Friends, when Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music was released in 2013, I didn't expect to return quickly to Wendell's work for musical purposes. I was tired! I wanted to flex my musical muscles on other projects. (And I did ... ask me about a contemporary ballet score sometime.)
But, as Wendell's readers can attest, his words have a way of working their way into one's imagination.
Beginning earlier this year, I revisited some unreleased recordings from the original recording sessions. They caught my attention. Then I remembered some poems that I had intended to set to music, but hadn't. And before I knew it, I was in a recording studio and Volume 2 was underway.
So, what's in Volume 2? I’ll share more about each of the poems and pieces, but here is a quick snapshot. Volume 2 includes:
- Penance for a sin of omission. When Wendell read the poem "A gracious Sabbath stood here" for the first album, he pointed out that the context for that poem (for which I had written music) originated in the poem that precedes it chronologically (for which I had no music since I missed the link). So, I finally came around to writing a setting of the prior poem. This new piece is called "Not again in this flesh" and it's performed beautifully by baritone Rex Kocherhans and a string quartet. I took the liberty of adding string quartet to "A gracious Sabbath," and so I included that augmented version on the album too.
- More delicious baritone. Given the opportunity to write for Rex, I took it—twice. A new piece, “The Necessity of Faith,” features Rex singing in an easy folk style (like his contributions to Volume 1) against the backdrop of a string quartet.
- Spirited hollering! “One Household, High and Low” is a musical setting in the style of The Sacred Harp or Kentucky Harmony, which features a type of “shape note” singing that has been traditional in the South for generations. It’s exuberant and gritty and joyful.
- Shakespeare. You’ll hear a bass soloist and cello relate the story of the Earl of Gloucester from Shakespeare’s King Lear.
- And more. Lots of new, delicious recordings by the Salt Lake Vocal Artists—as well as two selections repeated from Volume 1 for the purpose of adding context and flavor here.
Returning to Wendell’s poetry has been a delight for me. It’s a renewable feast. I hope you enjoy this latest installment!