Paul Moravec and I are at work on a new project—but this time, it isn’t an opera.
My old friend John Sinclair is celebrating his twenty-fifth anniversary as artistic director of the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, about whose activities I’ve previously written in this space. John is a conductor of real quality who has turned the Bach Festival Society’s choir and orchestra into ensembles of distinction and consequence, and so the festival has decided to honor him by commissioning a work for soloists, chorus and orchestra. Paul and I, to our delight, will be writing it together. In fact, the two of us are getting together tomorrow morning for a working session, our first since we wrote The King’s Man in 2013, to start talking about the various nuts-and-bolts matters that go into the creation of a new composition.
The piece will be a setting by Paul of a poem called Music, Awake! that I started writing when I went to Baylor University last October to give a pair of lectures about Louis Armstrong and Whit Stillman. It’s a six-stanza choric ode to the universal power of music that was inspired by the transformation scene from The Winter’s Tale, a Shakespearean moment that Paul and I both love: Music, awake her; strike!/’Tis time; descend; be stone no more; approach;/Strike all that look upon with marvel.
It would be an understatement to say that poetry isn’t my usual line, but I’d been talking to John about the possibility of my collaborating with Paul on a piece for the Bach Festival, and something unexpected came over me the night before I flew back to New York. I immediately sat down and wrote the first draft in a frenzy of what I hope was inspiration.
This is the antiphon from the fifth stanza:
Out of mystery, faith;
Out of chaos, form;
Out of anger, love;
Out of terror, hope;
Out of silence, tone.
I like what Paul said about what we have in mind: “We intend Music, Awake! to be not only a tribute to John Sinclair and the Festival but an homage to all who dedicate their lives to the miraculous art of music.”
Assuming that all goes well, Music, Awake! will be premiered by the Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra in April of 2016. I’ll keep you posted between now and then.