through the dark places.

Back to Compositions Page