Music to Stir the Soul*

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*Ignore the first 14 seconds of the video, the intro to Proms.

This Sunday afternoon (October 27th) my wife and I attended a local choral group’s performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ works, Serenade to Music, Toward the Unknown Region, and Dona Nobis Pacem. The second is the musical setting to Walt Whitman’s poem in “Leaves of Grass.”   The above video of this is from the BBC Proms performance.

It continually amazes me that music can say what words cannot, even though the words lend power to the music. Here is the text for “Toward the Unknown Region:”

“Darest thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?
No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.

I know it not O soul,
Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,
All waits undream’d of in that region, that inaccessible land.

Till when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us.

Then we burst forth, we float,
In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them,
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil O soul.”

—Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass”

If you haven’t heard either Dona Nobis Pacem or Serenade to Music, and your musical taste doesn’t exclude classical choral, you’re in for a treat if you follow the links.

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