- Mixed Choir
- A Capella
Be music, night
Publisher: LAH Publications
Catalogue Number: LAH 40
Be music, night was commissioned by the Avanti Chamber Singers in 2018 under the direction of Rachel Rensink-Hoff in St. Catharines, Ontario
Kenneth Patchen’s poem, “Be music night,” feels to me like an expansive fusion of prayer, blessing, and imaginative storytelling. In my mind I have the image of the narrator perhaps sharing this prayer-story out loud to someone, weaving the beautiful images together to create a magnificent landscape in the imagination of the listener as she is guided along this evocative path toward sleep. The poem has in it comfort, fantasy, and contemplation of the celestial beyond.
For me, the person the poem refers to or speaks to could be a young child, but could just as easily be a sister, mother, grandmother, aunt, best friend…it really could be any special person that the narrator wishes these things for. I didn’t at any point decide who I had in my own mind, but at various points thought of my own mother, grandmothers, my best friend, imagined daughters, and other important women to me who came through my thoughts along the way and inspired some of the emotional intent behind the writing. It even occurred to me at one point that this text could even be directed at self, even though it’s not written in the first person.
I would encourage choirs to take time throughout the piece to consider the spaciousness of the words and phrases. Feel free to take time for the breath and for the rubato, and be mindful of singing the repeated cells (for example “that her beauties may be counted”) with ambient warmth in the legato. The end of the piece dissolves into sleep and into the idea of infinite wondrousness.
Listen to Spiritus Chamber Choir’s 2019 performance of Be music, night under the direction of Michael Zaugg.
Kenneth Patchen; Used with permission of New Directions Publishing
Be music, night,
That her sleep may go
Where angels have their pale tall choirs.
Be a hand, sea,
That her dreams may watch
Thy guidesmen touching the green flesh of the world.
Be a voice, sky
That her beauties may be counted
And the stars will tilt their quiet faces
Into the mirror of her loveliness.
Be a road, earth,
That her walking may take thee
Where the towns of heaven lift their breathing spires
O be a world and a throne, God,
That her living may find its weather
And the souls of ancient bells in a child’s book
Shall lead her into thy wondrous house.