A Litany for Courage and the Seasons was composed in 1988 for the Geneseo Chamber Singers (State University of New York at Geneseo), Robert Isgro, conductor. Chamber Singers was a very fine group with a devotion to the performance of new music.
I was on the faculty at Geneseo from 1970 through 1974. The poet, Richard Beale, was there as well. He is primarily a visual artist, a very fine painter, but also a prolific poet. His work always had a strong appeal for me, and I have set over twenty of his poems to music. Included are the seven Sofia songs for my Mass, Black Dog Songs for tenor and piano, and the six songs of A Litany.
My way of selecting poetry is to read volumes, noting anything of interest, then to begin culling until a set emerges. What came in this case was a strong mystical journey on the borderline between life and death, one constantly working from both sides: the eager exploration of dream space in “The Sleep of Poets,” the deep agony and yet profound grace of “St. Francis in Service Road,” the thin, evanescent mysticism of “The Soundless Sound,” the unspoken question and pain of “On Chestnut Hill,” the vibrant, living I AM of “Little Dance,” and the final release of “A Litany for Courage and the Seasons.”
The clarinet and vibraphone create a wonderful foil for choral sound. I have told clarinet players that this is really a clarinet concerto with choral and vibraphone accompaniment.
Program Note by David Maslanka